The CRU hack, conspiracy theory and sophistry

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day…

Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement.

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

RTFA – please understand that the tempest in a teacup generated by bloggers committed to skepticism regardless of real data and sound science – is nothing more than that.

The saddest part for me is blogs and bloggers who pretend a commitment to science – but rely on conspiracy theory to keep up traffic.

My personal understanding of the worth of science versus religious, political and other corrupt philosophic commitments to obscuring progress in knowledge – has been consistent for over a half-century. I’m not about to change, now, just to grub out a few more page views.

2 thoughts on “The CRU hack, conspiracy theory and sophistry

  1. Mr. Fusion says:

    The saddest part for me is blogs and bloggers who pretend a commitment to science – but rely on conspiracy theory to keep up traffic.

    That seems to sum up the change in attitude at DU. One poster there suggested to me that when he attended school, half the papers were fudged.

    When I got my degrees the very idea you were purposely fudging earned you a zero and possible expulsion from the course. Anyone caught cheating never deserved any sympathy.

  2. Cinaedh says:

    When hundreds of stories appeared almost simultaneously on hundreds of moronic “conspiracy blogs” like Dvorak Uncensored, the stench almost overpowered the entire Internet yesterday morning.

    I agree information should be free but information is only information if it’s true. Otherwise it’s just crap and it does nothing but unnecessarily smell the place up.

    I suppose the timing of this smelly onslaught has to do with the Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. Could the loony conspiracy theorists be any more transparent?

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