Possible Insight

Why You Should Be A Skeptic

with 6 comments

As you may have heard, an unknown hacker breached the Hadley Climatic Research Centre and disclosed a large volume of email and documents, thus giving us a peek inside the sausage factory. First, let me say that the breach itself rather concerns me. We’re talking about a government sponsored research facility. Somebody virtually waltzed right in and and took everything but the kitchen sink. Heads should roll in the information security department.

Second, the email correspondence is pretty damning. It won’t affect my position much because I was already fairly sure these types of shenanigans were going on. But if you put your faith in the “consensus”, you should consider updating your position. There are numerous instances of three types of egregious behavior from senior scientists:

  • Coordinated efforts to portray all results as supporting the conclusion that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a serious threat. Such efforts included the spinning of results, application of statistical “tricks”, and selective use of data.
  • Coordinated efforts to suppress professional dissent. Such efforts included going after editors of journals that published articles supporting a skeptical view and lobbying university administrations to pressure researches who didn’t toe the line.
  • Coordinated efforts to evade Freedom of Information Act requests and destroy data that might support the skeptical position if disclosed.

By themselves, these actions should be alarming because they obfuscate the real answer to the question of how serious a threat AGW presents .

But the real take home point is the tone of many emails. These are leading scientists in the field. Yet they clearly hold bitter contempt for colleagues who don’t agree with them. This isn’t business.  This is personal.  To paraphrase, Robin Hanson, climate science isn’t about the science of climate. It’s about social status. The AGW proponents see themselves as an “in group” and AGW skeptics as an “out group”. They are more concerned about destroying the out group than actually figuring out what’s going on with the climate.

Given this attitude, it’s hard to have any confidence that we’ll get a rational, scientific answer any time in the near future.


Written by Kevin

November 23, 2009 at 1:16 am

Posted in Climate, Government, Science

Tagged with , ,

6 Responses

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  1. Great stuff. Transparency is a b1tch! Respect for technology is a requirement. 60 minutes was just talking about Chinese hackers robbing banks and breaking into the pentagon computers and sitting there for days. Seems like even our government will eventually make an effort to reduce transparency on the web, probably using a glorified 9/11 type hacker attack to sway the public.

    Watergate via Facebook anyone? Over under at 2 years, just in time for the next election. 🙂

    Alex Golubev

    November 23, 2009 at 9:48 am

  2. I can understand why, if an individual really believes that we are going to be seeing the end of civilization, why he would be willing to cut a few corners to get the word out (see: missionaries of all types throughout history) …

    But any time a scientific theory becomes a matter of religious faith, I don’t see how the theory can be properly challenged (or even proven, if it is not allowed to be disproved).

    Of course, what if the scientific method becomes a matter of faith? Are we running into the same problem at a higher level?

    Ed O

    November 23, 2009 at 9:56 am

    • [to paraphrase myself:] In look at the history of religions, it becomes clear that all religions are created to redress human suffering in whatever forms are ubiquitous during the founding. They are spread at a rate directly proportional to the simplicity of the message (and to the perceived suffering). There’s no question science is a religion by this definition.

      What can make it a good religion is different from how it is actually practiced, much of the time. Thankfully there are scientists who are not deterred by the psycho-social pressures of the scientific enterprise:


      What’s needed, in my mind, is more meta-science that addresses the scientific method and the non-scientific influences surrounding science. I will be posting a lot more on this in the future…

      Rafe Furst

      November 27, 2009 at 9:32 pm

  3. As far as climate change issues go, I haven’t read enough to really have a concrete opinion, but, I will say, erring on the side of caution seems better than not.

    That’s not siding with any one side; rather, I’m looking at it the same way I look at money: the more you save, the more you have.

    leslie speakers

    January 18, 2010 at 6:59 pm

  4. […] the “consensus” about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  You’ll recall that the disclosure of internal emails undermined confidence in both the surface temperature record […]

  5. […] the “consensus” about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  You’ll recall that the disclosure of internal emails undermined confidence in both the surface temperature record […]

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