Making Sausage: Thoughts on the CRU Hack

Josh Rosenau has an excellent post on the recent theft and release of (selected uncontextualized?) emails of climate scientists. See: Stolen emails, climate change, and the practice of science.

I have been in the room when scientists got personal and forgot to be objective. I’ve been in the room when scientists made up data, or at least, tried to. I’ve also been in the room when people’s personal agendas, such as they are, were pitted against other people’s personal agendas and moderators and observers jumped in and science progressed. Or, in some cases, failed to progress because it was not supposed to. (See The Greg Layer)

It isn’t pretty, but it is how we make sausage.

Josh’s post is an excellent framework with which to consider this recent event.


  1. #1 Alex
    November 30, 2009

    No, it’s how the nebulous, highly-derivative, statistically dependent end of “science” makes sausage and pretends to be Science (with a capital ‘S’). In the real hard sciences: no data released, no algorithms released = no science.

    Hopefully this will be a revolution and an end in trust afforded Economics, Psychology, Social Science, Climatology, etc. as “Sciences”, they are not.

    They’re not sciences in the strictest sense, they don’t deserve the privileges of a hard-science in credibility.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    November 30, 2009

    Alex: In what way is climatology not a hard science? Do you know anything about it?

    Is there something that is held in common among the kinds of science you’ve specifically mentioned?

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    November 30, 2009

    By Alex’s standards, almost all of physics is not a hard science. Quantum mechanics is all about probabilities, so you need to repeat the experiment hundreds if not thousands of times to get good enough statistics to say anything.

    I will grant that climatology has something in common with economics: certain powerful people stand to benefit if propositions with no empirical support were true. Lots of people (e.g., the oil industry) stand to make lots of money if anthropogenic global warming were false, just as lots of people (e.g., Wall Street) would make lots of money if the efficient market hypothesis were true. But the preponderance of recent evidence is that AGW is likely true and EMH is probably false. The global warming denialists choose to ignore the other independent evidence (ice cores, melting glaciers and ice caps, news reports of ski resorts not getting snow, and at least a dozen other things I’m overlooking at the moment) that things are getting warmer, as well as the physics that says things are almost certainly warmer than they would be if we weren’t pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere.

  4. #4 Matt
    November 30, 2009

    Good post on that same topic, here.

  5. #5 inverse_agonist
    November 30, 2009

    Yeah, it would be news to most scientists that statistics have no place in hard science. It would also be news that data and algorithms are secret, seeing how many climate datasets and models are readily available on the internet:

    There does seem to be a vast global conspiracy to ignore reality, though.