I’ve been getting a lot of contact from readers asking why TDG isn’t covering the ‘Climategate‘ story, in which email messages from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit were hacked and released via the Internet. Firstly, I have to note that the story was covered in Kat’s news briefs on Monday (a little hard to find perhaps, due to the amount of links). Secondly, the reason I don’t mention the GW controversy much myself, is because I don’t know what to think about it – I haven’t done enough reading and research on the matter to really hold a valued opinion (and sadly, I’d apply that to 99% of the people currently going purple in the face on forums across the internet). So I’d prefer not to comment much when I feel rather uninformed (or at times, misinformed) on the matter.
What does interest me though is how this controversy mirrors so many other scientific debates, with individuals trapped in their own reality tunnel and reacting accordingly. So for some, the email leak is evidence of a worldwide conspiracy. To others it just shows that data and conclusions are being fudged. Alternatively, some seem to view it as a case of ‘nothing to see here’, and then I’ve even see some blogs pronouncing that a full viewing of the emails demonstrates how ‘Global Warming Denialists’ are wrong. And here lies my difficulty in making sense of it all – I have hardly read an essay, or seen a graph, in which I have not seen some manipulation of the reader (that includes both GW and anti-GW arguments) into accepting the author’s particular reality tunnel.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, I do take issue with the way in which those challenging the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory are ostracized as ‘Denialists’. The term itself is insulting (echoing Holocaust Denial), and squeezes everyone from some clueless idiot claiming a lizard conspiray to highly-qualified scientists mainly questioning the ‘anthropogenic’ aspect into one category to be dismissed as ‘denying’ Global Warming (very similar to the debate over the paranormal). While I understand the emotive nature of the debate (ie. “we need to stop arguing and act now to ensure our children’s future!”), I also think it is a very dangerous thing to stifle debate on any issue. Given that much of TDG’s ethos is about challenging orthodox knowledge, I therefore am more than open to hearing (intelligent) arguments against the AGW theory. Note, however – I care very little for people starting from their preconceived view and matching the data to their arguments, despite it’s popularity.
So my interest in ‘Climategate’ is probably a little different to most – what fascinates me is the insight into how the scientific debate is taking place. When you can look at emails in which the peer review process seems more akin to turf wars then you get a better understanding of the skepticism we all should have towards any pronouncements of scientific concensus (n.b. ‘skepticism’, not ‘blanket denial of’).