Let us, gentle readers, consider the scientific method. Webster’s defines it thus:
principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses
The elements of the pursuit of science are well known. Among them:
(1) Free exchange of ideas and data.
(2) Reproducibility—other scientists, using the same materials and methods, must be able to obtain the same results.
(3) Retention of data and records and the willingness to provide it to others for the purpose of replicating results.
(4) Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
(5) The burden of proof of any claim falls on the person making it.
To put it as simply as possible, if I claim to have cured breast cancer using common household chemicals and a food processor, it is my obligation to prove it. I prove it by freely and promptly turning over my materials, methods, experimental protocols, data, etc. to other scientists so that they can confirm or debunk my methods and results. If my results cannot be reproduced, my claims are faulty. If I refuse to provide my methods, records of my experiments, or my data for replication, one may reasonably assume my work is fraudulent. In any case, it certainly isn’t science.
Progressives have two primary fall back positions in public policy: they call their opponents racist, or claim they are anti-science. Only intellectually and morally pure progressives are scientific, pretty much as in the sense that the leaders of the defunct Soviet Union were “scientific Communists.” An example, via The Hill:
The federal government’s chief climate research agency is refusing to give House Republicans the detailed information they want on a controversial study on climate change.
Citing confidentiality concerns and the integrity of the scientific process, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it won’t give Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) the research documents he subpoenaed.
Confidentiality? In terms of supposedly scientific claims, what could possibly be confidential? We maintain the “integrity of the scientific process” by concealing it, by denying other scientists the opportunity to examine methods and to prevent them from trying to reproduce the results?
At the center of the controversy is a study that concluded there has not been a 15-year ‘pause’ in global warming. Some NOAA scientists contributed to the report.
Ah! The pause is actually closer to two decades now, and the data and methods by which that conclusion has been reached are freely available and have been repeatedly confirmed.
Skeptics of climate change, including Smith, have cited the pause to insist that increased greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels, are not heating up the globe.
Smith, the chairman of the House Science Committee, vehemently disagreed with the study’s findings. He issued a subpoena for communications among the scientists and some data, leading to charges from Democrats that he was trying to intimidate the researchers.
No one argues the reality of climate change, of course. The climate has always changed over time and always will. But so-called “skeptics” reasonably argue about spending trillions we don’t have in utterly fruitless attempts to “address climate change.
Late Tuesday, NOAA provided Smith with some more information about its methods and data but refused to give Smith everything he wanted.
NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said the internal communications are confidential and not related to what Smith is trying to find out.
‘We have provided data, all of which is publicly available online, supporting scientific research, and multiple in-person briefings,’ she said.
‘We stand behind our scientists who conduct their work in an objective manner. It is the end product of exchanges between scientists — the detailed publication of scientific work and the data that underpins the authors’ findings — that are key to understanding the conclusions reached.’
Clayton also refuted Smith’s implication that the study was political.
‘There is no truth to the claim that the study was politically motivated or conducted to advance an agenda,’ she said. ‘The published findings are the result of scientists simply doing their job, ensuring the best possible representation of historical global temperature trends is available to inform decisionmakers, including the U.S. Congress.’
Smith defended his investigation, saying NOAA’s work is clearly political.
‘It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades,’ he said in a statement. ‘The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made.’
Smith also said NOAA’s assertion of confidentiality is incorrect.
‘The agency has yet to identify any legal basis for withholding these documents,’ he said, adding that his panel would use ‘all tools at its disposal’ to continue investigating.
Smith has been communicating with NOAA about the research since it was published in the summer, and their exchanges have grown increasingly hostile.
Hmm. The people that work at NOAA are government employees, people employed by the American people. Everything they do at work, everything they do in furtherance of their work, with a few lawful exceptions for personnel matters, etc., is the property of the American people, yet they are refusing to turn that information over to the people’s representatives. What’s wrong with this picture?
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), the committee’s ranking Democrat, has sharply criticized Smith’s requests.
‘By issuing this subpoena, you have instigated a constitutional conflict with an inquiry that seems more designed to harass climate scientists than to further any legitimate legislative purpose,’ she wrote last week.
‘This is a serious misuse of congressional oversight powers.’
Really? How so? Turn over the documents and be done with it. If they represent genuine, non-political science, what’s the issue? Shouldn’t NOAA be not only willing, but eager, to hand over the results of their research to their employers? Wouldn’t those results clearly, unmistakably, vindicate NOAA and its conclusions? But if they don’t, if they would reveal politically motivated fake science, that’s quite another matter, and well explains why NOAA has become hostile and refuses to hand over the materials.
One might even be forgiven for thinking this a repeat of Climategate, wherein e-mails between some of the most infamous global warming advocate-scientists spoke of prolific lawsuit threatener and abuser, Michael Mann of Penn State, and his embarrassment in having to “hide the decline”–the fact of data that torpedoes the global warming hypothesis.
In refuting the actual, replicated science that proves the warming pause, NOAA is making extraordinary claims, and has the absolute obligation to provide extraordinary proofs. Refusing to do that does not give one confidence in NOAA’s claims, or in the integrity of the people working there, wrapping themselves in the indignant mantle of pseudo-science.
All your, gentle readers, from the most transparent Presidential Administration in history!
UPDATE, 100415, 2035 CST: Holman Jenkins at the Wall Street Journal has an article that may provide a broader perspective. The Obama Administration has made an art form of obfuscating information requests: “We sent you 5000 pages of data, what more do you want?” When the data entirely contradicts previous data, it’s not at all unusual–or political–to suspect political motivations, particularly when the subject is climate change, and the people making the extraordinary claims are Obamites. Let’s see if the “scientists” involved had pre-conceived results and massaged the data to realize them. If not, no harm done.