Scientists Are Corrupt (Say the Climate Change Deniers)

The blogosphere is filled to the brim with constant arguments about climate change. Some of these dabates are more civil than others. An amazingly common sentiment one reads is that climate scientists are perpetuating an enormous hoax on almost everyone on the entire planet in order to make sure they continue to receive funding for their studies. One can find examples in the posts following almost any article in the press about global warming (here's an example from USAToday, one from the Guardian).

I have enormous difficulty believing that scientists are likely to jeopardize their careers and their integrity in this way. I can accept that some scientists may be unethical, but to have the entirety of climatologists smeared this way is ridiculous.

I personally have known three scientists who work full time in their respective fields. None is a climatologist. One, whom I have known for thirty years, is a physicist/astronomer/cosmologist/gamma-ray scientist (I'm not sure exactly what he would call himself). His team's scientific work is funded entirely from NASA's budget. The other two work in medical research, one studying lipids and the other studying things that I now forget related to pharmaceuticals. Both receive their funding from public monies: NIH in one case and University grants in the other.

I imagine that any of these three could "adjust" the results from their work to make the projects they work on more attractive to additional funding. Being inside the system, they would know what "adjustments" would lend themselves to being fund-able. Knowing these three scientists personally, I know that there is no possible way they would ever consider compromising the integrity of their work in order to obtain more funding. All of them know full well that, in the long run, whatever they do will be scrutinized. Should any less-than-honest behavior be discovered, their careers would be essentially over.

However, the reason that these friends of mine would never consider compromising the integrity of their work has nothing to do with the deterrent effect of being found out. No, the reason is that, as scientists, they are seeking truth--they are driven by the science itself, the excitement of discovery. It would never cross their mind that they might present anything other than the results they find, because that is their quest--seeking scientific knowledge--not just getting another paycheck.

Are my friends exceptions of some kind? Are climatologists different than lab researchers and astronomers? I don't know that for certain, but I just find it impossible to believe that virtually every climatologist on the planet is taking part in an enormous, elaborate hoax in order to possibly obtain additional funding. Shoot, many of these scientists likely have skills that could be used in closely related fields or even in climatology unrelated to climate change, so they could find funding elsewhere (and not have to lie). I just cannot accept the argument that the scientists are in it for the money, based on my personal experience.

For those of you who also know scientists personally, in whatever field, ask yourself (or ask them!) how likely they are to compromise their data and findings for financial reasons. I suspect few if any of them would do it. Neither would the scientists I don't happen to know personally and who are working in the field of climate science.

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