Truth and Science

It is almost axiomatic in our culture that the pronouncements of Science are synonymous with Truth. This received wisdom is so prevalent that whenever media reports begin with the words “Scientists have found that…[fill in the blank]“, whatever follows is widely believed by the public to be unassailable fact. So revered is Science and so respected its methods, that the mere suggestion that something might be amiss is considered ignorance or heresy. And so the statements of Science are defended vigorously while the critics are dismissed as quacks and uninformed idiots. The prevailing attitude seems to be (to slightly bend the well-known quote from Richard Dawkins) “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in the findings of Science [emphasis and edit mine], that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

For those of us who have long been engaged in the ongoing Evolution/Intelligent Design debate, we know that this attitude is anything but justified. Now along comes the so-called Climategate scandal, and virtually overnight, the public is waking up to the realization that something is indeed rotten with the state of Science, especially when billions of dollars of public funds are at stake. Destroyed data? Suppressed findings? Manipulated results? Unthinkable! But the genie has been let out of the bottle and it won’t be so easy putting it back in.

What remains to be seen is how widespread the public skepticism will be. Being skeptical with respect to the pronouncements of Science isn’t something the general public has much experience with. But maybe the climategate scandal will serve as a wake-up call that Science and Truth, while not opposites, are not synonymous either. Perhaps one positive result that could arise from the climategate scandal is for the general public to finally begin to see that Science is not the only avenue to Truth and that more often than most folks care to admit, Truth (with a capital “T”) trumps Science. It would not be a bad thing for the public to develop a healthy skepticism with respect to the pronouncements of Science. Even better if that skepticism makes Science more trustworthy and honest.

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44 Responses to Truth and Science

  1. Well, I am not a scientist, but as far as I know, science is not about Truth, but about finding facts and structures in the natural world. As our technical possibilities progress, scientists discover more facts which sometimes will lead them to modify their definitions or even overthrow theories.
    Truth with a capital T can only be found in a spiritual context.

    However, I agree with your critique of the media: They often misrepresent scientific facts just to sell their product.

  2. If you want to question the materialist approach embodied in Science, and I presume this is what you are getting at, then you will have to come up with the goods. What do you propose in its place ?

    Eg: the periodic table. Is there some other way of describing reality ?

    This blog is strong on theology but Science actually delivers. You have to be able to make a clear statement of an alternative that has worked (with examples) or could work (with a clear description of how it would work).

  3. Graham, no less a scientist than Linus Pauling stated that science is a search for truth.

    Being truthful would rule out fudging the data or skewing the results of one’s experiments, wouldn’t it?

  4. Barb: Fudging the results are one thing. This is bad, I agree, and must be, will be, found out in due course.

    However, DM is claiming that Science is not the only avenue to Truth . Now, before we get into some long existential deconstruction of what ‘truth’ is, I would like to see something concrete, like the periodic table, or whatever example you like (and try choosing something other than Evolution please!).

    What is the better way ?

  5. Graham,

    The point isn’t that science doesn’t work. It obviously does.
    But sometimes scientists can get careless with the facts, and then their findings don’t merit the respect granted to other research.
    And then, once in a while, the term “science” gets applied to sheer nonsense. The poor souls who think that scientists check their emotions, imaginations, and ideologies at the lab door have no idea what they’re being sold.

  6. 6
    MannsWord.blogspot.com

    Folks,

    Perhaps you don’t fully get what Climate-Gate suggests. Richard Dawkins, et.al., expect us to believe in the prevailing scientific consensus. That’s not so out-of-line. After all, we are not able to fully ascertain the validity of the vast majority of things we believe. So naturally, we place our faith in the experts (They too must also place their faith in other experts!) We have been assured that we can trust the “findings” of science – peer review and all that stuff. However, climate-gate has demonstrated that the “safeguards” just aren’t safe.

    This has created a crisis in faith! What do we now believe in if not the experts? From which cauldron will our opinions arise? Scripture is looking better all the time!

  7. There are many other ways to pursue truth, Graham. Reason and logic are one. Religion is another. The fields of philosophy and history are others. In fact, I would say that most professional disciplines are pursuits of truth in one way or another.

  8. I can see the concept ‘pursuit of truth’ following a familiar path into the quagmire of religion/philosophy etc, and therein lies madness.

    However, we can avoid the swamp because, happily, Science doesnt consider the questions Religion supposedly addresses. Science answers more immediate stuff, like: what is the mass of a carbon atom ?

    Now, getting back on track, DM claims Science is not the only avenue to Truth . Well, what other way is there to discover the mass of the carbon atom ?

    Also, its all a bit annoying because Im on the moderators hit-list (some past transgressions I presume), so my posts hang about in purgatory for a while.

  9. 9

    Graham,

    “Now, getting back on track, DM claims Science is not the only avenue to Truth . Well, what other way is there to discover the mass of the carbon atom?”

    I think you have illustrated the problem quite well. Science doesn’t lead to truth, but to corroborated facts through observation. The mass of a carbon cannot tell us anything about what we ought to do. Somehow we can’t resolve the problem of ‘ought’ through the observation of ‘is.’ Perhaps science can tell us what might be expedient, but cannot tell us what is morally right.

    Yet here is the connundrum – scientists must do what is morally right to correctly do science. To fudge the evidence does not lead to correct results.

    The scientific method is nothing if not an upright quest for answers to honest questions, but one must approach science truthfully to attain the answers. Yet science itself is not that truth. That truth comes from somewhere outside the discipline of science.

  10. 10

    Allow me to elaborate on my above post:

    Science relies on a moral discipline that is itself outside of science. We know that it is outside of science because scientists are not the only souls concerned with honesty and integrity. We don’t find the virtues of honesty and integrity by doing science, yet we must persue science with honesty and integrity in order to get correct results. If we lie and cover up or falsify data, we will learn precisely nothing from the persuit.

  11. 11

    “I can see the concept ‘pursuit of truth’ following a familiar path into the quagmire of religion/philosophy etc, and therein lies madness.”

    I just wonder what scientific method you employed to reach your conclusion that “following the path into the quagmire of religion/philosophy” leads to madness. Can you draw on any data that illustrates this fact?

  12. 12

    Graham:

    Science answers more immediate stuff, like: what is the mass of a carbon atom?

    Really? A carbon atom has six protons in two orbits with another 12 particles in the nucleus.

    Are there any particles of the information within a carbon atom?

    If not, then the information which science concludes about a carbon atom is not actually contained within the carbon atom itself. Correct?

    If this information is not contained within the material itself, then it is must be immaterial, no? It must be about carbon, but not in carbon, no?

    What does a science that artificially demands that all things are material say about immaterial things?

    And what is it that produces the information that science has gathered about the carbon atom? What is information the product of?

    When did the this information come into existence and what is it exactly that lead to the information coming into existence?

    And what has been done with the information about a carbon atom? Is it shared? Is it manipulated?

    And what of the carbon atom itself, has the information of the carbon atom lead to the manipulation of carbon based upon the information created about it? If so, how does that take place?

    - – - – -

    Perhaps you need to question if the science of carbon atoms is the only thing that leads to knowledge or reality.

  13. 13

    electron = proton

    ;)

  14. 14

    “If you want to question the materialist approach embodied in Science, and I presume this is what you are getting at, then you will have to come up with the goods.”

    The materialist approach is embodied in science? Can you come up with the goods on that?

  15. To Upright Biped: Jumping Jupiter, whats that all about ? I think you just led us straight back into the swamp.

    We observe nature and conclude that carbon is made up as you described. We then record this on a piece of paper and it becomes the periodic table. What on earth is hard about that ?

    We can give it spooky names like ‘information’, but its no more than a shopping list.

    Lastly, What does a science that artificially demands that all things are material say about immaterial things? … nothing. Science has nothing to say about the soul/morality etc (I presume this is where you are going with this). Actually, Science doesnt ‘demand’ anything. It is a tool to describe reality. Reality comes first, then the science.

  16. I expected science to be, in Carl Sagan’s memorable phrase, “a candle in a demon haunted world.” And here, I am not so pleased with the impact of science. Rather than serving as a cleansing force, science has in some instances been seduced by the more ancient lures of politics and publicity. Some of the demons that haunt our world in recent years are invented by scientists. ~ Michael Crichton

    Graham @ 8

    However, we can avoid the swamp because, happily, Science doesnt consider the questions Religion supposedly addresses. Science answers more immediate stuff, like: what is the mass of a carbon atom ?

    In attempting to refute my point, Gould resoundingly confirmed it. Science and religion are separate but equal in importance, he wrote, “because science treats factual reality, while religion struggles with human morality.” That is naturalistic metaphysics in a nutshell, and its version of “separate but equal” means about what the same phrase did in the days of Jim Crow. The power to define “factual reality” is the power to govern the mind, and thus to confine “religion” within a naturalistic box. For example, a supposed command of God can hardly provide a basis for morality unless God really exists. The commands of an imaginary deity are merely human commands dressed of as divine law. Morality in naturalistic metaphysics is purely a human invention, as Gould conceded in the same review by remarking offhandedly that on questions of morality, “there is no ‘natural law’ waiting to be discovered ‘out there’.” Why not? The answer, of course, is that naturalistic metaphysics relegates both morality and God to the realm outside of scientific knowledge, where only subjective belief is to be found. ~ Phillip Johnson

  17. I think Ive been led into the swamp I was warning against.

    My objection started with DM asserting Science is not the only avenue to Truth.
    If he is referring to Morality, etc then sure, but its like saying a hammer isnt the only way to bake a cake, thats because hammers arent used for that.

    If he is saying that a hammer isnt the only way to insert a nail, then this is where he must come up with the goods. How else does he propose to insert nails ?

  18. 18

    Graham,

    Shakespear was most assuredly not a scientist. Yet, is there no truth in the lines of the Bard?

    You are equating truth with measured results. They are not the same. Measured results are interpreted as much as lines of scripture or events of history. Interpretation is the realm of philosophy. Philosophy drives any quest for truth – scientific or otherwise.

  19. Graham:
    Science doesnt ‘demand’ anything. It is a tool to describe reality. Reality comes first, then the science.

    When rigid materialism is applied to science then science first defines reality, and only then explores it. We can’t have it both ways – first decide what reality is allowed to be and then explore and describe it.

    I’m not suggesting that science be used to study what it cannot observe. That seems impossible, to me at least. It’s difficult or impossible, for example, to scientifically examine most metaphysical religious claims. But the flip side is that science cannot eliminate what it cannot observe. That limitation sets a boundary.

    ID does not examine anything metaphysical. It examines observable physical entities, nothing else. Critics attempt to tie its findings to religious beliefs and then wad the whole thing up and call it supernatural or metaphysical. It’s just a cop-out, an excuse for ignoring or discrediting the evidence.

  20. The point of this post, Graham, is not that science is bad. It’s that scientists who fudge their data are bad. How can science be a search for truth when scientists are lying about the data?

    In asking what besides science can lead us to the truth, you seem to forget that the classical sense of the word ‘philosophy’ means finding the truth by means of logic, evidence, and science.

    Another thing to consider is that in the search for truth, one must be ready to give up certain preconceived ideas or notions or any subjective preferences in favor of objective facts. When it comes to the global warming debate, it seems that some scientists weren’t willing to do this.

  21. Graham

    astly, What does a science that artificially demands that all things are material say about immaterial things? … nothing. Science has nothing to say about the soul/morality etc (I presume this is where you are going with this). Actually, Science doesnt ‘demand’ anything. It is a tool to describe reality. Reality comes first, then the science.

    Graham, from your comments, you seem to miss the entire point of my OP. But to answer your comment above, what if part of reality includes an immaterial being such as God? You assume that the whole of reality equates to the material, but that, of course, is major part of the issue.

    And to answer your first complaint:

    However, DM is claiming that Science is not the only avenue to Truth . Now, before we get into some long existential deconstruction of what ‘truth’ is, I would like to see something concrete, like the periodic table, or whatever example you like (and try choosing something other than Evolution please!).

    What is the better way ?

    Again, you miss the point of my OP entirely. But, I will answer this as well. Science itself depends on premises, which are taken to be Truth, which themselves are not obtainable through the methods of Science. I’ll give you two examples: the scientific method itself and the uniformity principle (UP) is another. The UP is a foundational principle of Science. Science depends on that principle being true if results are to be meaningful. But, the UP, divorced from any other hypothesis, theory or law, is not itself derivable through the methods of Science. Yet, without it, the scientific method itself would be unreliable. So, clearly, even within Science itself, there are important truths necessary for the practice of Science and scientific method, but are themselves not obtainable via the methods of Science. So, why would Science take them to be Truth?

    Having said all that, again, Graham, you’ve missed the point of the OP. Barb said it very well in #20. To her comment I will add that the point I’m making is that the climategate scandal calls into question – serious question – the entire notion that the public ought to take the pronouncements of Science as Truth. When scientists fudge results, bury inconvenient contrary data, or outright lie about results, then Science itself is in serious trouble.

    Contrary to your comment that “This blog is strong on theology but Science actually delivers”, this blog is about opening Science up. The precise problem with the science of Darwinian evolution is that it has not delivered as advertised. And, as has been discussed on this blog many times in the past, we’ve seen our own versions of “climategate” when it comes to protecting the Darwin Dogma, but for some reason we never saw a “Darwingate” story in the media.

  22. DonaldM: Im reading between the lines a bit, but I think the people at UD have siezed on ‘climategate’ and blown it up, claiming that the whole of Science is dodgy, eg: Perhaps one positive result that could arise from the climategate scandal is for the general public to finally begin to see that Science is not the only avenue to Truth

    Again, if you have a better way, then what is it ? And why do we ‘finally’ begin to see it ? See what ?

    And please dont lead us all back into the swamp of ‘truth’. There is no ultimate ‘truth’ in Science. Religion claims to have such a thing, as in revealed truth, which is forever true, and can never be questioned, but Science has no such thing. It is an entirely practical exercise in describing reality, nothing more. Like the mass of the Carbon atom, its an observation that is written on paper, and presented as the best approximation we have, so far, for the makeup of the Carbon atom. You can call this ‘truth’ if you like, but its nothing more than a description that is a best effort at matching the evidence. If you have some better way to describe carbon, perhaps a more accurate picture, then please tell us all what it is.

    And I dont see the point of the pontification about the ‘truth’ of the Scientific method. The Scientific method is simply an exercise in common sense. No one claims it is (again) some ultimate ‘truth’, it is a process that has been settled on as the best way we have found to produce reliable results, nothing more. And, yet again, if you have some better way, please tell us what it is. So far, Science has shown itself to be successful. It cures diseases, etc etc etc.

    Lastly, you mention Evolution in your comments, but Im commenting on your head article which doesnt mention Evolution, rather it refers to Science in general, as in my (bolded) quote.

  23. DonaldM:

    When scientists fudge results, bury inconvenient contrary data, or outright lie about results, then Science itself is in serious trouble.

    Ahh yes, and who governs Truth? Speaking of leaks, let us not forget this which still speaks volumes. Not to mention plagiarized videos either, of course. And then we can carry on to the recent posting on the Manhattan Declaration – a self-inflated pompous statement of homophobic bigotry. Yep, we’re in good hands here.

    Climategate shows some problems, yes. But to smear all of Science based on it? That’s PR. Climategate doesn’t even alter the overall mass of data on global warming, and doesn’t change the work of hundreds of other climate scientists. It has little or nothing to do with any other area of science in concrete terms.

  24. Graham @ 15

    To Upright Biped: Jumping Jupiter, whats that all about ? I think you just led us straight back into the swamp.

    I just wanted to illuminate for you that a science which has ideological preconditions on what the evidence of reality may (and may not) be allowed to say IS the swamp.

    We observe nature and conclude that carbon is made up as you described. We then record this on a piece of paper and it becomes the periodic table. What on earth is hard about that ?

    There is nothing hard about it, except that the process itself is also a part of reality, no? Science says that all things that exist are immaterial, and then in the process of discovering the universe it creates things that are immaterial (namely, the information about the universe). So to shorten the sentence and put the presupposition to a test we can simply say: “science creates that which it says does not exist”. Now what should we do? Deny the presupposition that all things are material, or deny the reality that they are not?

    Lastly, What does a science that artificially demands that all things are material say about immaterial things? … nothing.

    Graham, try to be consistent. At first you recognize that immaterial things exist (such as the information about a carbon atom which does not exist in a carbon atom itself), then in the next sentence you attempt to ignore. You do this for a reason; do you know what that reason is?

    Actually, Science doesnt ‘demand’ anything. It is a tool to describe reality. Reality comes first, then the science.

    Don’t forget your pom-poms.

  25. Graham @ 8

    However, we can avoid the swamp because, happily, Science doesnt consider the questions Religion supposedly addresses. Science answers more immediate stuff, like: what is the mass of a carbon atom ?

    Graham @ 17
    I think Ive been led into the swamp I was warning against… If he is saying that a hammer isnt the only way to insert a nail, then this is where he must come up with the goods. How else does he propose to insert nails ?

    You tipped your hand at post number 8. “Science” supposedly answers questions that may not have answers science can discover. We need to determine which areas of knowledge are usefully addressed by science and which areas are not usefully addressed. Atheists commonly claim that ‘x’ is the best answer ‘science’ can provide, but they ignore whether the ‘best’ answer has any correspondence with Reality.

  26. Mike (in #23)

    I’m not smearing “all” of Science. Both you and Graham entirely miss the point of my post, so let me re-state it. In our culture Science holds a privileged place. Nothing wrong with that. Such a privileged place requires there to be integrity in the pronouncements of Science. The public at large accepts what Science says as representing fact. Now we have a case where it is clear that what the public has been told that Science said isn’t fact or true. Science, it seems, is being manipulated toward some preconcieved end. A healthy skepticism by the public towards what Science says will help keep Science more honest. In a nutshell that is my main point.

    Now you want to drag in The Manhattan Declaration, the Wedge and other innuendo. Those are red herrings and of no relevance. What the mass of data on global warming shows is itself not clear. Consider, for example, this from yesterdays Wall Street Journal in which MIT Meteorologist, Richard S. Lindzen explains exactly how unclear and unsettled all this global warming hoopla really is. The “mass of data” is clearly not all that straightforward and clear. And to say that all this has “little or nothing to do with any other area of science in concrete terms” is simply whistling past the graveyard. Too much of it has gone largely unnoticed, but thanks to the high visibility of this issue, perhaps more notice will be taken. As Fox Mulder always said: “The Truth is out there!”

  27. Graham

    And please dont lead us all back into the swamp of ‘truth’. There is no ultimate ‘truth’ in Science.

    Is that ultimately true? If so, how do you know?

  28. DonaldM:

    I’m not smearing “all” of Science.

    You are referring to a single incident involving climate researchers but using “Science” (capitalized). You go on to say that “the public has been told that Science said isn’t fact or true.” Again, a reference to a single monolithic entity. Based on Climategate, you state: “A healthy skepticism by the public towards what Science says will help keep Science more honest.” And, “something is indeed rotten with the state of Science”.

    The clear message here is that the entire field of scientific endeavor is faulty and needs more oversight – that Climategate is just the tip of the iceberg. (Perhaps there are other examples out there just waiting to be uncovered!!)

    In fact, what happens to one set of researchers in one field is just that – one example. It doesn’t mean the entire area of human scientific effort is broken. Unless, of course, you have concrete proof of the worldwide scientific conspiracy this implies.

    Now you want to drag in The Manhattan Declaration, the Wedge and other innuendo. Those are red herrings and of no relevance.

    The Wedge was an internal document leaked to the web that revealed some of the inner workings of an organization. How exactly is this different from Climategate? In your OP, you state “…Truth (with a capital “T”) trumps Science.” The workings of Truth suffer from the same human failings as science, and don’t even have the basic necessity for evidence that Science attempts to follow. Why should we trust Truth any better?

    And to say that all this has “little or nothing to do with any other area of science in concrete terms” is simply whistling past the graveyard. Too much of it has gone largely unnoticed, but thanks to the high visibility of this issue, perhaps more notice will be taken. As Fox Mulder always said: “The Truth is out there!”

    And the evidence for this is what, exactly?

  29. Mike,

    Yes, I am extrapolating from Climategate to a larger sphere. But it doesn’t follow from that I’m smearing “all of science”. I am saying that Climategate illustrates why the general public needs to develop a healthy skepticism toward the pronouncements of science – especially when large amounts of money are at stake (which I also stated in my OP).

    You wanted examples. Surely you’ve followed this blog long enough to know of the many documented stories of professors denied tenure because they questioned Darwinian dogma, or because they authored books or papers that didn’t toe the Naturalistic party line so endemic throughout academia. E-mails revealing such prejudice have also surfaced in several of these cases. But most of these remained below the radar of the general public and didn’t receive much attention in the media. That is not the case with Climategate, though, due to the huge public awareness of the issue involved. It would be naive to think that this is an isolated incident when we have so many examples of similar happenings within ID. Remember Richard Sternberg? So, yes, the public needs to know Climategate is the tip of an iceberg…many of us here at UD have seen a lot more of the underside of that iceberg. Some have experienced it first hand.

    The Wedge, in contrast, did NOT outline a plan of deceit or personal destruction of those holding contrary opinions. That’s another red herring.

    And, just to clarify, what I stated in the OP was “more often than folks care to admit Truth trumps Science”, not “…Truth trumps Science”, giving the impression that I thought they were always mutually exclusive. I made it clear in the OP that Truth and Science are not opposites, but not synonymous either.

  30. DonaldM:

    Surely you’ve followed this blog long enough to know of the many documented stories of professors denied tenure because they questioned Darwinian dogma, or because they authored books or papers that didn’t toe the Naturalistic party line so endemic throughout academia. E-mails revealing such prejudice have also surfaced in several of these cases. But most of these remained below the radar of the general public and didn’t receive much attention in the media.

    I can think of only two cases to which you might be referring, namely Francis Beckwith and Guillermo Gonzalez. What other cases have I forgotten about?

  31. 31
    MannsWord.blogspot.com

    Rob,

    Check out the documentary, “Expelled,” which documents several cases of harassment against profs who have been favorably disposed to ID.

    What makes climate-gate particularly poignant is the fact that the science establishment, namely the evolutionists, has justified their monopoly over what happens in the lab and classroom because of the consensus among scientists. However, now we see that the “consensus” might instead reflect the fears of scientists wanting to retain their jobs and their respectability.

    In addition to this, they have continued to assert that their “findings” are trustworthy because they have been subjected to peer review and the like. However, “peer review” might be little more than “group-think” and repressive control? Who knows the extent of it?

  32. DonaldM:

    Yes, I am extrapolating from Climategate to a larger sphere. But it doesn’t follow from that I’m smearing “all of science”. I am saying that Climategate illustrates why the general public needs to develop a healthy skepticism toward the pronouncements of science

    You can only extrapolate if there is evidence to support that leap. You have one example of problems in climate science. You have no evidence that this means other climate scientists are acting inappropriately, nor does it say anything about physicists, or sociologists, or any other group. Yet the public should be skeptical of all pronouncements.

    You may not believe this is your intention, but it’s the message that you are communicating and keep repeating in each comment.

    You wanted examples. Surely you’ve followed this blog long enough to know of the many documented stories of professors denied tenure because they questioned Darwinian dogma, or because they authored books or papers that didn’t toe the Naturalistic party line so endemic throughout academia. E-mails revealing such prejudice have also surfaced in several of these cases.

    OK – Expelled had 5 cases (assuming we can take those at face value). A film has to limit material, of course, so how many others are there? 500? 1,000? 20,000? Or are you saying that 5 is enough to say that Science as a whole is questionable?

    The Wedge, in contrast, did NOT outline a plan of deceit or personal destruction of those holding contrary opinions. That’s another red herring.

    But it did outline an agenda at odds with the public external persona of the organization, which is exactly what you feel Climategate is all about.

    Note that I’m not necessarily defending Climategate (although as I read more details I think it’s being sensationalized a bit), nor am I against healthy skepticism (I’m doing it now). But your OP swings a broad brush and communicates a message of all science in crisis when you don’t really have much to support that claim.

  33. Anyone here who denies that there is extreme pressure against anyone who criticizes Darwin or naturalistic evolution lacks any credibility on anything. The minute anyone in public criticizes naturalistic evolution they are marginalized.

  34. “Science is not the only avenue to truth.”

    What is the problem with this statement, Graham? Are you suggesting that we cannot learn anything from history? From logic, which science depends on? Or from our own senses? Are you stating that unless it’s tested by the scientific method, it’s not truthful?

    That is ridiculous.

    “There is no ultimate truth in science.”

    There isn’t? What is the mass of a carbon atom? How much does the Earth weigh? Are those numbers truthful? If not, why not? Truth conforms to reality and you stated yourself that science describes reality.

    “Science has shown itself to be successful.”

    Yes, it has. Nobody is arguing this point. What we’re debating is how successful an enterprise science can be if it’s occasionally hijacked by unscrupulous scientists who manipulate the data.

  35. DonaldM,

    On climategate, Rep. Sensenbrenner was deflated by John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco. Claiming the problems at CRU are small compared to the ubiquitous proof from other scientists.

    See Obama science advisers grilled over hacked e-mails

    Why isn’t the science to counter global warming claims at the fingertips of someone like Sensenbrenner?

  36. To Barb: Science is not the only avenue to truth

    Sure, there are other ways to discover things, but I presumed that DM was referring to Science as a materialistic process, .vs. some divine influence or something. Hell, when you look for your car keys, you are practising Science.

    Regarding the truth of stuff such as the mass of the carbon atom, no, it is not an ultimate truth like biblical revealed truth (claims to be). ALL facts in Science (such as the mass of an atom) are provisional and could change tomorrow. We have a high level of confidence in them (weve probably got Carbon right) but its not 100%. There is no great Science god in the sky that gives us a passing grade.

  37. Barb wrote,

    “What is the problem with this statement, Graham? Are you suggesting that we cannot learn anything from history? From logic, which science depends on? Or from our own senses? Are you stating that unless it’s tested by the scientific method, it’s not truthful?”

    Barb you are entering into the very interesting question of “what is science?”

    I have said before there are a lot of seemingly simple things that are not easy to define like “life” or “consciousness”- and you can add science to that list.

    When we use evidence to theorize about how lifeforms came to be- whether it evolved or what have you- we are certainly engaging in science at some level- regardless of how weak our speculations, hypotheses, theories and ideas are. so long as they accord with the honest search for truth and are based on solid data.

    Science has to do with discovery and better understanding of things- and of course in light of honesty and truth. Which is of course the problem with climategate- which is that one of the main groups that claims to be scientifically supporting or proving AGW- and have been sighted by groups claiming the science supports AGW- have been caught acting conspiratorially – or at least in collusion- regarding how they go about presenting their real data- and even skewing the real data to fit their desired results and agenda.

    So your point about history- philosophy, religion and personal experience are very good ones. While these enterprises may not fallow a rigorous definition of scientific method they certainly are at least considered soft sciences- and they contribute to the convention of science. In fact it is often philosopher and reasoning that validates a scientific theory beyond data. So this also means that a persona’s biases and agenda need to accord with a proper and honest use of reason- so that their work will likely accord with truth.

    But it is interesting to consider history as an example – and climate science as another- and compare them to an ideal of what science should be-

    In both cases we relay on very questionable data. In history old writings have to be taken carefully and on a certain amount of faith because many things reported are often impossible to verify- and archeological discoveries have to be taken very generally because they are often very difficult to know for close to certain a great deal about.

    In climate science we not only have to be skeptical of our ability to correctly record the relevant variables- but we must be even more careful about accepting our speculative models when, aside from the questionable quality of the data- they often do not have adequate computational theories backing up their projections and results.

    So the fact that the climategate scientists admit in their confidential emails that the lack of warming is unaccountable by their data- mean that when they still choose to try and cover up these scientific truths- and even go into how to propagate the AGW theory, and how to eliminate critical perspectives from the peer review- that we must demand a change and audit of the AGW science- as well as take their prior statements with a grain of salt.

    It is amazing how much AGW is like Darwinism.

    So science is a convention that draws on many different domains- but the one thing that is universal about it is that it must accord with being honest and truthful- and now thanks to cliategate it is no longer just speculation that climatologists are pushing a theory unsupported by the data-

    I am reminded of the words of Patrick Michaels who said that these emails are not a smoking gun. They are a mushroom cloud.

  38. MannsWord.blogspot.com @ 31, I was specifically curious about the many documented stories of professors denied tenure, with prejudiced emails surfacing in several of these cases. Thanks.

  39. Mike

    You can only extrapolate if there is evidence to support that leap. You have one example of problems in climate science. You have no evidence that this means other climate scientists are acting inappropriately, nor does it say anything about physicists, or sociologists, or any other group. Yet the public should be skeptical of all pronouncements.

    If you’ve followed this blog for any time at all it should be pretty clear that there is a problem. Anyone, scientist or otherwise, who questions, criticizes or otherwise disparages the Dogma of Darwin is excoriated, marginalized and subjected to all sorts of ad hominem attacks. There’s way more than the 5 cases cited in the movie Expelled of professional scientists losing tenure, denied promotion and even losing their jobs for merely questioning the Dogma of Darwin. I already Richard Sternberg. That particular case was very much like the present Climategate situation in that e-mails of a similar nature against Sternberg surfaced. Guillarmo Gonzales was an astronomer, Sternberg a biologist, Beckwith a Philosophy prof, and there are other examples from other disciplines as well. Not all have been publicly documented. In some cases I know of personally, those involved didn’t want to come forward out of fear of losing position, promotion, tenure or what have you.

    If you don’t think this represents a wider problem, then I really think you are misinformed. Why should Richard Dawkins get away with making a public statement about anyone who even expresses doubts about evolution of the sort I quoted in the OP, which he wrote, by the way, some 20 years ago! Yet, who of his peers took him to task for making such an UNscientific pronouncement? I know of none. The very fact that he, along with several other of the more widely read authors/lecturers continually make such claims is itself evidence of a huge problem of the sort we’re seeing in Climategate.

    Just look at how Mike Behe was treated when he published Darwin’s Black Box. How dare he question Darwinism!! How dare he suggest that irreducibly complexity is not explainable by Darwinism. Never mind the fact that some 15 years have passed since he published his book and it is still the case that there is not one single peer reviewed research study that provides a detailed, testable model of how evolution accounts for any of the IC systems Behe discussed in his book. And Behe contiually gets attacked, marginalized and otherwise excoriated by scientists. We certainly don’t want the general public to know that there is significant contrary evidence to the Darwinian story!

    How can you pretend that there is no wider problem when the problem has been going on for years? The climategate scandal has finally made it more clear to a wider public.

    Is it ALL of Science? No, of course not. Lots of discoveries are reported every day, and are done so with integrity. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any problem or at all, or that it ought to be ignored, or that its only in a couple of areas, so why be bothered. That’s one of the reasons this blog exists…to bring these to light.

  40. 40

    “it is not an ultimate truth like biblical revealed truth (claims to be). ALL facts in Science (such as the mass of an atom) are provisional and could change tomorrow.”

    Graham,

    I’m not certain if you understand some of the truth claims in scripture. Not all scriptural claims are absolute; some like science knowledge are provisional: “If you do such and such, such will happen.”

    The Proverbs tell us that certain behavior leads to certain consequences, yet it does not seem to suggest that such consequences will befall every being who engages in the behavior. There are generalizations in scripture, which are truthful, but conditional. Yet there is also truth that is absolute – such as the character and attributes of God.

    So scientific truth would seem to mimic some of the ancient truth of the Bible. If certain conditions are met, we can expect certain results – but this does not always dictate the results. Statistically, the results are likely. Is that not scientific as well? Do you not believe that scripture itself makes predictions that are statistically true? Does divorce, for example, often lead to negative consequences? Is the consequence for murder likely to be negative? Do people who give to others often benefit from such behavior?

    If everything in scripture was intended to be absolute, then what would be the purpose of faith? If we believe that scripture maps out our destinies, then no religion based on them would make any worthwhile sense.

  41. Truth and science?

    Well the scientists pushing global warming/ climate change should tell the truth that no one knows what the Earth’s atmospheric temperature should be.

    No one knows how much ice should be found on the pole regions.

    No one knows how many glaciers should be on the planet.

    No one knows how much CO2 is too much.

    I guess too much truth isn’t a good thing for global alarmists…

  42. Donald:

    If you don’t think this represents a wider problem, then I really think you are misinformed.

    My lack of knowledge is always a possibility. However, if I were to ask to be more informed, would I get more examples beyond the five Expelled cases? (Behe, after all, still retains his tenure and his book sold, and there are lots of ad hominem attacks in all directions.)

    If I were to try and decide between:

    [A] Science is rife with corruption, agendas, and can’t be trusted, or

    [B] Science is generally above board but occasional bad things happen.

    How would I decide based on your evidence? How would I tease out the alternative cases of researchers who successfully challenged the status quo and had their theories inserted into the mainstream?

  43. To all the posters on this thread who tried to minimize Climategate as no big deal, when it has sounded a whistle the biggest scam in history — by which the scientific/government industrial complex thinks to remake the developed world’s entire economy — thanks for the laugh this morning. I needed that.

  44. If anyone thinks they have conclusive evidence of scientific fraud let them take it to court and see how far they get.

    Remember this is stolen data. We have no way of knowing what has happened to it since it was hacked. We do not know how much it has been manipulated or even if any of it is forged. On that basis alone, it is unlikely to be admissible as evidence in a court of law.

    In fact, what AGW skeptics have pounced on gleefully amounts to a few cherry-picked quotes from a vast mass of data. Far from being a smoking gun, it is not much smoke and no fire.

    Of course, it is great fun when your opponents emails are hacked and held up to public ridicule but what if it were your own?

    Suppose we had the last ten years worth of emails from a denialist group or just the last ten years of Stephen McIntyre’s emails. What juicy morsels do you think we would find there if we looked closely enough?

    This does not alter the fact that there are some troubling attitudes and practices suggested by the emails apart from a not-unnatural exasperation with intransigent critics.

    Scientists should not be in the business of trying to get unsympathetic editors fired from journals. There is, however, no evidence that they went beyond vague threats of action and actually did anything about it.

    Scientists should not be trying to prevent the publication of papers except through the peer-review process. If a bad paper gets published its failings will be exposed over time anyway.

    Scientists should not be trying to have papers excluded from official reports other than through the normal review process. In fact, the two papers which were complained of did get included in the IPCC report in spite of the opposition.

    Scientists should not be discarding raw data sets, especially in such a controversial area. Even if they were assembled from other sources and those other sources still exist, the fact remains that independent replication of research is a cornerstone of the scientific method and that depends on the original data and computer code being made available to whoever wants to use it.

    Does this make any difference to the case for anthropogenic global warming? Proponents argue that it does not depend exclusively on CRU research, that there are other lines of evidence which are solid and cannot be ignored.

    There may be no easy answers. It may be that there will be no incontrovertible and conclusive evidence short of waiting for disaster to happen or not. The problem is that if we wait until the catastrophe is upon us, it will be too late to do anything about it.

    Shouting “Sorry, we got it wrong!” just before we all drown would be small comfort.

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