03 December 2009

ClimateGate Gleanings.

Clippy is always ready to help. From Borepatch.
Here are some gleanings from the web plus commentary:
  • FOIA. At Watt's Up with That, Willis Eschenbach juxtaposes FOIA resistance by the Climategate principals, as revealed by their emails, and his own attempts to gain access to CRU(d) data / codes. The resulting chronology sheds new light on the goings on at CRU(d) — who did what, when and why. An added bonus for most readers: you get to add a new word to your not for polite conversation vocabulary.

  • Fisking Nature. A point by point rebuttal of Nature's recent editorial, ("Climatologists under pressure," Nature. 462: 545) has been posted at L'Ombre de l'Olivier. The first Nature editorial, "Aphorisms of Goethe," by T. H. Huxley, was published in 1869. In his early years, Goethe, better known as a poet and the author of Faust, made important contributions to natural history, in particular the discovery of what we now call "serial homology" and "the law of compensation or balancement of growth." These phenomena would later be deemed compatible with Darwin's selection theory — hence the significance of Huxley's choice of subject matter. In greater detail, Nature was founded by Huxley and a handful of associates as a means of promoting scientific professionalism and, by extension, their own careers and agendas, one of which was the advocacy of evolution — see, for example, Barton, R. 1998. Huxley, Lubbock, and half a dozen others: Professionals and gentlemen in the formation of the X-Club, 1851-1864. Isis. 89: 414-444.

    A hundred and forty years later, the journal's agenda-driven character persists, and, in recent years, it has been firmly in the AGW camp. Yesterday's defense of beleaguered climatologists thus comes as no surprise. It is also regrettable. As one of the world's two premier scientific publications, Nature is enormously influential.

    To L'Ombre de l'Olivier's analysis of the recent editorial, I offer a comment or two concerning the magnitude of the stakes as perceived by its author. Experience suggests that many (most? nearly all?) of these gatekeepers of scientific expression are undismayed by the possible economic and social consequences of carbon abatement. Got to break a few eggs, etc. What they do care about is the restriction of scientific discourse to those "entitled" to an opinion.

    In "Huxley and Wilberforce: A legendary encounter," J. R. Lucas (1979. The Historical Journal 22: 313-330), observed,
    "Science, in the first half of the nineteenth century ... , was part of the intellectual culture of mankind, into which all might enter and from which all might profit. But from 1860 onwards it becomes more of a closed shop, with its own puritan ethic, from which amateurs are more and more excluded. ... The men of science who attended the British Association in 1860 and were hearing from Professor Draper, M.D., of New York 'On the Intellectual Development of Europe' were to give way to the academics we know, for many of whom it is a point of professional pride to know nothing outside their own special subject."
    Thus, by 1867, Fleeming Jenkin, in his devastating review of The Origin of Species, felt compelled to justify his right to an opinion on a subject outside his area expertise — Jenkin was an engineer. "About the truth and extent of those facts [observations reputed to contradict Darwin's theory]," he wrote,
    "none but men possessing a special knowledge of physiology and natural history have any right to an opinion; but the superstructure based on those facts enters the region of pure reason, and may be discussed apart from all doubt as to the fundamental facts." [Emphasis added]
    Like the contemptuous dismissals by Mann, Jones, et al. of "outsiders" like McIntyre, the message of the more moderately worded Nature editorial is "Trespassers W." Understandably so. Money, influence, political power, all in staggering abundance, are involved. With the advent of the internet, supremely capable "amateurs" like Steve McIntyre are once again gaining a voice, even as the high priests of the temple defend their turf. It is no exaggeration to say that Climategate is really about "Who shall rule?"

  • The MWP. For reviews of the evidence supporting the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) as a global phenomenon, and discussion of why this is important. go here and here. The MWP, of course, is that time in the earth's climatological history that Michael Mann characterized as "putative" and sought to "contain."

  • Bishop Hill. CRU(d) Mail highlights available here.

  • Judith Curry. A recent interview with the Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech is posted here. In a previous piece published at Climate Audit, Curry called for greater transparency even while attempting to explain, if not excuse, CRU(d) gate principals' behavior. Her more recent statements are less "understanding," and appear motivated, at least in part, by feedback from the rest of the scientific community, i.e., people outside climatology. These folks are appalled.

  • Sarah Palin. The heroine of grass roots conservatism has weighed in on CRU(d)gate:
    "Policy should be based on sound science, not snake oil. I took a stand against such snake oil science when I sued the federal government over its decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species despite the fact that the polar bear population has increased. I’ve never denied the reality of climate change; ... But while we recognize the effects of changing water levels, erosion patterns, and glacial ice melt, we cannot primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes. The drastic economic measures being pushed by dogmatic environmentalists won’t change the weather, but will dramatically change our economy for the worse." [Emphasis added]

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