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:
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.