If you attend a scientific talk on a controversial subject, you may be entertained or discomfited by the sometimes spirited discussion it can engender. Scientists love to pick apart new ideas, try to find their strengths and weaknesses. That's because they know that for an idea to survive scientifically, it must be attacked by scientifically experienced minds; any faults must be aired out. That which survives is stronger for the effort, and more likely to closely model reality.
The key phrase there is "scientifically experienced". When this happens with people inexperienced with the methodologies of science -- or worse, those who actively oppose them -- then the situation is very different. It changes from a way to strengthen our ideas on the Universe into a witch hunt. Instead of warming up people to discovery, it produces a chilling effect.
We're seeing this play out in spades in the field of climate science.
To be clear: the climate is changing. There is zero doubt about that. None. Anyone telling you differently has an agenda to ram, and it's one that is decidedly not realistic.
|"Hey, maybe I can stop global warming|
by creating a chilling effect!"
|Who has two thumbs and|
no grasp on reality? This guy!
Again, let me be clear: this is utter garbage. The scientists involved have been cleared of all wrong-doing (accusations which were politically motivated in the first place, and a colossal waste of time). Stunts like this from Inhofe and Cuccinelli are nothing more than government officials using their power to throw roadblocks into scientific inquiry they disagree with.
The media, of course, are buying right into this; "climategate" got far more attention than it deserved. However, in some good news, one climate scientist is fighting back: Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist and member of the IPCC (which put out the report on climate change that made so many denialists' heads explode) is suing the Canadian paper National Post. He is saying they cast him in a false light, and he also says,
... that the National Post articles suggest he's a corrupt scientist who promotes global warming theories so he can obtain government research grants.
This attack on the reputations of scientists is nefarious; reputation is extremely important when it comes to a scientist's career. Getting grants, invitations to talks, even being taken seriously, all can rest on the respect they get by other scientists and the public.
I'm glad Weaver is fighting back. These attacks on science, on reality, are appalling. It is one thing for scientists to argue over the factual basis of claims in their field, trying to establish what reflects reality and what doesn't. But it's quite another for politicians blinded by their bias to suppress ideas they don't like.
Sheril and Chris have more on this as well. Tip o' the thermometer to Jay Dee Archer for the article on Weaver.