“Science” vs. Science

Many observers are salivating at the opportunity to watch the potential spectacle that would come about if Michael Mann makes due on his threat to sue Mark Steyn and NRO for this blog post. Not least of which is James Delingpole, who is suggesting that people contribute to a legal fund for the case: not in support of Steyn et al. but to encourage Mann to go ahead with the lawsuit.

Here’s part of Delingpole’s position:

[T]he “Climate Science” community is a bubble in much the same way that the Westminster and Washington DC villages are bubbles: these people spend so little time living in the real world that they lose the plot completely. In the weird, weird world of Michael Mann and his fellow climate “scientists”, Climategate was just a case of ordinary decent scientists doing their job, the IPCC remains the gold standard of international climate science, the Hockey Stick is not a standing joke and man-made global warming remains the greatest threat to the planet ever. The facts speak otherwise. But when you’re working in a business as awash with cash as the Climate Change industry, why would you ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

My focus here isn’t the pending lawsuit which, if this response indicates, could be a whole lot of fun, but with the semantics use by Delingpole and possibly others.

Notice the use of “scare quotes” around the term “science” and “scientists” in Delingpole’s post. It’s his way of suggesting that Mann and his collaborators aren’t truly scientists, that they practice some sort of pseudo-science as a guise toward their ultimate goal of normalizing the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

But writing these guys off as not being scientists is dangerous thinking. Mann is a scientist, as are many of his fellow global warming propogandists. I wrote about this a few months back:

[T]here is good science and bad science, and often they clash. That’s because science moves along with the intent of solving individual problems as they arise. It’s a process of unveiling the unknown, and it’s messy and fraught with wrong turns and tangents and dead ends. It’s far from perfect, but that’s why we keep trying to do better.

Therefore, when describing something as complex as the earth’s climate, we need to be damn sure as to what is actually going on before we move toward defining our collective priorities.

Which brings me back to these ridiculous accusations that AGW skeptics are somehow “against” science. No, they — we — just want better science. As in, you’d better get it right before blowing my money and subjugating the world in your orgiastic socialistic frenzy.

In the same way, it’s not that Mann et al aren’t doing “science”, it’s that they are doing arguably “bad” science. They may be poor scientists, but they are scientists nonetheless.

This is an important distinction because it treats scientists as they are, that is to say, scientists are human. They make mistakes, they follow false premises, they have their biases. To treat scientists you agree with as the purveyors of “true” science is to place them on a pedestal, and that their science is akin to the Word of God, while those who disagree with “true” conclusions are heretics, and it simply allows others the licence to do the same.

That’s the false premise used by Al Gore and his CAGW cronies. When we start elevating scientists to be above the foilbles of Man, that scientists we trust are somehow immune from our human weaknesses, we take away our right to criticize the findings, methodology or motives of any scientist.

Again, science is not the Word of God, but instead a practice. There is good science and bad science. Michael Mann is not a so-called “scientist”; he is a true scientist and his science is wrong. Mann’s hockey stick is bad science. That’s the fundamental issue.

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