Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Commodification of Science

In an article in the Washington Times, Leonard Evans notes that the scientific community has abandoned the practice of science in favor of lobbying and seeking political favor in the name of science.

The "scientific community" in the article is identified as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but this could also apply to such regulatory agencies as the International Whaling Commission, large international environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. These organizations have largely abandoned scientific research as a basis for policy decisions and statements and instead rely on anecdotal reports, media hyperbole and celebrity advocacy, aka, the Al Gore Effect.

Rather than advancing science, the activities of these organizations derail the scientific process as they deligitimate the results of scientific investigation. Recent revelations concerning errors in climate change research through the IPCC and the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit have cast doubt not only on the results of this research, but on the methods employed by the IPCC and scientists in coming to the conclusion of anthropogenic climate change and its implications. The negative effects on public perception of the research and science itself is readily apparent.

But it's not only public perception that comes into play. Scientists themselves are affected by such practices.

"Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis." Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This has the effect of driving research in a particular ideological direction toward preconceived conclusions. Whether the subject is climate change, Peak Oil, space exploration or cosmology, the commodification of science moves research from theory based to political and economically based.

The danger of this approach is especially apparent in environmental research. If the ideology of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the incentive for climate change research, what happens when AGW is proven wrong? And what has been the opportunity cost forgone by applying the bulk of our resources toward an ideologically driven conclusion? Where are the resources for pollution control, critical habitat preservation, biodiversity protection?

Perhaps more importantly, what does the corporate approach to climate change research tell us about those driving the agenda? Are they interested in the free and open exchange of data, methodology and results? Do they have pecuniary economic interests at heart? Do they have interests in perpetuating the economic and political status quo?

Look at the history of climate change and compare it chronologically with political and economic developments since the "Oil Crisis" of the 1970s.

Maybe someone took Carter's "Moral Equivalent of War" speach seriously!


  1. Beau Peyton8:15 AM

    "I can only repeat in our time is the whore of industry and war and that scientific technology has become the instrument of potential planetary slavery, the most powerful weapon ever placed in the hands of despots."-Edward Abbey

  2. The next sentence by Abbey in that quote goes like this: "Nothing new in this discovery, of course; the poets, with their fine sensitivity to changes in the human weather, have been aware of the danger from the outset, for 200 years."

    Abbey is quite right. Here is a pertinent quote from the poet William Wordsworth, dated about 200 years ago, in the year 1800 to be precise:

    "For a multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
    William Wordsworth: Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800)

    Wordsworth was on to something too. To me, the most unbelievable thing about constructions like the catastrophic AGW circus show, or the periodic horror scams created by vaccine-pushing pharmaceutical companies, or the ludicrous official fairy tale offered as explanation for the 911 story -- is just how easily they can apparently be created and implanted in everybody's mind, and widely accepted by seemingly smart people. Maybe we as a species are indeed becoming more and more zombie-like.

  3. Richard Courtney has an excellent message in the comments section of a recent post at WUWT. I copy it below because it is very relevant to the topic at hand.


    Richard S Courtney (08:48:14) :
    And Baa Humbug (07:28:26) responds:

    “Put this forth to the relevant chapter review editor and the response you’ll get is……
    “Rejected. The suggestion does not add to clarity or brevity.”
    Richard S Courtney would understand…and chuckle behind gritted teeth. :)”

    Yes I do “understand…and chuckle behind gritted teeth” so I suppose I had better explain.

    The IPCC is NOT a scientific organisation. The IPCC never has been and never was intended to be a scientific organisation. Its purpose is indicated in its title and is stated in its Charter.

    The InterGOVERNMENTal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) exists to obtain scientific information that governments (i.e. politicians) can use to justify government (i.e. political) policies. Its entire purpose is to collate scientific information that supports those policies.

    Importantly, scientific information that contradicts the IPCC’s political purpose is not considered then rejected by the IPCC. Instead, it is ignored or demeaned. All scientific information that disproves – or provides doubt – to the political policies is rejected or ignored for publication usually (as Baa Humbug says) without any real explanation.

    Paul Reiter is the world’s foremost authority on vector borne diseases, Niils Axel-Morner is the world’s foremost authority on sea-level change, and Vincent Gray is the world’s foremost authority on hurricanes. But Reiter had to resort to law to get his name removed as an IPCC Author when he objected to the IPCC publishing falsehoods instead of facts concerning his specialism. Morner and Gray have each spoken out concerning the distortions of their specialisms in IPCC reports. (And the IPCC made no mention of one our 2005 papers that proves it cannot be known whether or not the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration is anthropogenic or natural despite my citing that paper and its findings as part of my AR4 peer review).

    So, the example in the above article is but one of many such distortions included in IPCC so-called scientific reports in attempt to fulfil the IPCC’s purpose.

    Indeed, information that is complete rubbish is included in IPCC so-called scientific reports when the rubbish provides support for the IPCC’s political purpose (as glaciergate and Africagate demonstrate). Glaciergate occurred because India’s scientific authorities on Himalayan glaciers told their government that the IPCC assertion of complete loss of the glaciers by 2035 was impossible – a fact that all glaciologists knew – but the IPCC Chairman (Rajendra Pechauri) replied that this fact was “voodoo science”.

    The Climategate emails prove that IPCC supporters used claims of ‘peer review’ as proof that information is correct (such claims are a denial of the scientific principle that information is assessed on its falsifiability). They then accepted for publication information of their own supply that had yet to be published in the peer reviewed literature (e.g. MBH 1998), and information from advocacy organisations (e.g. WWF) that had never been submitted for peer review.

    But the flow of real scientific information continued and this was a problem to the agenda of the self-named ‘Team’ that collated information for inclusion in IPCC reports. So, as the Climategate emails prove, the Team suborned the peer review process and the Editorial Boards of journals that continued to publish untainted science. After that, also as the Climategate emails prove, when some journals continued to publish real science the Team attempted to redefine peer review so the Team could ignore anything published in those journals. Meanwhile, the Team continued to put completely unpublished nonsense (e.g. from WWF) in the IPCC reports.

    “Evil motives”? No, the IPCC compilers were merely doing their job.