Scientific Shenanigans Equals Loss of Credibility

The CEO of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, Rush Holt, recently said, “scientists are partly to blame for skepticism of evidence in policy making.” He was referring to a “haughty attitude has generated a backlash with the body politic against all types of scientific evidence. That is undoubtedly true but that is a very superficial explanation. The climate change debate is a case in point.

The treatment of science and the scientific process by the climate establishment is clear evidence that scientists who promote the climate orthodoxy do not have what Holt refers to as “reverence for evidence”. Their reverence is to self interest and ideology.

Homan Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal recently exposed the shenanigans that NOAA and NASA have been engaged in reporting annual temperatures. While both organizations reported that 2016 was the warmest year on record, Jenkins pointed out that this was only the case because both agencies have since 2009 left out any reference to measurement uncertainty. When error bars are included 2016 and 2015 are essentially the same as are a number of earlier years starting with 1998.

When the difference between years is less than a tenth of a degree or a few tenths of a degree, the news value of these annual reports goes to zero. Omitting any mention of measurement uncertainly is not only misleading but also a sign of what the author Darrell Huff labeled “How to Lie With Statistics”. The problem of data manipulation is not limited to the reporting of annual temperatures. Dr. John Bates, a Department of Commerce Gold Medal winner and former principal scientist at the National Climatic Data Center exposed a 2015 NOAA study that relied on unverified data and was rushed to publication to discredit the global warming pause for the purpose of influencing negotiations at climate summit in Paris.

NOAA’s statistical chicanery with temperature data is not a case of a few well meaning scientists engaging in trickery to draw public attention to an impending climate catastrophe. It is part of a well organized initiative to promote the sustainable development agenda. In 2009, the famous Climategate scandal exposed how an influential group of scientists were engaged in a conspiracy to discredit so-called skeptics, were manipulating the peer review process for self enrichment and political ends, and distorting statistical data to advance the climate orthodoxy.

Citing the “haughty attitude of scientists as the reason for a loss of credibility is analogous to blaming the sinking of the Titanic on a weak hull. The misuse of the scientific process to exploit climate change and other scientific issues will continue as long as scientists don’t pay a price for using it to pursue political agendas and self enrichment and the leadership of scientific organizations doesn’t demand integrity, openness, and respect for dissenting views

If Mr.Holt wants to improve scientific credibility, he should take the lead in promoting an initiative to establish a higher standard of excellence and transparency for scientific research and research used for policy making. In particular, since peer review has been gamed, as Climategate revealed, the peer review process needs to be reformed. Also, since science is about challenging prevailing hypotheses and theories, dissent must be promoted and protected; not demonized.

The bottom line, is that the scientific establishment needs to do a better job of policing itself and holding scientists and scientific work to the principles set by Richard Feynman and Karl Popper.


Founder and president of Solutions Consulting which focuses on public policy issues, strategic planning, and strategic communications.

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