Sunday, January 24, 2010

Son of Climategate, Post #5

Earlier in this series, I wrote about the "scrubbing" of the NASA web site. Roger Pielke, Jr., has found another scrubbed site, details here. Who knows how many others might be out there?

Earlier I wrote about why I usually put 'global warming' in "scare quotes." The purging of data without any note or notice, as if it hadn't existed, is the very antithesis of science. It is something straight out of George Orwell's Animal House.

In the Q & A after I present my global warming speeches, I am often asked why this topic distresses me so. It is because I suspected global warming was corrupting science, a point that is indisputable in the wake of Climategate and subsequent scandals. As I posted in December, it is exactly the corrupting influence that President Eisenhower warned of in his farewell address.

Here is a great essay, written in the immediate aftermath of Climategate, that explains why honest scientists are taken aback by all of this.

Why Climategate is so distressing to scientists 
by John P. Costella  |  December 10, 2009 
The most difficult thing for a scientist in the era of Climategate is trying to explain to
family and friends why it is so distressing to scientists. Most people don’t know how
science really works: there are no popular television shows, movies, or books that
really depict the everyday lives of real scientists; it just isn’t exciting enough. I’m not
talking here about the major discoveries of science—which are well-described in
documentaries, popular science series, and magazines—but rather how the process
of science (often called the “scientific method”) actually works.

The best analogy that I have been able to come up with, in recent weeks, is the
criminal justice system—which is (rightly or wrongly) abundantly depicted in the
popular media. Everyone knows what happens if police obtain evidence by illegal
means: the evidence is ruled inadmissible; and, if a case rests on that tainted
evidence, it is thrown out of court. The justice system is not saying that the accused
is necessarily innocent; rather, that determining the truth is impossible if evidence is
not protected from tampering or fabrication.

The same is true in science: scientists assume that the rules of the scientific method
have been followed, at least in any discipline that publishes its results for public
consumption. It is that trust in the process that allows me, for example, to believe
that the human genome has been mapped—despite my knowing nothing about
that field of science at all. That same trust has allowed scientists at large to similarly
believe in the results of climate science.

Until now.

Note: I apologize for the spacing.  It looks fine in the formatting tool, but does not post properly.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.