When Science Becomes A Casualty Of Politics

Cathy Young has some thoughts, but she makes the same mistake that many in the media do when discussing the issue:

I will freely admit that I don’t have enough knowledge of science or familiarity with the scientific method to be able to come to a truly informed conclusion at to which version of “ClimateGate” is right. Neither, I suspect, do some 95 percent (or, more likely, 99 percent) of people who have spoken out on the issue, on either side. That means they are likely to go with their political instincts and listen to those “experts” who reflect their own preconceived opinions. Conservatives and libertarians, who see the crusade against global warming as an attack on capitalism and freedom, are very likely to think that the hacked emails are devastating to the case for human-made global warming; liberals and leftists, who see global warming denial as an attempt to protect greed and unbridled consumption, are very likely to think that the only real scandal is the deniers’ shameless manipulation of public opinion in an attempt to discredit solid science.

It’s always the “hacked” (as opposed to released by a whistleblower) “emails,” which while quite disturbing enough, are not the smoking cannon that has shown what these people are doing as non science. It’s the bogus models and made-up data, and the inside look at them provided by Harry_Read_Me.txt.

Jim Lindgren has a useful challenge to the defenders of these people:

…if I were Professor Mann’s dean at Penn State, I would try to determine whether he has fully shared his data, metadata, and computer code. To the extent that he hasn’t already, I would try to make him do so – at least for his most important or most controversial articles in recent years. And, for reason #3 above, I wouldn’t take Mann’s word for it. I’d call his critics and ask them to name the few most important Mann papers for which the data and computer code are needed for replication.

If Mann is still withholding the data and code necessary for replication, I’d ask him to replicate his most important or most controversial recent work (certainly not everything) and to release the data and code so that others might do so. If Mann couldn’t replicate his own work, I would ask him to announce that fact to the scientific community, so that serious scientists would know whether his work is replicable.

Thus, if I were Professor Mann’s dean, probably the only power I’d use would be to further the scientific enterprise. And even that would not be necessary if ethical standards were higher in the subfield of paleoclimatology.

Unfortunately, the subfield seems to have devolved into a religious cult, attracting second raters.

3 thoughts on “When Science Becomes A Casualty Of Politics”

  1. Perhaps Kubrick and Clarke’s “2001” should be a warning.

    “Scientists and experts” discover an artifact on the Moon offering conclusive proof of visitation by an extraterrestrial civilization. Uncovering that artifact triggers a powerful radio or perhaps other type of signal for which the radio blast was a byproduct. The powers that be decide 1) a manned space mission to the Gas Giant planets must be undertaken to investigate a putative “relay station” for that signal, 2) the public must be kept completely in the dark for fear of causing mass panic, not only about discovering the alien artifact, but that the scientists “tripped” the artifact into calling out to its makers.

    The powers that be send out the Discovery space ship, crewed by two pilot-astronauts fed the same “cover story” as the public and ignorant of the mission, by three specialist-astronauts who are “in the know” but kept in hibernation, and by an experimental computer based on heuristically programmed neural nets, of which there are questions and speculation as to whether this neural net system is truly self-aware, also knowing the true nature of the mission but also instructed to keep the secret.

    Giving out spoilers to a well-known book and movie, the neural-net computer goes berserk, kills the waking and hibernating crew save for one survivor, that survivor establishes “first contact” with the alien civilization and is in the process transformed into a “Star Child”, a being with the power to alter the course of Earth history, in a manner that is left somewhat mysterious in the movie, attributed to great powers in the book, and then played down considerably in the sequels.

    I first saw the movie when it came out in the late 60’s. The conspiracy of silence of the “experts” impressed my as standard-operating-procedure. I saw it for a second time circa 1980. Post Vietnam and post Watergate, I was horrified by the parallels between real-life events, the perceived need to “fool the public for the public good”, and the space disaster that unfolds in the movie.

    Maybe if I would see it a third time, post Watergate and post Iran-Contra and post Bill Clinton, I would take a more cynical view that “boys will be boys” and attempt to fool the public “for the greater good”, and whether this constitutes a scandal or not depends on how the story is pitched.

    But do you suppose someone could get a clip up on You Tube of the scene in the conference room on the moon base, where the NASA administrator and the base administrators are congratulating each other for keeping the secret of the alien artifact? That more than anything plays like the hacked/purloined/whistleblown e-mails.

  2. Hi,
    There’s a demand for green technology, and industrious people are jumping at the opportunity.The market will pay people to come up with real solutions to any problem that will allow humanity to move forward and prosperity to expand.

  3. Acai, keep in mind that a lot of the demand is artificially spurred by government subsidy. For example, California has been building a lot of solar home projects simply because the state offers large subsidies for the systems.

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