Can Scientists Conspire to Mislead?
Scientists are only human. Objectivity may be a noble aspiration; empiricism a worthy goal – but recent scandals illustrate the propensity for large-scale manipulation and misdirection by the very people supposedly devoted to intellectual integrity. Though off-topic for Creation-Evolution Headlines, the flap over stolen documents that appear to reveal collusion to support anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is alarming and cautionary.
The BBC News (#1, #2) has been reporting about this flap some are calling “Climategate.” Captured emails appear to indicate that the Climate Research Unit that feeds data to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deliberately suppressed data that undermined the consensus about human-caused global warming. Michael Egnor summarized the scandal on Evolution News:
A week ago, hackers released 160 mb of emails, data, and computer code from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The data extends back a decade, and rather clearly documents an astonishing pattern of manipulation of evidence, concealment of doubts about whether the validity of global warming, destruction of data not favorable to global warming, fantasizing violence against prominent climate skeptic scientists, and a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. The data reveal extensive scientific misconduct and even criminal fraud in the top echelons of the pro-global warming scientific community.
The scandal is exploding on conservative TV news, in newspapers, and radio, though liberal media are trying to ignore it. Some are comparing it to the video embarrassments at ACORN. The internet is on fire with blogs (example in The Telegraph), jokes and cartoons – prompting a flood of repostings of the emails with commentaries (example in the Wall Street Journal); Climate Depot is keeping a list of links to articles and editorials. While AGW advocates are scrambling to re-interpret the emails and gloss over the implications, as popular science journalist (and consensus science ally) Chris Mooney attempted to do in quotes in the Michael Egnor piece, these attempts appear to be backfiring. Outrage and ridicule are growing in the public – illustrated by a viral music video on YouTube that says Al Gore and the perpetrators belong in jail. AGW skeptics (often dubbed “deniers” or “denialists” by the consensus, to suggest they are kin to Holocaust deniers) are feeling vindicated; some are on the warpath, calling for investigations and indictments (example in The Telegraph).
This week in Evolution News, Michael Egnor has been applying the lessons of this scandal to the Darwinist consensus (see also here). He noted that British AGW skeptic Christopher Monckton has called the climatologists caught with their pants down as criminals, and that the scandal should make us angry (Evolution News). Like Michael Crichton (12/27/2003), Egnor pointed out the inherent oxymoron in “consensus science.” He said, “Invocation of ‘consensus science’ is merely a tactic to insulate bad science from scrutiny. ‘Consensus science’ is to science as money-laundering is to finance.”
The unfolding of this scandal will be instructive to students of philosophy of science. It remains to be seen whether the advocates can weather this storm, or if the scandal will deflate upcoming policy discussions in Copenhagen. Ignoring the scandal (an inconvenient truth), the BBC reported that the UN Secretary-General is pushing for world leaders to “seal a deal” on a legally binding climate treaty. Can they get it done before the roof caves in? It’s possible the perpetrators will get away with their lies and crimes. It’s happened before – with the UN Oil-for-Food scandal (05/12/2008 commentary). When power corrupts this far, don’t expect an ethical response from the perpetrators, even when they are exposed.
That’s not our concern here. What is important is what this scandal reveals about the possibility that virtually the whole scientific world can be wrong and downright complicit in criminal cover-ups – in spite of the supposed protections against such things in the peer-review process and the assumed self-correcting nature of science. If this can happen with one of the biggest scientific consensuses (yes, that’s the plural, not consensi) of the last decade, why not ask these same questions about the Darwinists, who similarly use political clout to suppress criticisms of its consensus?
The only climate that may be warming now is the climate of public distrust of big science. This is a bad time for the Darwinists to emphasize their talking point that “all scientists accept evolution.” Now read Michael Egnor’s latest scathing rebuke of the scandal that includes, among reasons for getting really angry, a quote by a scientist calling other scientists to get on the right side of history before “The reputation of science – and of many scientists – will be damaged severely.” That’s small stuff compared to the damage potential Darwin defenders will face when his idol collapses, revealing the hollow interior where solid data was supposed to be.