Brignell vs Hansen

John Brignell of Number Watch skewers former NASA Scientist James Hansen. I don’t mean that Hansen no longer works for NASA, I mean that he is no longer a scientist. Brignell points this out:

The language seems more appropriate to a mad king, raving on a storm-tossed heath about the injustices visited upon him by his tormentors, than to a scientist dispassionately analysing experimental data. It is, however, worse than that. Not only does he predict the end of the world, but he also reserves the right to keep to himself the methods by which he deduces this from measurement data, quite contrary to scientific tradition. There is, indeed, disturbing evidence of continual meddling with data from the past. The abominated McIntyre, however, publishes all his data and programs, accepting manfully the flak when he is caught out in an error. Though the adjustment in question is small, like others that have been made, it just happens, by sheer coincidence of course, to be in the direction to favour the establishment theory. The metaphors Hansen employs might be high in drama, but they are low in appropriateness. In applying the intended insult of “Court Jester” to his opponents, he not only transgresses the normal courtesies of scientific discourse, but also reveals that he does not understand the function of the said courtier in mediaeval monarchies, thereby causing his insult to rebound as something of a compliment. The corny ad hominem about his adversaries being in the pay of evil industrialists is not only without any basis of evidence, but it reveals his wholly political motivation, and comes ill from one who is not only in receipt of a generous salary but has also received munificence from a politically active foundation (the so-called ketchup money).

What a contrast! On one hand we have the modest stillness and humility of the dedicated seeker after truth; on the other, the shrill cackle of the politico-religious demagogue. One can imagine the embarrassment felt by the real scientists and engineers in NASA at the antics of Hansen.

Hansen is quite right, however, in stating that the change brought about by the correction of his error is insignificant, but the fact is that all the numbers that muddy this debate are insignificant, including the purported warming over the last century. It is of no scientific importance that the warmest year of recent times might be 1934 and not, as we were so frequently told, 1998; just as it was of no significance when the ranking was the other way round. It is, however, of great political importance. It was a highly emotive point of propaganda, endlessly repeated, that the earth is warmer now than it has ever been. That it is not even true for recent times is a devastating blow to the alarmist cause, and only the docile acceptance of self-censorship in the media has prevented total collapse of the campaign in the public mind. The few right-wing demagogues that have taken it up are, to say the least, dubious as allies of science and its methods. Global warming is not only a multi-billion dollar industry; it is a religion and a vehicle for political enforcement. The interests involved are not going to abandon all that profit and power lightly; so dirty tricks must be expected. That a handful of individuals without funding can take on and expose such a ruthless industry, however, goes a little way to restoring ones faith in the human spirit.

You should read the whole thing. And NumberWatch is always worth reading for the heresy of real scientific reasoning. The current debate on global warming is much more about politics than science. Which is why I write about it so much.

Hat tip to JunkScience for the article.


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