25 November 2009

Scientists' emails

Hackers recently liberated 13 years (!) of private emails, documents, and code from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Global warming deniers are heralding the contents as proof of a conspiracy to create a belief in global warming. Reading list:

The scientific process works. Everything I've read from the denialists concerning science's suppression of information has revealed itself as the denialists' simple ignorance of the scientific process. In the real world: scientist A makes a public and published statement, scientist B tries to replicate the results and cannot exactly, scientist B then publishes his corrections to A's paper. The corrections are, most often, not of the quality of changing an absolute TRUE statement to an absolute FALSE statement, but more of the quality of correcting value ranges or modifying result sets (e.g. changing "from 1200 CE to 1800 CE" to "from 1250 CE to 1900 CE"). How this process gets told by denialists is by simply quoting the original paper and then saying that it's been "proven incorrect." This is what was done with the Hockey stick controversy.

Scientists are being forced to spend more energy on politics and "spinning" their message to get it through to a public swayed by corporate and ideological lies. Good science is, unfortunately, no longer effective. The market of ideas is a market and therefore ruled by who has the money to shout the loudest. This is not necessarily different than in the past, but our problems are unique: fear of water fluoridation does not present the same risks as global warming denialism. Give me the history of nefarious conspiracies propagated by scientists. OK, now give me that same history by governments and corporations.

[ update 10 Dec 2009 ]

I sometimes feel the scientific apologist what with all of the railing I do against these uneducated people, so it's comforting when my railings are confirmed. The email brouhaha became important enough for FactCheck.org to examine the assertions of the denialists. They make their findings as clear as they could possibly be, stating in the first paragraph on the assertion of scientific misconduct: We find that to be unfounded and later We find such claims to be far wide of the mark. Just today I discussed the issue with an ostensibly scientific-minded person at work. He repeated the exact misconceptions that FactCheck struck down in this article. I believe more and more that there is no good to come from arguing with these people. They have a expansive volume of knowledge and simply choose to ignore it. We are at the mercy of the willfully ignorant.

[ posted by sstrader on 25 November 2009 at 11:40:47 AM in Science & Technology ]