Science journalists, like other journalists, have a built-in problem: What they write affects the careers of the scientists they talk to. So those scientists are unlikely to be honest. No doubt most science journalists realize this but cannot say it, for fear of damaging their own careers. Dirty little secret is the phrase.
This is why, when Climategate happened, the many claims of climate scientists that the emails meant nothing themselves meant nothing. “The reason for the denial was the need for it,” Thorstein Veblen was fond of saying. What the climate scientists really thought they were unlikely to make public. The faux-horrified reactions of the few who made a living on the other side of the debate also meant nothing.
And this is why this reaction to Climategate, from Robert Detlefsen, an insurance industry group vice president, is meaningful: what he says will have no effect on his career. He is disinterested.Â And he makes some good points:
- “The CRU e-mails show that a close-knit group of the world’s most influential climate scientists actively colluded to subvert the peer-review process [to prevent publication of disagreement]; manufactured pre-determined conclusions through the use of contrived analytic techniques; and discussed destroying data to avoid [FOIA] requests.”
- He quotes from the Wegman report, which I hadn’t heard of. The Wegman report is by a group of statisticians.Â It says: “‘ independent studies’ may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface”. It also says that when climate scientists were asked to explain their work, “the sharing of research material, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done.”
He concludes that the science is less certain than has been claimed.