The trouble with scientists: climate change edition

A leopard, they say, never changes his spots. And scientists? Well, scientists tend to take their own research fairly seriously. Its a critical flaw in using scientists when you want to disprove reality.

So the Koch brothers discovered when they set about disproving global climate change by hiring a physicist who had questions about the research methodologies used in previous climate science research. Richard Muller, a physicist from UC Berkley, had questions about the ranges of data and calculations used by his fellow scientists. That’s not the same thing as a rabid, virulent hate of his fellow scientists or a vested interest in the continued use of fossil fuels in irresponsible fashion, but that’s an easy mistake to make, I suppose.

The Koch brothers paid for Muller’s research, in which he actually used one of the largest sets of data ever used to test the hypothesis of global climate change. Muller was even able to use data sets previously deemed unusable by previous studies. The man can be credited with a very positive addition to the field of study, for sure.

He just wasn’t able to come up with proof of a fraud. In fact:

Koch brothers accidentally fund study that proves global warming – CSMonitor.com.

In the end, the team’s result shows that the earlier studies “were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate-change skeptics did not seriously affect” the conclusions these studies reached, said Dr. Muller, who some climate activists have labeled a global-warming skeptic.

Of course, the inefficacy of prior research is not the only intellectual hidie-hole available to climate science skeptics. Not by a long shot. Already, the elite of deniers – those that clapped Dr. Muller on the back heartily in the past – are already retreating to their second firewall: that if global warming is happening, that doesn’t prove that humans have anything to do with it. Observe the carefully-crafted statement by one former Sen. James Inhofe aide:

Climate Change Deniers Abandon ‘Befuddled Warmist’ Physicist Who Came Around On Global Warming :

“[T]he climate debate has not centered on whether the Earth has warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age about 1850 or since the 1950s. The climate debate is about how much humans may or may not be contributing to the warming trend,” Morano wrote Friday, calling Muller a “befuddled warmist.”

Ah! So we’ve gone all the way back to 1850, have we? Effectively prior to the full-swing of the Industrial Revolution in the Americas, well done. But the study specifically measures the change in temperature since the 50’s, which has always been the benchmark.

But this is the trouble with mixing denial with science: sooner or later, science will ferret out the truth. And while no two experiments are exactly alike and not all methodologies are necessarily created equal, science does have a few bedrock principles that make all science relatable. And while one study does not automatically validate another, when studies that have been previously used to cross-check each other are found to be reliable, it makes ditching one “inconvenient truth” out of a handful much more difficult.

I would liken it to the Intelligent Design crowd and their insulting concepts. If you want to believe that the Bible (or Koran or Talmud or whatever) is the be-all of truth – that no truth exists but that which is confirmed in your religious handbook of choice – you are OK to do that. If you want to believe that science is the ultimate arbiter of truth – that no truth exists which cannot be measured and reproduced – you’re OK to do that as well. And if you believe, as I do, that faith tells its own truths and science its own – that these are different truths and different disciplines of thought that do not require either harmony or dissonance between them – I think you’re OK to believe that as well.

What is genuinely not OK in my book is the idea that you can take just *some* of the facts provided by science – air travel, your computer, penicillin spring to mind – while abandoning other facts that are derived from the very same Scientific Principle, but which are inconsistent with your world view, as simply “mysteries.” That is intellectually dishonest in the extreme.