The obvious answer

Ryghaug and Skjølsvold argue that science is about communication, discussions, and persuasion. That may come as a surprise to some people, but it is fairly obvious to me. The author of Don’t be such a scientist, Randy Olson, argues that communication is an integral and essential part of sciences that cannot be separated from the objective and analytical aspects. It does a scientist no good at all if their discoveries are not effectively transmitted to the wider community.

Communication, discussions, and persuasion play a role known as “experimenter’s regress“, and this is an obvious way for science to proceed. Ideas are re-examined and tested over again for different situations, times, and settings, and findings which are consistently replicated can be regarded as a manifestation of some universal natural order. As opposed to an ‘audit’ which is limited to just one particular case, science is about approaching universal truth. Mainstream science is the consensus simply because it is most convincing.

After having studied the discussions in the CRU-emails, Ryghaug and Skjølsvold find that they suggest that climate sciences appear to be doing scientific business-as-usual. As did earlier inquiries. But this is not really the interesting part. The interesting story concerns the reactions in the aftermath of the CRU-hack and the notion of manipulation and the absence of transparency. In this story, it is a paradox that we only have seen the tip of the iceberg – what lies below the surface is hidden – while questions of manipulation and transparency has been at its heart (and hence Ryghaug and Skjølsvold’s STS study).

Since there wasn’t any improper manipulation of scientific data, the ‘manipulation’ in this story involved taking the contents in the e-mails out of context and the generation of wild accusations devoid of any real evidence. The manipulation really was about the perception of the climate research community and how that was presented in blogosphere and the media.

When it comes to transparency, I cannot think of any more murky environment than that of think tanks in which many accusers thrive. In order to be taken seriously, they need to be open too, sharing their code and raw data as they have demanded of Phil Jones and the CRU. I wanted to reproduce some results of a solar-climate study, but the authors refused to divulge their code. I have also asked to see the methods of some Norwegians who claim that climate models fail to reproduce the recent trends and have made a big fuss out of climategate – all without a positive outcome.

I think that representatives from the contrarian community are the ones who really play the shady part in the story of “Climategate”. Has anybody ever seen the original data and methods from people like Scafetta & West, Svensmark, Lindzen, Michaels, Piers Corbyn, Lomborg, Easterbrook and Douglass? I haven’t. Similarly, I have seen no clamor in the contrarian blogosphere demanding it, even while their conclusions are eagerly accepted. I agree with Ryghaug and Skjølsvold that scientific knowledge is about persuasion, which implies that evidence must be presented in a clear and transparent fashion (divulging both method and data), published in the scientific literature, and tested over time. The evidence must sway the majority and create a consensus.

It is also a mystery to me why the mainstream media has not seen the real situation concerning who played the different roles and what was actually hidden – hence it could be appropriate to rename “climategate” to “climategåte”, where “gåte” means riddle in Norwegian. We still don’t know who the hacker(s) was (were) (and hack it was).

What does the media actually see?

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