Friday, February 26, 2010

Oversimplifying Oversimplification

The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy piece about the problems of the IPCC today (subscription may be required).  Here is one of its key paragraphs:

The problem stems from the IPCC's thorny mission: Take sophisticated and sometimes inconclusive science, and boil it down to usable advice for lawmakers. To meet that goal, scientists working with the IPCC say they sometimes faced institutional bias toward oversimplification, a Wall Street Journal examination shows.

The problem is more complicated and insidious than just oversimplification: It is an institutional bias in favor of perpetuating the 'science' of 'global warming.'  What do I mean?  It is estimated that universities, think tanks, and federal labs have received more than $80 billion in funding with regard to the global warming 'problem.' Just last week, newspapers in Kansas were touting an eight-figure grant to four in-state universities to study the effects of global warming (it is just assumed that global warming is occurring and that we can do something about it, two questionable assumptions).

Think about it:  If global warming goes away, so does that funding along with the jobs, labs, etc., that have flourished the last dozen or so years to study this 'problem.'  So, there is no institutional incentive to disprove global warming. I have been told -- privately -- by multiple research meteorologists that if they spoke out against GW, they would see their (unrelated) funding cut off.

The Judith Curry piece (see link in posting below) continues the canard about evil "oil" companies corrupting science.  As President Eisenhower said in his farewell address,

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

These are important words. "Big Science" dollars can corrupt just as much as money from any other interest group.

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