09 May 2008

Selling Out

This is my latest response to Gore v. Science, at Echoes in Eternity. I have placed this on my blog because I have taken so long to respond that it is buried under many new posts by now. I know my response times are often not fast enough to compete in the blogosphere, but I hope I make up for my slowness with quality.

Close. I would say that the pro-AGW scientists AT THE FRONT LINES of this battle are guilty of what you said above (some incompetence, definitely fraud, or at least capitulation). MOST of the scientific community that still knows what it means to be a TRUE scientist (skepticism, etc.) at least are willing to admit that the evidence is not clear either way. It's merely a few loud obnoxious sell-outs, combined with power-hungry politicians, who are saying that debate is over.
While I concede that many scientists have their loud and obnoxious moments, that does not make them wrong any more that you would say Rush Limbaugh's do. Your accusations of fraud and selling out are much more serious, and I suspect they are more serious than you realize.

Outright fraud is among the worst (if not the worst) act a scientist can commit. Consider the case of Hwang Woo-Suk. He was a well-respected scientist and a national hero until his fraud was exposed. Now, he scientific reputation has been reduced to that of a bad example, and he is facing possible prison time. Science cannot function without honest and free exchange of information. A scientist can work for the Nazis, kill his own son, or be otherwise extremely unpleasant, and his or her reputation will still be better than that of a true fraud.

The seriousness of the crime and its consequences mean that scientific fraud is rare and that your accusation is equivalent to accusing your pastor of selling his soul to the Devil. To say that a large group of scientists has engaged in global fraud for decades is a grave accusation that requires equally powerful evidence.
What the data (and the subsequent disagreement among scientists) show is that we really don't know what caused the warming trend up until 2001 (since which we have not continued to warm, which has BLOWN the models out of the proverbial water). But since those models have been PROVEN to be so unreliable, we have to hazard a guess that the other hypotheses might indeed be more accurate (sun rays, natural cycling, etc.).
One of the articles you cite for the claims in this paragraph is from the New Statesman. Another article provides a blunt and effective correction.
As to the purpose of claiming that AGW is real, in the scientific community the reasoning is mostly different (yet related) than the political motives. As Dr. Gray and others have pointed out, it's a lot easier to get federal grants if you tell the politicians what they want to hear. Politically, yes, what you summarized above is pretty accurate; politicians like Gore want to consolidate power. Meanwhile, other politicians like McCain want to show that they are concerned over AGW, so they capitulate on the issue.
Contrary to your accusations, some scientists are so determined to collect accurate and comprehensive data on Earth's past and present climate that the have risked their lives in pursuit of that data. I find it unlikely that Prof. Lonnie Thompson would risk falling to his death off of a glacier to perpetuate a fraud when he could sit in his office collecting $10,000 per paper for proclaiming what you claim is the truth.

If scientists are selling out, to whom are the selling at and what price? All of the contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report were volunteers! They did not make any extra money for their contributions. In general, this accusation does not make sense because scientists usually do not enter research for the money. I realize that I could make much more money with an MBA than I will with a Ph.D. in physics. This seems a rather low price for selling out, especially given how much various think tanks and the petroleum industry are willing to pay for a prominent scientist who refutes global warming. You should be well aware of the disposable income available to petroleum companies because I doubt you have ever worked on an oil stadium named after the IPCC.



1 comment:

Darius said...

Just a couple quick comments that come to mind upon a first reading of this post...

Fraud may be too harsh of a term, because it implies that the scientists are knowingly misleading the public. I don't know that that's the case; I would say that they are just ignoring any evidence that contradicts their hypothesis. I don't know that it constitutes fraud. So you make a good correction there. I would change my wording to "some fraud perhaps, definitely incompetence, or at least capitulation."

Actually, the second New Statesman article is not particularly refuting of the first, as the latter uses old and incorrect data and ignores one of the key claims of Mr. Whitehouse. The data was shown to be wrong by those scientists I linked to awhile back, and furthermore it is based on global temp readings that have been shown to be affected by poor choice of equipment location. Meanwhile, the most accurate temp readings are those taken in the USA, which have the 1930's as the hottest years. Which leads me to Whitehouse's claim: we are currently at the same temperature as 1930. What Mr. Lynas is doing is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Using a common trick of the global warming crowd, he claims that no matter how warm or cold it gets, global warming is happening. Now, to cover the silliness of this claim, they have switched from calling it "global warming" to "climate change," as that covers both warming and cooling.

Mr Lynas also ends his article with an extremely ignorant statement: "If the 99% are wrong, and the 1% right, we will be making some unnecessary efforts to shift away from fossil fuels, which in any case have lots of other drawbacks and will soon run out. I’d hate to offend anyone here, but that’s what I’d call a no-brainer." As economists like Bjorn Lomborg and writers like Mark Steyn have pointed out, the "unnecessary efforts" pose significant problems for the third world. Already we are seeing the horrible effects of the global warming legislation, with food prices skyrocketing everywhere. If we care about the third world, we will stop this nonsense post haste.

As for "selling out"... there are different reasons for it than just monetary ones. Prestige and media attention can be quite tempting, but an even greater force is that of peer approval. It is rare, especially in the scientific field, for one to willing be out of line with the scientific thinking of the day. It took great courage for Galileo, just as it takes great courage for Dr. Gray to speak his mind. It is much easier to go along with the popular opinion.