How do we know our medication is effective; that our vehicle is safe; that the bungee cord in our jump will not break? Most of the population has taken it on faith – faith in the integrity of the scientists – that these questions have been sufficiently studied and answered. And they have been, through effective communication of science in the scientific community. Knowledge is consistently exchanged using our currency, peer-review, until the point where the public benefits from the application of science in our everyday lives. We’ve had faith in the value of that currency, until now.
A few weeks ago, emails reportedly from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in England were published on the internet. With any illegally obtained information, the credibility of the contents should be questioned. However, if these published emails are genuine, the contents indicate a scandal in the climate science community that is an insult to the integrity of the entire scientific community. It’s an insult to truth.
Many scientists have had suspicions about the state of the climate science and the overstated solidity of its predictive ability for some time. I am not a ‘denier’, whatever a denier denies; but I, along with several others have been asking questions about the peer-reviewed science. We cannot conflate climate scientists with environmentalists and activists, though. The latter two have compiled predictive models by the former and asserted that we are headed for doom and destruction if extreme environmental policies are not enacted immediately. Many scientists and critical thinkers have dared ask fundamental questions, though. We have questioned whether the state of the science can allow any definitive conclusion about the significance of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on global warming, let alone its ability to predict future effects.
Climate scientists peddling predictive models, and the environmentalists who have compiled them, present these models where almost any combination of datasets are consistent with the predictive model indicating near disaster. The Third Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has the most celebrity in that predictive science. Climatologist Roger Pielke, for example, has demonstrated that there has yet to be a dataset that is not consistent with these models. The prediction scientists rarely articulate a hypothetical dataset that would be inconsistent with a predictive model. A hypothesis or theory is falsifiable, thus scientific, if it can be both verified and falsified through physical experiments and/or observations. If there exists no dataset for which the IPCC predictive models are inconsistent, the model was never scientific. Where is the demarcation of predictive climate science and pseudo-science if there is no falsifiability?
Other indications and warnings that the science is less than solid have been there as well. A rhetorical analysis of many of the reports indicates that the focus on the science and logic have taken a back seat to a focus on the source and emotions, combining near sophistry and propaganda with bandwagon (consensus) and post hoc ergo propter hoc (correlation as causation) fallacies in logic, for example. When presenting science, if the primary tools of rhetoric are not the science and logic, we should immediately probe further into the actual science.
With the allegedly hacked emails, there is apparent evidence of manipulation, fabrication, and suppression of data; collusion to marginalize colleagues who ask and publications who publish valid scientific questions; and manipulation of our currency of knowledge exchange, the peer-review process.
We all should value scientific integrity, but all scientists must value it above all else if there is to be continued growth of scientific knowledge. Unfortunately, this discipline of science has been so soiled by politics that the lines between science and politics are gone. This scandal is an insult to the integrity of all scientists and a devaluation of our currency of peer-review. It deserves the scoff and scorn of our community.
Nancy Neale, former professor of Chemistry, is a guest Liberty Features Syndicate writer for Americans for Limited Government.