In early October, I covered a breaking story about evidence of corruption in the basic temperature records maintained by key scientific advocates of the theory of man-made global warming. Global warming "skeptics" had unearthed evidence that scientists at the Hadley Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia had cherry-picked data to manufacture a "hockey stick" graph showing a dramatic-but illusory-runaway warming trend in the late 20th century.
But now newer and much broader evidence has emerged that looks like it will break that scandal wide open. Pundits have already named it "Climategate."
A hacker-or possibly a disillusioned insider-has gathered thousands of e-mails and data from the CRU and made them available on the Web. Officials at the CRU have verified the breach of their system and acknowledged that the e-mails appear to be genuine.
These e-mails show, among many other things, private admissions of doubt or scientific weakness in the global warming theory. In acknowledging that global temperatures have actually declined for the past decade, one scientist asks, "where the heck is global warming?... The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." They still can't account for it; see a new article in Der Spiegel: "Climatologists Baffled by Global Warming Time-Out." I don't know where these people got their scientific education, but where I come from, if your theory can't predict or explain the observed facts, it's wrong.
More seriously, in one e-mail, a prominent global warming alarmist admits to using a statistical "trick" to "hide the decline" in temperatures. Anthony Watts provides an explanation of this case in technical detail; the "trick" consists of selectively mixing two different kinds of data-temperature "proxies" from tree rings and actual thermometer measurements-in a way designed to produce a graph of global temperatures that ends the way the global warming establishment wants it to: with an upward "hockey stick" slope.
Confirming the earlier scandal about cherry-picked data, the e-mails show CRU scientists conspiring to evade legal requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, for their underlying data....
I haven't looked at all the e-mails, though there are now searchable databases of them on the web. There's a lot of data there. But I've looked at enough to form some conclusions.
The majority of them admit an innocent explanation. Even some of the ones most publicised as egregious evidence of misconduct.
I can even accept as plausible, even most probably true on the balance of probabilities, that the data excluded from some of the graphs due to artificial date cut-off points was genuinely misleading, painting a faulty picture that would have been seized in by political rather than scientific opponents.
YOU PUBLISH IT ANYWAY.
You then explain *why* the data isn't comparable, what the systemic errors are, their source and an estimate of what the true situation is. You don't suppress inconvenient facts.
There appears to have been a culture of scientific corruption. They already knew what the answer absolutely had to be, based on years of experience, not all of which is easily explainable (and they may even be correct). They knew that any appearance of a situation contrary to the one they knew had to be the case would be misused to muddy the waters, purely for political reasons. They knew this. Absolutely. Totally certain. So they omitted this misleading data, because it was important. Because Large Issues were at stake.
And that is wrong. Because no scientist can ever be sure. If your theory is so wonderful, it must be able to withstand challenge. If the data is ratty, you publish it anyway, along with your explanation of why it's misleading. You don't "lose" it, nor suppress it, nor attempt to stop it from falling into that hands of those who would misuse and misinterpret it. Because *you may be wrong*. Those who you think are scientifically dishonest may actually be correct, and the data that you have is the only Truth there is. That thus and such a measurement was recorded (possibly incorrectly) from such and such a location (which may not be the actual one), at such and such a time (which again may be mis-recorded). That is the data. If it gives a misleading picture, you say why, and also propose an experiment which would show that your contention of a systemic error is correct.You don't just pretend it doesn't exist.
On my blog, I am a strong advocate for a particular position regarding biological sex and gender. In the process of elucidating this position, I've come across a few articles, a few data points, that apparently contradict a position I *know* to be true. So what do I do? I publish them, along with an explanation of why they are misleading. Well, mostly I do. Sometimes I can't come up with an explanation for them which is very probably true, or even true on the balance of probabilities. Then I *change my opinion to fit the facts* and publish.
This can be painful. It can complicate a lovely, simple, beautiful picture I've spent years painstakingly building up. But that is what we have to do, like it or not. In fact, we should be *more* sceptical of data supporting our position, and *less* sceptical of that which undermines it, just to try to balance our inherent bias towards "our position" because we're human.
They failed at doing this. Rather than being sceptical scientists, they became unconscious advocates of a view they knew to be true, regardless of the facts. They became exactly what they accused others (possibly with considerable justification) of being.
They became a horrible example of how easy it is to descend the road to perdition. A lesson to us all - and me in particular. I can easily imagine myself falling into the same trap.
That's why I give links to all the data I base my conclusions on. So that others can check. Because when it comes down to it, my trust in myself is - has to be - limited.