Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy new week

LP has an update on the CRU mess. I've tried to reason with deniers about this but its like talking to a waterfall. Whatever you think of the science, a few issues arise from the hack which should give pause:

  • the hack itself: surely the most benignly-regarded attack event in internet history. How remarkable that a Russian hacker is celebrated as a hero, his motives are unquestioned, and the materials released are accepted as genuine. The timing is so suspicious, I've been waiting for conspiracy theorists to show us what really happened, but they oddly seem to be preferring a different conspiracy.
  • why are scientists bombarded with FOI requests they cannot fufill without dropping everything? Why isn't someone taking the task on for them at least? Why the hell is the MET not dealing with it, since its their (apparently copyright) data? It's clear someone wanted someone else to do their work for them. Note too that most of the FOI was coming from American sources, who were either ignorant of who owns the data or knew only too well.
  • the peer-review process is under attack, characterized as some kind of requirement for entry to a club. Australian readers appreciate a delicious irony: the same weekend the story broke, ABC TV was broadcasting a BBC documentary on the process by which Darwin beat Wallace to the publishers. Tom Lehrer makes sneaky fun of it in his classic song  Lobachevsky but the real problem is the ignorance of how science is done and that scientists are actually human. LP makes a good point that science is not ever finished, and the peer-review process is a method of sorting out the reliable work from the merely speculative (and believe me, that stuff never gets through, too many scientists are too keen to shoot it down).
For me this won't actually change anything except the composition of the deniers, who are already hysterical about the "cover-up" by the "liberal media conspiracy". It smacks of a managed media event, designed to alter the public discourse, and as far as the Internet, its succeeded wildly. From a purely Australian perspective, it means more ridiculous politics to come.

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