Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Nice career you have here. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it."

Someone left an anonymous comment to my post about Global Warming and the canals of Mars. I'm reproducing it here in full:
I am a scientist, in the alternative energy field. Every conference I go to, people are afraid to speak about AGW - except in their papers and presentations, which invariably use AGW as justification for their research.

Nobody believes in it, everybody knows it's a lie, but that's where all the money is coming from. If a scientist publishes a paper that doesn't affirm AGW, not only is that paper less likely to get published but any other future papers are in question as well. And he can forget about grants, forever.

Who controls the textbooks owns the next generation, and who controls the science funding gets to dictate what "science" says.
I don't find this at all surprising. While you usually have to take anonymous comments with a grain of salt, if the commenter actually is a scientist, he (or she) certainly would have strong motivation to remain anonymous. Consider:

It's widely discussed that climate scientists are nervous about being seen to stray off the :consensus" reservation. I posted about that six months ago:
You can almost smell the fear - the article discusses a series of climate changes over the centuries (not a surprise to either of my regular readers), strongly correlated with changes in Solar activity. But the author feels the need to add a non sequitur about Carbon Dioxide. E pur si muove, indeed.
As to the funding, there's a lot of it, so long as you toe the line. As I said in Make Big Money Doing Climate Change Research From Home:
Well, I don't know about the "work from home" part, and whether you need to stuff envelopes, but the money's sweet: $79B since 1989, just from the US Fed.Gov. Add in the fellow traveler Euro.Govs and you've maybe doubled that.
As to the peer-review process and the motivation to keep the "doubter" bullseye off your career, we've seen example after example of subversion of peer-review in the ClimateGate emails. This one is particularly interesting, from a very prominent scientist (who presumably has little to fear, as he is retired):
Thanks for the extensive and detailed e-mail. This is terrible but not surprising. Obviously I do not know what gives with these guys. However, I have my own suspicions and hypothesis. I dont think they are scientifically inadequate or stupid. I think they are dishonest and members of a club that has much to gain by practicing and perpetuating global warming scare tactics. That is not to say that global warming is not occurring to some extent since it would be even without CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions only accelerate the warming and there are other factors controlling climate. As a result, the entire process may be going slower than the powers that be would like. Hence, (I postulate) the global warming contingent has substantial motivation to be dishonest or seriously biased, and to be loyal to their equally dishonest club members. Among the motivations are increased and continued grant funding, university advancement, job advancement, profits and payoffs from carbon control advocates such as Gore, being in the limelight, and other motivating factors I am too inexperienced to identify.
As the Mythbusters would say, Anonymous' comment sure is plausible - each of his points is confirmed by independent data. And data from a two-bit blogger like me - imagine what you could find in a well funded and strongly motivated investigation from, say, the National Science Foundation.

But we won't see one, will we? And that is what's at the heart of the issue now - the public distrusts the scientific community on Climate Change. Not only does this issue poll very poorly, but there's a political revolt in progress against the policy agenda that uses Climate Change as its justification:
AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relied on flawed data to issue its endangerment finding that greenhouse gases pose a public health risk, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday.

In a lawsuit against the federal government, the Republican attorney general said that the Lone Star State's economy could be harmed as the result of the EPA's finding, issued in December.
And while we can thank the Lone Star state for leading the way, other, lesser states look like they're falling in line, too:
The federal government's ruling that greenhouse gases are a public health threat is based on erroneous science that will destroy jobs, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Wednesday.

Speaking at an afternoon press conference in Richmond, Cuccinelli said the Environmental Protection Agency is relying on "unreliable, unverifiable and doctored" science in its bid to regulate greenhouse gases.

He was referring to the work of the International Panel on Climate Change, which shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007 for linking greenhouse gases to global warming. The IPCC came under fire last year, however, after irregularities and errors were found in its reports.
"Irregularities"? Boy, howdy - it's much, much more than that.

Quite frankly, the public should feel skeptical. Not only do we see repeated mistakes that a High School student knows not to make (I'm looking at you, IPCC AR4!), not only do scientists refuse to release their data even under Freedom of Information Act requests, not only have the scientists (repeatedly) lost the data.

Most significantly, anyone who questions the "consensus" is not met with reasoned, scientific arguments. Shut Up, they suggested. Hey you Denier, get off my lawn! The public is right to smell a rat.

I believe that this is probably the greatest scientific scandal of all time. An entire field has probably been subverted by a political agenda backed by crates of Government funding, to produce spurious theories and results in support of the agenda. It's Lysenko on steroids, and if the scientific community doesn't come clean on this, then the relationship between the community and the public will never be the same.

Those on the left like to say that it's Republicans who are a threat to science, with creationism and stem cell research*. They should look at the polls, about how the public does not believe the reported "science" by a huge margin (more people believe in UFOs than in Man-made Global Warming). Then they should look in a mirror.

Yeah, I'm more than a little steamed about this.

Thank you, anonymous, for giving us the view from inside the House Of Mirrors.

* Yes, yes, I know that it's not this simple: embryonic vs. mature cell lines, yadda yadda.


ASM826 said...

If the conclusion you are making is true, then all science becomes suspect. Because any research in an area that involves funding is, by definition, biased toward the outcome that the funding source prefers.

Think of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee in the late 1950s. What results were they going to find?

Scientists need to come out, state their name, and tell the truth. The other outcome is to wait, take the money, and be discounted and disgraced as the truth comes out later.

Borepatch said...

ASM826, it's not all science, just strongly politicized science. I'd expect that weakly politicized science will still be able to avoid the career-ending consequences of deviation, because there isn't enough funding to subvert everyone.

Any particular research paper of course can be bollox, but that's true no matter who funds it.

The real concern here is that an entire field (Climate Science) is now tainted. Anyplace there's a conjunction of the Green agenda and government funding, you'll run into public distrust.

That's why this needs to be fixed.

wolfwalker said...

No, it's not just "strongly politicized" science. I'm surprised by the scope of the apparent fraud surrounding AGW, but qualitatively it isn't much different from another controversy that broke out in palaeontology about 25 years ago. Look into the history of the "Asteroid Doomsday" theory -- that is, the theory that an asteroid impact caused the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. You'll find a lot of the same problems that beset AGW. No falsified data that I'm aware of, but the same basic outline: a handful of domineering men declared their theory right and ignored all contrary evidence, then used fair means and foul to destroy anybody who argued with them.

wolfwalker said...

Oops, hit 'post' before I finished my thought.

The point is, these things can happen any time you have scientists investing their sense of self-worth in whether or not their theory is correct. It has nothing to do with political aspects of the theory, or even whether policy issues are involved at all. It happened in palaeo-anthropology, which basically stopped dead for twenty years or more until Louis Leakey and his contemporaries were all dead, and younger guys with newer tools and evidence could get a word in edgeways. It happened more than once in the history of chemistry, although right now I can't recall the details. It certainly happened in the history of the earth sciences, as the Church systematically strangled any hypothesis that hinted at biblical inaccuracy, until the body of evidence for an old Earth and for evolution became too large to ignore or explain away.

I'm not sure there's any way to really avoid it. Scientists are human too. I think the best we can do is watch for it and try to apply a countertactic of 'extreme skepticism' -- demand that they have evidence for everything, gathered by a completely open process.

soulful sepulcher said...

If I didn't know better, I was reading about the Pharmceutical industry corruption, and paid off researchers, ghostwriting studies showing the "evidence" weighs in favor of the drug company who paid that researcher and ghostwriting company for results, let's say, a Wayne McFadden of AstraZeneca, who sold sex for information for competing antipsychotic---and whose ex ceo Brennan is head of the PhARMA that backs the health reform change in their favor, who had his ear in Obama's telling him how to change health reform the PhARMA way---the Pfizer million dollar box seats at the usual, science has been lost to profit and it's ALWAYS politically charged and about profit. Global warming hasn't been my focus, but let's face it, there's nothing honest left to research, where you don't find a "something stinks" at the end of your research trail.

Just in case you want to know if AstraZeneca cares about global warming, they apparently DO.

They also market Seroquel as an anti depressant, spent a billion dollars in litigation denying their drug does not cause diabetes, while the internal documents show emails from the execs talking about "not talking about the evidence, just sell the drug", and this is why I don't trust an exec from AZ being in Obama's ear re: health reform, not to mention they out source to China...oh, but they are committed to transparency about Global climate concerns.

bluesun said...

My school just wanted me to do a "survey" so they could see their CO2 whatever. Told em that I rode a coal eating pterodactyl from the moon each day. I thought it was a ballsy move on their part, considering the way things are turning right now. My only conclusion is that all this crap got started when it was popular, and now they have the money to spend, so, darnit, they will. But then I know that they will use the findings to start up some new policy or program that won't accomplish anything except waste more of my tuition money.

Grumpy Student said...

My entire family (parents, siblings) are scientists (although not climate scientists).

None of us dare say in public (with our real names) what we say in private about global warming because to do so would be career suicide here in the UK.

NotClauswitz said...

You mean a giant asteroid didn't wipe out the dinosaurs (and create all our oil)?
I keep hearing that anyhow.