Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chesterton on ClimateGate

Well, what do you know?  It looks like the Global Warming hoax has exploded in the sky like a supernova instead of lingering on for decades as its credibility trickled away.  I remember when "scientists" began talking this up in the 90s, and thought, "Well, nobody'll ever fall for THAT!"  To my astonishment, I was wrong - after enough repetition, people began to believe it, and then to believe it fervently. The current scandal is progressing at a satisfyingly fast pace; dumping that much information on the public at once was the way to go. If the incriminating emails had been cautiously dripped out, the bogus "science" community would have been organized and determined enough to rub out the trail the moment it appeared. This has caught them flat-footed, with their corruption on display for all to see.

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.

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.
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":
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.

5 Comments:

Blogger Allen Lewis said...

Science with an Agenda will be the destruction of us all.

Once God and the Bible were removed as sources of authority, the secular power mongers had to come up with a replacement. They found it in Science.

Invoking "Scientific Truth" is a way of short-circuiting any opposition in a debate. Of course, those who are knowledgable enough and possess the courage of their convictions will not be cowed by such subterfuge.

However, this ploy has worked marverlously well, as evidenced by the fact thta Al Gore actually won a Nobel Prize for his collection of lies!

2:49 pm  
Blogger OhioProf_1 said...

Actually I think the lesson is that truth will out, as happened in many previous cases of scientific misconduct or alleged misconduct. Witness the dude at Bell Labs who was going so far as to submit the same graphs with all his fraudulent papers. It took a while for anyone to notice, but eventually someone did.

Note that misconduct by the scientists does not bear on whether or not their conclusions are true: for example, Pasteur is said to have discarded 90% of his data; and Milliken, who measured the charge on the electron, threw out a lot of his measurements because in his judgment they were of poor quality.

But their conclusions stand, because they have been borne out by further work.

This doesn't mean global warming is false; it means that the data are not there yet.

9:54 pm  
Blogger OhioProf_1 said...

See also the comments at Rod Dreher's blog entry.

The data are not gone, unless the East Anglia team had some data they collected themselves that they didn't share with anyone else; that was my initial impression, but it seems not to be the case.

10:16 am  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

Note that misconduct by the scientists does not bear on whether or not their conclusions are true: for example, Pasteur is said to have discarded 90% of his data; and Milliken, who measured the charge on the electron, threw out a lot of his measurements because in his judgment they were of poor quality.


I think you mean that the misconduct of these scientists doesn't necessarily mean that their conclusions are false. But certainly they've broken trust with the public and it would be unreasonable to demand the public still believe (and act on) what they say without much more rigorous proof, transparency and subjection to opposing viewpoints. I hope you'll concede they erred there as well.

And it seems a tad unfair of you to parallel these guys with Pasteur and Milliken, who did the right thing by your description and committed no 'misconduct'. If only the climatologists had the honesty to discard their data for reasons like "poor measurement" rather than "threatens my grant"!

Imagine a defense attorney telling the jury, "My client and the defense witnesses may all have perjured themselves on key points, but he might be innocent anyway".
Yes of course, but then why the need for deception?

6:09 pm  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

I guess what I meant to say is that ignoring data for the wrong reason, which seems to be the case here, certainly does bear on whether the conclusions are true.

6:50 pm  

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