Terence Kealey: What Does Climategate Say About Science?

Terence Kealey: What Does Climategate Say About Science? “John A” offers a copy and paste of an anti-science rant from The Global Warming Policy Foundation. Dr. Terence Kealey says that scientists have always been secretive and untrustworthy. After-all, Pythagoras had Hippasus drowned for refusing to retract a mathematical discovery!

The Climategate stuff, the Hockey Stick (ignoring all the independent validations) and the IPCC’s editing error about Himalayan glacier retreat are apparently all just modern examples of the same venality. Keep a close eye on them bastards.

But surely we can trust “citizen-scientists” and Dr. Kealey himself.

Amusingly, most of Anthony’s commenters assume that Kealey’s science philosophy essay is an excuse for the supposedly awful things that Climategate supposedly revealed. In fact, he’s condemning all scientists. Talk about poor reading comprehension… I think his preference is for some kind of libertarian free-for-all.

Here are Kealey’s conclusions (italics mine):

To conclude, therefore, scientists are not disinterested, they are interested, and as a consequence science is not dispassionate or fully transparent, rather it is human and partially arcane. As I argue elsewhere, science is not the public good of modern myth, it is a collegiate and quasi-private or invisible college [sic] good.4 That means, by the way, that it requires no public subsidies. More relevantly, it means that individual scientist’f [sic] pronouncements should be seen more as advertisements than as definitive.

Peer review, too, is merely a mechanism by which scientists keep a collective control over access to their quasi-private enterprise. One the e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia included this from Professor Phil Jones, referring to two papers that apparently falsified his work:- ”I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

So what? Climategate tells us no more than the philosophers of science have long told us about research, and the public should be less naive.

Here’s my conclusion: No rational person would maintain that “scientists” are completely impervious to human emotions and self-interest. However the system of public scrutiny that has been in place for centuries has done a good job of assessing and validating scientific claims. Dr. Kealey’s essay is nothing more than libertarian posturing.

Where, maybe, do Dr. Kealy’s criticisms apply? Perhaps to the secretive corporate research typically conducted in the pharmaceutical industry. But then that’s exactly what he seems to be holding up as a model!

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