"Caldeira slams anti-scientific witchhunts: “Are American politicians following in the footsteps of Stalin?”"
U-VA faculty Senate: Cuccinelli actions threaten “our ability to generate the knowledge upon which informed public policy relies.”
Climate scientist Ken Caldeira commented on my recent post, “WashPost: University of Virginia should fight AG Cuccinelli’s faulty investigation of Michael Mann.”
Since it’s well worth reading, I am reprinting it below — along with the powerful conclusion of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council statement.
I gave Caldeira a chance to edit his statement, since commenting does not always perfectly express one’s thoughts:
Scientists believe that eventually everyone will know the truth.
Scientific careers are made by being right about important things, and can be ruined by displaying sloppy thinking and sloppy work.
Therefore, scientists are highly motivated to say things they believe to be true and avoid saying things they believe to be false.
I have never met a scientist who knowingly says false things. Such a scientist would be considered psychopathic.
The idea that scientists would engage in fraud, that is, would say things they know to be false, goes against the logic of the successful scientific career.
Prior beliefs can color scientific research and lead to false results through selective use of data. I believe that most scientists who are climate change deniers fall into the category “” well-intentioned scientists who are held captive by their prior beliefs. But the vast majority of these scientists are not frauds, they are simply wrong.
It is one thing to say that Michael Mann is wrong, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. It is another thing entirely to accuse him of fraud when there is absolutely no evidence of fraud.
There is a historical example where politicians went after scientists because the politicians didn’t like their scientific results. The example is Lysenkoism. The country was the Soviet Union.
Are American politicians following in the footsteps of Stalin?
Last week, the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council issued a “Position Statement on Attorney General’s Investigation of Dr. Michael Mann.” The Council writes of “the unusual Civil Investigative Demand (CID)” that “the unusual and public nature of this action strongly suggest that the investigation is motivated primarily by differences of opinion regarding the scientific basis for current understanding of climate change.”
The statement concludes:
We maintain that peer review by the scientific community is the appropriate means by which to identify error in the generation, presentation and interpretation of scientific data. The Attorney General’s use of his power to issue a CID under the provisions of the Virginia [Fraud Against Taxpayers Act] is an inappropriate way to engage with the process of scientific inquiry.His action and the potential threat of legal prosecution of scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer-review standards send a chilling message to scientists engaged in basic research involving Earth’s climate and indeed to scholars in any discipline. Such actions directly threaten academic freedom and, thus, our ability to generate the knowledge upon which informed public policy relies.