Thursday, 3 December 2009

Climate Gate matters, but not really.

A few years back, a group of Scientists called `bullshit` on a Korean scientist who had claimed to human embryos to make batches of embryonic stem cells from nine patients. Far from data manipulation, the data of Hwang Woo-Suk was outright invented, and was as grounded in reality as hairymen and UFOs.

(Un)interestingly, no one used the scandal to doubt that scientists were doing this cloning business at all. It wasn't an opportunity for the public to go `Right, now that we've disproven stemcells, we can go back to treating humours like people should.` People rightly realized that there's more than one horse in town. Science is done by networks of people, and rarely does science rest or fall on one person working alone.

This is Tyler Cowen's point in an incredibly eloquently written post on the so-called "Climate Gate" scandal:
I am by no means an expert in climate science but I will explain in more detail why I would stress different issues.  (Please do set me straight where I am wrong.)  I see science, including climate science, as very much a decentralized process, based on the collective efforts of thousands of researchers.  The evidence for our current understanding of climate change also comes from a wide variety of disciplines, including chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, geography, tree ring studies, ice sheet studies, and a good body of theory, which has held up well.  These results all point in broadly similar directions.  Call me naive but, with apologies to Robert Sugden, I don't think many scientific results depend on what comes out of East Anglia, even if you include its emailing affiliates from Penn State and the like.  Even very, very simple climate models generate many of the basic results.
He forgot growing times, distribution of species in terms of biological evidence. Otherwise, spot on. I'd encourage you to read the rest.

And that's leaving aside whether there was foul play with the East Anglian data - far from some random emails, the papers from their group will be dissected and either stand on their own in the face of independent verification, or be redacted.

It's worth noting that redaction is Scientist-death. And rarely do dead scientists get the opportunity to shamble around as a zombie. Science is self correcting, and carries a wooden stake.