Climategate, Science Funding, Public Ignorance

There was a forum at MIT about the scandal involving the stolen e-mails of some climate scientists.  A video of it is available at the MIT World website:

The Great Climategate Debate

It was a helpful discussion about the specific issue of Climategate and the general issues of science, education and media. 

One particular point stood out to me.  One of the participants explained one of the problems with East Anglia where the e-mails were stolen from.  The skeptics argue that the the scientists were being devious because they wouldn’t publicly release the data, but the skeptics conveniently ignore one factor.  The East Anglia scientist sold the rights to the data to an outside organization.  This is apparently a practice that is sometimes used in Europe in order to get funding.  The problem is that a contract was signed where the scientists legally weren’t allowed to share the data with third parties.

What is interesting is that the skeptics claim government funding is causing the data to be skewed, but in this particular case the problem was that the scientists were being funded by way of capitalism and not government grants.  In the US, this practice isn’t done because scientists get public funding and so US scientific data is open to the public.  The skeptics argument falls apart here because they seem to imply that there wouldn’t be problems if scientists got their funding from sources other than the government.

The skeptics don’t explain why capitalist funding would be more trustworthy than government funding.  If you look a capitalist funding, a lot of money has been invested lobbying politicians and creating front groups to sway public opinion.  For example, ExxonMobil has given millions of dollars to dozens of organizations that argue against the climate change science.  This capitalis propaganda is very successful.  Even though there is a scientific consensus among active researchers in climatology, most Americans believe that no consensus exists.  It’s one thing to believe the consensus is fraudulent, but to believe it doesn’t exist shows both a failure of the media and the education system.  The scientific consensus does exist.  That is just a simple fact.

This isn’t surprising.  Polls also show a large percentage of Americans believe in Creationism or otherwise doubt Darwinian evolution.  Darwinism is one of the most credible theories with one of the strongest of scientific consensuses.  If Americans even doubt such solid science as that, then what hope is there?  The American public is largely ignorant on many scientific issues.  Why?  Another poll might give a clue.  A large percentage of highschool biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.  There you go.  Even many teachers are ignorant of science and so the students of those teachers are unlikely to get a high quality science education.

*sigh*

4 thoughts on “Climategate, Science Funding, Public Ignorance

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511670.stm

    Jones has now explained in detail the causal relationship of anthropogenic CO2 and the ‘global temperature’ increase in terms simple enough to decipher:
    In response to Harrabin’s amazingly good question:
    “If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?”
    He replied:
    “The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing ”

    This can be reduced to simpler:
    question: where’s your proof of AWG?
    answer: I dunno.

    Benjamin, Al Jones has confessed that there is none.

    • telegraph.co.uk/earth/eart hnews/7140840/Global-warming-data-is-rock-solid.html

      Prof Jones, the former head of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, is accused of manipulating data to prove world temperatures are rising.

      He was forced to step down from his post during an ongoing inquiry into the scandal known as “climategate”.

      His replacement, Professor Peter Liss, has however, predicted Prof Jones will be “vindicated” by the science and get his job back.

      “I think there is no question that the global temperature record produced by the Climatic Research Unit is absolutely correct and of course it is vindicated by two other institutions in the United States, who have looked at the data and processed it in their ways,” he said.

      “It is almost impossible to see a difference between the results so I think the results from the climatic research unit are rock solid.”

    • Source:
      Peter T. Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman (2009). “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change”. University of Illinois at Chicago.
      Published in:
      EOS, TRANSACTIONS AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION, VOL. 90, NO. 3

      Click to access 012009_Doran_final.pdf

      1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

      2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

      […]

      In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2. This is in contrast to results of a recent Gallup poll (see http://www.gallup.com/poll/1615/Environment.aspx) that suggests that only 58% of the general public would answer yes to our question 2.

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