Over at the rightwing Wall Street Journal editorial page, Daniel Henninger is invoking Galileo and painting the Swifthack episode as an “epochal event”:
The East Anglians’ mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming’s claims—plotting to shut them up and shut down their ability to publish—evokes the attempt to silence Galileo. The exchanges between Penn State’s Michael Mann and East Anglia CRU director Phil Jones sound like Father Firenzuola, the Commissary-General of the Inquisition.
Alas, there are quite a few things Henninger is forgetting about Galileo. Among other matters, the Tuscan sage doesn’t merely symbolize “dissent in science,” as Henninger puts it. The people who dissented in the history of science, but were overwhelmingly wrong, tend to be forgotten. Galileo dissented and he happened to be overwhelmingly right (about the whole Earth-sun thing, anyway–let’s, er, forget that theory of the tides).
All of which kinda makes for a huge difference between Galileo and the climate skeptics.
Phil Jones is standing aside pending an independent inquiry into what happened at CRU. Skeptics are going to smell blood in the water, even though it is hard to see what else the East Anglia unit could have done in this case. Given the massive levels of attention this story has drawn, some kind of inquiry makes sense; and Jones certainly cannot investigate himself.
To be clear, while the jury remains out, none of us who think the “Swifthack” is no big deal are arguing that every last email that has been revealed is necessarily defensible. Rather, we’re arguing that when viewed in proper context, what has been revealed simply does not go to the core issues of whether climate change is human caused and what we need to do about it.
Meanwhile, in a statement that I’ve only just become aware of, I note that the American Meteorological Society–a leading scientific membership organization–fully supports this view:
For climate change research, the body of research in the literature is very large and the dependence on any one set of research results to the comprehensive understanding of the climate system is very, very small. Even if some of the charges of improper behavior in this particular case turn out to be true — which is not yet clearly the case — the impact on the science of climate change would be very limited.
We’ll continue to follow this important story on the blog in the run-up to Copenhagen.
Michael Egnor is likening me to a prostitute for defending good science in the face of the Swifthack controversy. He says my approach to journalism is equivalent to turning “tricks.” Or to quote:
3) “Trick”: a work-related act performed by a prostitute.
A spot-on description of Mooney’s science journalism.
Egnor doesn’t appear to understand that when a scientist uses the word “trick” in a non-public email, as Phil Jones did in the now exposed CRU correspondence, it isn’t necessarily meant as either prostitution or deception. There are far more innocent possibilities–“trick” can be a cool new method or technique, for instance. That makes the particular email being referred to much less than a smoking gun. Michael Mann has more on that. So does Phil Plait: