By Norman Rogers / May 24, 2014 / American Thinker
Eisenhower in his farewell address warned that a “scientific-technological elite” dependent on government money would exert undue influence on government policy.
Now, as Eisenhower predicted, scientific advice is contaminated by political considerations aimed at protecting the interests of science and scientists.
Scientists will exaggerate the importance of their own work. However, there should be a line that is not crossed — the line that separates self-promotion from corruption.
The corruption of science does not necessarily mean lying or faking data. Mostly it is a matter of exaggerating the danger, or importance, of some theory, or else remaining passive while others exaggerate.
A common corrupt path to scientific success is to discover and overpromote a new danger; perhaps something that causes cancer, hurts children, or poisons the environment. The scientists who discover and overpromote the new danger become heroes and get more grants and more money.
Take, for example, the government program to fight radon pollution. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of trace amounts of radioactive isotopes in the soil. In some areas people have “high” levels of radon. It is alleged that the radon seeping into houses causes lung cancer. The scientific evidence for the radon program is based on dubious theory not backed by good statistical evidence. But radon is a gift that keeps on giving, providing jobs and grants.
Acid rain (scary sounding) is caused by sulfur emissions from burning coal in electrical generating plants. In a 1984 editorial the New York Times said: “…the warning signs — dead lakes, damaged crops, forests of stunted trees – presage a massive natural disaster.” Acid rain turned out to be a tempest in a teacup. The government program to ameliorate acid rain cost the economy billions and only has a target of reducing sulfur emissions by half. If acid rain is so dangerous, why does the government only cut it by half?
Some other science-based scare stories include: asbestos, DDT, lead, plutonium, nuclear power, the ozone hole, species extinction, vaccines causing autism, power lines causing cancer, fracking, second hand smoke, ocean acidification, global cooling and the biggest scare, global warming. Typically, there is a core of real science behind each scare and then the danger is blown up out of all proportion to the real danger.
There is a man who walks up and down Michigan Avenue in Chicago with sandwich boards and a megaphone. He believes that Vice President Biden is actually an impostor planted by the Russian secret services. He is completely sincere and coherent. Unlike the promoters of global warming, his beliefs are not supported by official policy and government money.
It should not be a defense for scientific corruption that the scientist was innocently in error. A stricter standard of accountability is necessary to discourage the corruption that is currently poisoning science. Human nature being what it is, the scientists engaging in corrupt behavior always believe they are engaged in a noble crusade. If there is a price to pay for abusing the trust placed in science, scientists will act more prudently.
The intellectual foundation for global warming is computer smoke and mirrors. The predictions of doom rely on computer models of the Earth’s climate. The only reason to believe these complicated models is the professional judgment of the very climate scientists whose jobs and reputations depend on the believability of those computer models. It’s a fox guarding the hen house situation.
Because global warming actually stopped about 15 years ago, the global warming establishment stopped talking about “global warming” and started talking about “climate change” and “extreme weather.” The scientific basis for the theory that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will cause extreme weather is very thin. From a propaganda point of view it is great to be able to blame every flood, draught, hurricane, and forest fire on extreme weather caused by adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Since the most recent extreme weather is most vivid in memory, to the man in the street the idea that the weather is getting worse seems plausible. But the weather is not getting worse.
Peer review and open discussion is supposed to keep scientific sin in check. However, if the scientific journals are controlled by a clique, and if hellfire rains down on dissenters, then peer review fails and open discussion takes place only in secret. This was vividly illustrated when Roy Spencer, a highly original and competent climate scientist attempted to make an end run around the establishment journals. He submitted an exceptionally important paper to an obscure Swiss journal, Remote Sensing. The paper was duly peer reviewed and published. Most probably the editor had no idea that he was playing with fire, that he was publishing blasphemy. Hellfire rained down on the editor. He was forced to resign for daring to publish a paper critical of global warming doctrine. Even if the paper were in error, that is not grounds for firing the editor. Erroneous papers are published all the time. Mistakes are expected as science progresses.
Richard Lindzen, an MIT scientist with a record of great accomplishment, complains that when he publishes a paper critical of the climate establishment, other papers refuting his work are already written and he is refused the opportunity to defend his work.
Critics of global warming doctrine, like the Canadian climate scientist Tim Ball, have been subjected to expensive legal attacks. Even if the lawsuits are groundless, people will be afraid to speak up for fear of an expensive trip through the courts. Judges and juries are quite incapable of understanding the scientific issues, so the outcome of the suits may depend on who can parade the most convincing scientific experts. That would be the pro global warming clique that controls the journals and even prescribes policy at the White House. Tim Ball has written a book: The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science.
The global warming scare story has been heavily attacked on the Internet both by professional scientists and by amateur scientists. The amateurs range from highly qualified critics such as Steve McIntyre or Anthony Watts to borderline cases that often put forth irrelevant or wrong arguments. Global warming skeptics are shut out of most media outlets. The availability of Internet outlets has served an essential role in exposing the weaknesses in the global warmers’ arguments.
Possibly, if the Internet had existed in the 1970s and 1980s many of the science scares during those years could have been defeated or minimized. Keep in mind that scares such as asbestos, acid rain, DDT, and global warming have inflicted billions or trillions of dollars of economic damage. The ban on DDT has been rescinded by the World Health Organization but not by the U.S. government. Government agencies as a rule never admit to making mistakes. For that reason outdated regulations and policies are nearly immortal. The ban on DDT was directly responsible for the deaths of millions of children from malaria.
When scientists, or their organizations, offer supposedly objective advice that will greatly influence their own interests, we must be highly suspicious of that advice and seek second and third opinions. Dissenters within a discipline should be taken seriously and not treated as outliers who can be ignored. Sometimes the dissenters are really whistle blowers who are willing to risk their careers.
Getting a second opinion may be difficult because it may be hard for persons outside of the discipline’s establishment to understand the issues. Retired scientists or persons trained in the discipline but pursuing different careers might be good candidates to offer objective advice. Persons in related disciplines are also good candidates. For example, many of the better-informed critics of global warming are physicists, economists, or engineers. These are fields used to dealing with computer models, statistics, and measurement.
There may be a place for an organization that serves to analyze and critique the advice of scientists and scientific organizations. Such an organization might assume a role similar to that of the inspectors general in the federal government or the California Legislative Analyst, a branch of the California legislature that analyzes important government issues in an objective manner. The National Academies of Science pretend to serve this role, but their advice is shockingly biased. They are really a cheerleader and lobbyist for the special interests of the science establishment. An example of the work of the National Academies is the report “A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling“. This lengthy report was written mostly by scientists making a career of climate modeling. It presents a rosy view of climate models and urges continuation and expansion of the programs — i.e. more money. The real story is that billions have been tossed down the climate modeling rathole to finance expensive and redundant models of dubious value. The National Academies tell us that a committee of scientists will provide objective advice about the worth of their personal science empires. Unfortunately the National Academies have been getting away with this type of fraud for a long time.
The gullibility of the media results in a constant flow of science scare stories. Because the media organizations are scientifically illiterate they cannot distinguish real science from junk science. A bit of journalistic skepticism concerning science based scares would be extremely helpful.
Norman Rogers is a retired entrepreneur who writes about global warming and renewable energy. He is a volunteer Senior Policy Advisor with the Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank. He maintains a website.