Friday, August 13, 2010

Climate Conspiracy, Part II

Today's blog follows up on the Climate Conspiracy blog posted last week.  It was based on two conversations I had with a clear climate denialist.  The first entry details a discussion where the other party has direct evidence of bias in funding for climate research... that is, until I call him on it.

Today I'll provide another example.  It is interesting to note the climate denialists follow the same exact scheme as those that deny evolution or the safety of GMO food.  There always is a conspiracy, chocked full of secrets.  There are threats and intimidation, nameless figures and warped senses of victimization.

This is the second part of my discussion with James McGaha.  Again, we had a very nice conversation where I did a lot more listening than talking.  It was a private conversation, he had no idea that I'd write here about it (neither did I), but it is a good case for understanding science denialism.

During the conversation he told me that he knew someone, that must remain nameless, that has concrete evidence that will "blow the lid off of the global warming nonsense".  This alleged figure is a scientist and has this data, data that will contradict the findings of thousands of independent laboratories worldwide, upending data generated over the last three decades.

"Why doesn't he publish it, say in Science or Nature", I said.  Certainly concrete evidence that refutes a well established scientific consensus would be publishable in the best journals.

McGaha claimed that he would publish it, but is afraid of the intimidation that will come to him if he published work that does not agree with the scientific consensus.

Of course I vehemently disagreed, as top-tier journals are where you place the best data that overturn accepted paradigms.  I then had a stellar idea.

"Ask him to write up his data into a paper for Science, then send it to me.  I'll submit it with my name on it," I said.   "I'm a scientist, I can submit that work, then I'll deal with the intimidation (said with mocking sarcasm)."

It was the perfect plan. If this scientist has the data and is just afraid, then give it to a scientist that isn't.  Then when I show up in a shallow grave with a jumbo thermometer up my heiney and a Gore-Lieberman sticker across my forehead, then they can show the world how evil the conspiracy is.  If his conclusive work gets published, then he has accomplished the mission, we change the name on the report from mine to his, and he gets a Nobel Prize, or at the very least a lifetime of interviews on Fox News

Of course, my offer fell on deaf ears, probably because there is no shadowy scientist and equally vacant solid data.

It is a lot like those that cry foul in discussions of evolution.  There always are some alleged scientists that are not allowed to publish their data that prove creation or that the earth is 6000 years old.  They are afraid of intimidation or losing status or their job.  They claim a great conspiracy to suppress the real data.

In the end, there's science and there's non-science.  If we have real data, we publish it.  Real data stand up to scrutiny and are reproducible.  Real data always win.  That's why every nut living in denial of real science has to resort to the conspiracy and intimidation story, because as long as the real data are suppressed and hidden, then they don't have to ever be tested, reproduced or independently verified.

So that was my conversation with a science denialist.  We concluded by me saying, "Science is a put-up-or-shut-up business. If you have the data, show the data, confirm and retest the data, and change the way we think.... that is the way science works."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Climate Conspiracy

A panel convened at The Amazing Meeting 8 (TAM8) to discuss the skeptical coverage of climate change.

Panelist James McGaha made a number of statements that I really disagreed with.  He's a self described climate skeptic, as any good scientist should be, only he demonstrates his patent ignorance toward the scientific method and the critical consideration of evidence.

During his time on a panel, clearly as a representative of the camp that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a figment of the imagination and a liberal conspiracy, he espoused several positions that demonstrated his clear departure from the scientific method.

Multiple times he stated, "Science is wrong".   He framed this in several ways, all of which will be more comprehensively disclosed once the TAM8 videos become available.

Science is not wrong.  Science is a tool to answer questions in an objective and powerful way.  Science is not wrong.  Science just disagrees with his non-scientific conclusions, so it must be faulty.

He also claimed that federal funding agencies do not fund or publish work that is contrary to the status quo on AGW.  He said that legitimate work that contradicts AGW is unpublished.

After his talk I stood in line to talk to him.  I asked specifics, especially about the funding for those that have data supporting a non-AGW position.  He told me that is was the NSF, JPL and NASA.  I could not disagree more, as NSF especially prefers to fund quality work that expands our understanding. The work that runs counter to the consensus is considered very favorably.

I sent him an email last week and asked for a few minutes of his time.  He graciously agreed to call me.

He called and the first thing he asked was, "Are you a believer in AGW or a skeptic".

My answer was that I accept the scientific consensus and I am a skeptic.  We were off to a unproductive start.

I mostly listened for 45 minutes.  He told me that the NSF was a major dupe of the AGW system, funding only work that agreed with the consensus on AGW.   I told him that I was interlaced reasonably well with NSF and would like to know which funding initiatives were showing such bias.  I told him that I could investigate this with the Program Managers (the people that make decisions and ultimately write the checks) from the appropriate sub-disciplines at NSF.  I was going to be in Arlington at NSF headquarters, so it would be easy to knock on some doors.

He then says, "Well it was not NSF as much as JPL and NASA".  The story changes.

... more in the next blog.  It gets weirder, but more backpedaling.