Chesterton on ClimateGate
One person who would NOT have been surprised by this turn of events was G.K. Chesterton. In "The Thing: Why I Am A Catholic" I came across this passage:
Even in those things he [Sir Arthur Keith] betrayed a curious simplicity common among such official scientists. The truth is that they become steadily less scientific and more official. They develop that thin disguise that is the daily wear of politicians. They perform before us the most artful tricks with the most artless transparency. It is like watching a child trying to hide something. They are perpetually trying to bluff us with big words and learned allusions; on the assumption that we have never learnt anything - even of their own funny little ways. Every leader-writer who thunders "Galileo" at us assumes that we know even less about Galileo than he does. Every preacher of popular science who throws a long word at us thinks we shall have to look it up in the dictionary and hopes we shall not study it seriously even in the encyclopaedia. Their use of science is rather like the use made of it by the heroes of certain adventure stories, in which the white men terrify the savages by predicting an eclipse or producing an electric shock. These are in a sense true demonstrations of science. They are in a sense right in saying that they are scientists. Where they are perhaps wrong is in supposing that we are savages.The dummy sciences that Chesterton was dealing with in 1926 were Darwinism, spiritualism and eugenics. One thing he didn't foresee was that the following 80 years would erode his healthy skepticism and result in the elevation of "science" by credulous post-Christians to the level formerly occupied by religion. This must be the explanation for our willingness to submit without a struggle to anything with the imprimatur of "Science" slapped on it. This scandal makes me hope that we may be finding our way back from our superstitious veneration of "Science", to something healthier and saner, as Chesterton observed a few years later in "The Well and the Shallows":
But it is rather amusing for us who watch the preparations for giving us an electric shock, when we are seriously expected to be shocked by the shock. It is rather a joke when we, the benighted savages, are ourselves not only quite capable of predicting the eclipse, but capable of predicting the prediction. Now among these facts that have been familiar to us for a long time is the fact that men of science stage and prepare their effects exactly as politicians do. They also do it rather badly - exactly as politicians do. Neither of these two modern mystagogues has yet realized how transparent his tricks have become.
Scores and hundreds of times I have heard, through my youth and early manhood, the repetition of that ultimatum: "You must accept the conclusions of science." And it is that notion or experience that has now been concluded; or rather excluded. Whatever else is questionable, there is henceforth no question of anybody "accepting" the conclusions of science. The new scientists themselves do not ask us to accept the conclusions of science. The new scientists themselves do not accept the conclusions of the new science. To do them justice, they deny vigorously that science has concluded; or that it has, in that sense, any conclusion. The finest intellects among them repeat, again and again, that science is inconclusive.