Peter Ridd is an Australian geophysicist who has spent a lifetime studying the Great Barrier Reef, and recently won a court case against his dismissal from James Cook University, in which the judge was utterly scathing about the dirty tactics used to muzzle his academic freedom of speech and to discredit him as an individual.
Apart from his interest in the science of coral reefs in general, and the Great Barrier Reef in particular, he has also been concerned with greater issues in science like the replication crisis, after he discovered by experience the Catch 22 situation that although science is only properly validated by replication, research funding policies restrict grants to original research. That alone makes modern science a fundamentally broken system.
When one of his colleague’s research articles showed photos of the reef dying, ostensibly because of climate change, the photos themselves looked suspicious, and the claim did not match his extensive observational experience. So he sent staff out to where the research was done, and found the reef healthy. The research was mistaken, or fraudulent.
The whole story of his subsequent silencing and sacking is told on this video, and if you have any interest at all in the problems besetting the scientific enterprise today, you should invest an hour in watching it:
Ridd’s opponents have tried the usual tactic of suggesting he sacrificed his career and reputation to gain money and fame, which is a little implausible given that he’s the kind of old fashioned guy who never even accepted payment for chapters in books, on the basis that writing on science was what his university paid him for. It was simpler just to live on his salary. It is pretty evident from the video that he’s honest, and if anything a bit naive in the dirty political ways of the world.
The most concerning message of the video, to me, is the lack of any sign of change in policy from his university, or of others, after the damning court judgement against them. But worse than that, actually, is the lack of any significant support from working scientists, either in his own field or in others, on the matter of academic freedom. Ridd suggests that since most scientists are doing uncontroversial work in their own fields, and have no interest in replicating old work or challenging accepted paradigms, they simply don’t want to get involved. If you’re a scientist, is that you?
But scientists are also aware of the dire personal consequences of speaking out freely, from the few examples that exist of whistle-blowers. For example, consider Nils-Axel Mörner, who as head of the Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics Institute at Stockholm University, specialising in sea-level changes, was appointed to review the papers produced for the IPCC on sea-level change. He considered most of the science amateurish, with student-level errors, conclusions in one case being refuted by the diagram in the text. The IPCC’s response, in that case, was simply to remove the diagram and leave the false conclusions intact. But they also sacked Mörner, since when he has been vilified as a “climate science denier” throughout the world. Who would want to go through that, even for the millions of euros of oil company and Neo-nazi money regularly claimed to be the motive for sacrificing lifelong professional integrity (but see here where you can check where the real oil bucks go)?
So, you scientists, it’s a whole lot easier to go with the flow and assume that those like Mörner and Ridd are, as every right-thinking person knows, troublemakers who got what they deserved. Except that, in Ridd’s case, “the judge did not agree, and he told them so” (to quote Maxwell’s Silver Hammer). If you are one of those who think that the Dover trial dealt the death-knell to ID, then to be consistent you must also accept that all is not well in the practice of science in universities, and ask whether those in your country are exempt. I can think of examples in mine that show they are not.
Now, science has been corrupted by politics and groupthink before, as I’ve documented in posts in the past. To take a couple of examples, consider the popularity of Eugenics, which was mainstream thinking in the 1930s amongst the scientific intelligentsia, only superstitious Catholics and degenerate hicks being against it. The result of the Second World War enabled all the blame for the Holocaust to go on to Hitler whilst those who had both encouraged and financed German Eugenics amongst allied nations quietly dropped it from their discussions, or at least the word. “Population Control” remains popular with many.
The story of acid rain and the imminent death of the world’s forests is another example – this doomsday scenario was endorsed by the NAS in America, the Royal Society in Britain, and equivalent prestigious bodies round the world. The US government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an investigation – but by the time it was presented (only one senator turned up, I’m told) the science was discredited, for forest die-back was mainly due to soil acidification from the kind of trees planted, not fossil fuels, and now acid rain is largely forgotten. But once again, the groupthink of the worldwide scientific establishment could be quietly buried, because by that time they had begun to unite around a new apocalyptic prophecy, now called climate change.
Now, I have become thoroughly convinced that the science around global warming has been, from the start, fatally politicized (“When politics and science meet, politics always wins – the politics gene is dominant”), often corrupt, and undoubtedly pushed far, far, far beyond what even the compromised science says by self-serving politicians and fanatical NGOs. But for all that, the climate has been warming so far, and so it’s conceivable that the Maldives will indeed sink, the Barrier Reef will die, and civilization will be destroyed by tornadoes, heat waves, forest fires, floods, Brexit and Donald Trump.
And if that were to happen, no doubt you scientists would be hailed as heroes and prophets by the public, despite the poor quality of the science and the worse quality of the IPCC reports for policy-makers. To turn out to be right covers a multitude of inadequate reasons for being so. However, given the inevitable failure of green energy to reverse the disaster (since we’ve been missing remedial deadlines for the last forty years and show every sign of continuing to do so as emissions continue to rise), it would only be a Pyrrhic victory as the world would probably become too post-apocalyptic for the luxury of science. No doubt appreciative neighbours would teach you how to hoe the desert sand yourselves.
But for myself, I think the global warming scam is going to come crashing down in a few years, just as eugenics and acid rain did before. Every prediction from climate change models, and from the politicians and activists who laud them, has proved wrong so far, and I see no likelihood of that pattern changing. At some stage the temperatures will either level off, so that no new tweaking of the data will provide an even vaguely plausible fit to the models, and/or it will become obvious that nothing much has become extinct, that Manhattan is still not underwater, that the ice-caps and walruses still exist – and, in short, that the natural world hasn’t changed much.
Only this time round, the difference is that the propaganda has been so relentless that even if nature is as it always was, the human world will have changed, and greatly for the worse. Fuel poverty will have caused worldwide political upheaval, democratic freedoms will have been crushed by the war-footing so eagerly adopted already by governments like ours and Canada’s (many argue that such a totalitarian world government is the real plan anyway), and, at very least, people will have realized that they sacrificed hard-earned trillions upon trillions of dollars, pounds, euros and yen for a lie.
You would assume that mass anger will, under such circumstances, be vented on those who have propagated that lie: politicians, journalists, environmentalists, billionaire “philanthopists” – and behind them all, the scientists, 97% of whom were said (demonstrably falsely) to be fully behind the global warming agenda. But true or false, that 97% never denied the claim in public, because it was somebody else’s problem, or because they didn’t want to be seen as the only soldier marching in step. The world political and economic order will have been devastated, whilst those who were in the best position to challenge it said nothing.
But think on this: If Greenpeace and the WWF end up discredited, they will simply disband – where are CND or the Animal Liberation Front now? If the IPCC is dismantled, there will be nobody there to throw bricks at. Greta Thunberg will be an adviser to some government, probably on economics or PR, and everyone will forget her role in climate activism – and if they don’t, she will remind them that she only told them to listen to the scientists.
The politicians both at national and international level may be voted out of office, but they will always be able to join the Bilderbergers or do lectures on their failures for large sums. Moreover, they will have the cast-iron excuse that, as they urged others to do, they listened to the scientists, and those scientific experts did the work that they, as non-experts, had no choice but to to rely on.
The journalistic media, who told outright lies to push the agenda along will, be able to say that they, too, only got their material from the IPCC, from government experts and from NGOs like Greenpeace whose non-peer-reviewed reports were authoritative enough to be used by the IPCC. In other words, they will say, don’t shoot the messenger – we got the stuff from the scientists.
Everyone, in other words, will pass the buck to the scientists, who currently bask in the aura of being the infallible priesthood of the coming apocalypse. And when the prophecies fail it will not just be the climate scientists who are discredited, but that allegedly vast consensus of scientists who, either by their words or by their acquiescence, put their expertise behind the punitive taxes, and the Extinction Rebellions, and the faked documentaries, and the totalitarian state control.
It will not make a scrap of difference if you’re actually working on something entirely unrelated like robotics or molecular biology: it is “Science™” which is currently heralded as the Priesthood of Climate Change, and whose consensus is reportedly only challenged by the mercenary troublemakers who are rightly ostracized by the Academic community (as even those scientists posting on Peaceful Science appear to agree, by their response to my piece on “Walrusgate”). But if climate change were discredited, it would be that whole consensus, the whole profession of science, that would lose its intellectual and sociological authority. The fact that paedophile priests are a tiny minority has still tarred the whole Catholic Church by the same brush, and especially those priests who said nothing when they had the opportunity to know the truth.
That’s bad for science as an institution – imagine a return to the pre-Huxley days when only moneyed gentlemen could afford to do science. No taxpayer would fund a discredited enterprise, or send their kids to university to join it. Is that what you want?
It’s bad for individuals, who may not only find their careers abruptly terminated, but also find that admitting to being a “scientist” has much the same effect on people as being discovered as a “collaborator” in France in 1946.
But of course, it is worst for society, which actually does need rigorous science to progress – as indeed it has even since before Bacon, as intellectuals studied how to build clocks and improve ploughs. A discredited politics leads to anarchy. A discredited religion leads to moral and spiritual collapse. And a discredited science leads to an ignorant culture.
I suggest that such unpleasant outcomes are a very real possibility for a profession that, in its public face, is putting all its eggs in the anthropogenic climate disaster basket, if that basket turns out to have a hole in it.
There will, however, be a few brave souls who will research the data and make it their business to speak, despite the personal cost. For myself, I’d rather be remembered as an Alexandr Solzhenitsyn than as an Eric Hobsbawm . How about you?