Alex Massie

What about Climategate?

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A reader writes to complain that I haven't written anything about "Climategate" (please, can we stop the use of the suffix "gate"?). Well, the main reason I haven't is that climate change is even more crushingly tedious than health policy, the European Union or, for that matter, just about anything else. Worse, the bad faith of the participants, on both sides, and their certainty on matters about which we cannot possibly or plausibly be certain is dispiriting. That being the case, Megan McArdle writes my reaction to this "scandal" for me:

Scientists are human beings.  They react to pressure to "clean up" their graphs and data for publication, and they gang up on other people who they dislike.  Sometimes they're right--there's a "conspiracy" to keep people who believe in N-rays from publishing in physics journals, but that's a good thing.  But sometimes they're wrong, and a powerful figure or group of people can block progress in science.

I'd say that the charge that climate skeptics "are not published in peer reviewed journals" just lost most of its power as an argument against the skeptics.  But I don't see any reason to think that the AGW scientists have actually falsified data to create a consensus reality which is known to be false-to-fact.  What I see is that the people who are the custodians of the currently dominant paradigm have an unhealthy ability to exclude people who might challenge that paradigm from expressing those views in important forums.  Powerful scientists using their power to marginalize anyone who might challenge the authority of them, or their views, is sadly not uncommon in the history of science. 

That doesn't mean their paradigm is wrong; rather, it means we need to be less romantic about the practice of science.  No scientific consensus is ever as powerful as its proponents claim, because no scientists are ever as perfect as we'd like to imagine.


Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyglobal warmingscience