The silence of the ‘pro-science’ blogsphere on the ClimateGate scandal is remarkable.
For years, readers of Pharyngula, Panda’s Thumb, Neurologica, WhyEvolutionIsTrue, Denialism, Respectful Insolence, and other militantly ‘pro-science’ blogs have been treated to rants about the need to protect the integrity of science from frauds and ideologically motivated practitioners. Of course, ‘protection of the integrity of science’ in the faux ‘pro-science’ blogsphere has generally meant suppression of skeptics who question so-called ‘consensus science’ on Darwinism and on Anthropogenic Global Warming. ‘Protection of science’ has more often that not entailed personal invective, recourse to ‘consensus’, advocacy of professional destruction of skeptics, deference to scientific authorities, censorship, and judicial coercion.
The ClimateGate e-mails and data sets obtained from the Climate Research Unit in England reveal scientific misconduct and criminal fraud on a massive scale. This documented pervasive scientific fraud suggests a darker meaning of ‘consensus’ in ‘consensus science’. The Brahmins of climate science are, by their own words, frauds. Data on global temperatures was faked, withheld, and, if sought by skeptics with sufficient vigor, deleted. Climate scientists conspired to undermine peer review and to destroy the careers of other scientists who attempted to replicate their results. Exhortation to integrity and transparency was utterly absent from the communications. The e-mail conversations, had they been those of business executives, would invoke R.I.C.O. statutes. Trillions of dollars, and the economies and even governmental structure of many nations, depend on the integrity of this science. And there is no integrity.
Yet the militant pro-science blogsphere has been silent about this enormous scientific scandal.
Compare the pro-science blogosphere’s silence about fraud and scientific misconduct in climate science to another recent controversy in science: the appointment of Francis Collins as Director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins is a scientist of the highest professional and personal reputation. His scandal, according to the science blogsphere, is this:
He’s a Christian who publicly talks about his belief in God.
The ‘pro-science’ blogsphere… exploded.
This is a big one for me: he will use his position to act as a propagandist for Christianity, entirely inappropriately. We already saw this in the announcement of the completion of the draft of the human genome project, where he actually brags about getting Clinton to include religious language in his speech, and where he himself made claims about the DNA sequence being “the language of god”. The head of the NIH isn’t just an administrative position; it’s a political position, and the appointment of a loudly evangelical Christian to that spot is sending a political message. There are enough of us even louder atheists out here who will make a stink over any attempt on his part to use the accomplishments of science under the NIH to proselytize, that he’s going to have to be very cautious in his statements from now on…integrity. Collins hasn’t got it.
I expect Collins to resign from BioLogos if he wants to maintain any scientific credibility. Yes, the guy has every right to believe what he wants, but a director of the nation’s most prestigious research foundation has to have some standards, and BioLogos [Collin’s Christian website] is beyond the pale.
Nonetheless, Collins’ overall worldview, as summarized in his lecture slides, is that of man with a desperate account of our place in the universe. He appears determined to hang on to a belief in human exceptionalism and a supernatural component to our nature, despite all the evidence. His actual views are a weird mix of legitimate science and traditional evangelical doctrine.
I have serious misgivings about Francis Collins being appointed director of NIH. It’s not that I think that there should be a religious litmus test for public science administrators, or that being a devout Christian is a disqualification. But in Collins’s case, it is not a matter of private belief, but public advocacy. The director of NIH is not just a bureaucrat who tends the money pipleline between the treasury and molecular biologists (which is how many scientists see the position). He or she is also a public face of science, someone who commands one of the major bully pulpits for science in the country. The director testifies before Congress, sets priorities, selects speakers and panelists, and is in many regards a symbol for biomedical research in the US and the world. In that regard, many of Collins’s advocacy statements are deeply disturbing.
[Is] Francis Collins a viable candidate? I argue NO. Collins is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The importance of biology in the near future of science is undeniable, so a biologist would be a good choice (as would a chemist or physicist). He is also an Evangelical Christian who has made his beliefs well known in a book and various magazine articles. Nisbet argues that Collins’ religious faith would allow him to reach to a large portion of America (i.e., the religious nutjobs that currently takes anti-science positions).
I think Collins has no academic credibility. What I mean by that is that Collins is unqualified for the position he currently holds… The reason Collins is unqualified for his current position is his public displays of ignorance regarding evolutionary biology. This is important in respect to NHGRI because so much of genomics research relies heavily on evolutionary theory.
Here are a few examples of Collins displaying his ignorance:…He wrote heavily about what he calls “Moral Law” in his book. He believes that current research cannot explain human morality, therefore goddidit. This is a god of the gaps argument. However, in making his argument, he disregarded large swaths of research on the evolution of altruism, thereby artificially increasing the gaps. This is brought up in a review of Collins’ book and this Scientific American article (I quoted the relevant part here)
There is no question that Francis Collins is qualified scientifically to direct the National Institutes of Health, but I have two reasons for believing that there is a nontrivial chance that his religious convictions will influence his decisions as a policy maker for science.
One, the very nature of being an evangelical Christian — which Dr. Collins self-identifies as — means that you should evangelize for the Lord. Serious evangelicals evangelize not just on Sundays, but everyday, in every way, never hiding their lantern under a bushel, as proclaimed in Matthew 5:16: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The whole point of being an evangelical Christian is to love the Lord openly and try to bring to Christ as many people as possible; otherwise you wouldn’t be an evangelical. I know because I was once an evangelical Christian, having been born again in 1971 and for many years devoting my life to evangelizing for Christ, first to my fellow high school students, then as an undergraduate at Pepperdine University (a Church of Christ institution), and later going door-to-door. I was doing God’s work, and what could be more important than that? In the evangelical worldview there really is no separation of church and state. Yes, Jesus told us (in Matthew 22:21) to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”, but that applies to specific things like taxes and tithings, not the general goal of bringing all Americans to the Lord. So I worry that Dr. Collins’ evangelical enthusiasms may blur the lines separating the profane and the sacred, church and state, Caesar and God
P.Z. Myers summed up the science blogsphere’s response to the scandal of Collin’s appointment:
…there is discussion going on all over the place…
None of these blogs, at the time my writing of this post, has any discussion about the massive scandal in Climate Science. What duplicity. A Christian is appointed to a government science post, and the ‘pro-science’ blogsphere explodes. When a movie- a freakin’ movie (Expelled)- is released, the pro-science blogsphere descends into a vortex of angst that persists to this day. Yet when the integrity of a major field of global science is destroyed- not threatened, but destroyed- by smoking-gun evidence of massive systematic scientific misconduct and fraud, the ‘pro-science’ blogsphere gets writer’s cramp. Dead silence.
Note to the investigators pouring over the thousands of ClimateGate e-mails, computer code, and data: Keep up the scrutiny. The integrity of science must be protected. If you find any evidence that any of these scientists went to church or were planning to make a movie, contact the science blogs immediately.