Researchers the world over daily apply the scientific method when evaluating what they see, hear, and otherwise sense during experiments and studies. The scientific method recognizes the innate bias in every individual, but those who use it strive to escape their own preconceived notions. When scientists, however, choose dogma over the scientific method and truly free inquiry, the results for the field can be disastrous. The global warming/climate change debate has seen more than its share of dogmatic bad science. And when bad science leads to bad policy, we all pay.
As Frank Wolf at the University of Rochester stated in an online tutorial:
Recognizing that personal and cultural beliefs influence both our
perceptions and our interpretations of natural phenomena, we aim through the
use of standard procedures and criteria to minimize those influences when
developing a theory. As a famous scientist once said, "Smart people (like smart
lawyers) can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view."
In summary, the scientific method attempts to minimize the influence of bias or
prejudice in the experimenter when testing an hypothesis or a theory.
Very reasonable. Scientists with preconceived notions of how they hope the world works can come up with incredible, but false, explanations. For example, until the 16th century AD, most scientists believed that the Sun, planets, and stars revolved around our planet. Furthermore, scientific minds at the time had come up with logical sounding and intricate proofs on how it might be possible for the Earth to exist at the center of the universe.
People tried to hold onto this explanation even after astronomers figured out that a sun centered solar system made a lot more sense. Many wrongly assumed that accepting a sun centered solar system would undermine the idea of the primacy of man and belief in God. Out of fear of true inquiry, information and arguments supporting a sun centered solar system were suppressed. Eventually, the proof that man does not lie at the center of the universe grew too overwhelming to ignore. And the truth did not undermine Christian faith in the least.
Modern science also faces powerful threats to free inquiry. The tendency toward dogma remains powerful, especially when millions of federal dollars are available for those who agree with the Left. Although civilized societies would not physically threaten a scientist, there are more refined punishments. One's research might be blackballed from peer reviewed publications. Jobs would not be open for those who have different evidence and conclusions. Grant money for research dries up. And those holding the strings make it very clear what agenda a researcher must follow.
The University of Alaska-Fairbanks Center For Global Change holds a yearly grant competition. At their best, such competitions should encourage free thinking to further knowledge. UAF, however, leads off the description of its competition in this way:
Although the Earth system is constantly changing, ozone depletion,
increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, large-scale pollution and
changing patterns of natural resource use demonstrate that human
activities are altering the Earth system at an accelerated pace.
Awareness of this has led to an evolving international consensus on the
importance of both increasing our scientific understanding of global
change and linking scientific findings to policy decisions.
In making this statement, the Center For Global Change has placed an artificial and agenda driven boundary around research. What of the finding that Martian temperatures tend to fluctuate in the same manner as Earth? What of the recently released evidence that global temperatures have not changed since the late 1990s? What of the scientific research showing that natural phenomena, such as volcanoes and changes in solar energy output have more impact on our climate and weather than any man made processes? Why doesn't this center promote research into all the possibilities?
Simple. There's no money in it.
The National Science Foundation will pump one-third of a billion dollars this year into so-called climate change research. Odds are that none of that cash will fund projects undermining the anti-free market narrative of man made global warming. There is way too much incentive to create and manipulate studies that lead to preconceived results. Meanwhile, dissenting educated, experienced voices are not allowed in the conversation.
Even worse, findings from studies that are biased at their birth are used to justify the closing of coal mines and power plants. People are losing their employment. Families are suffering. Those with conflicting evidence that could save these jobs are shut out. And we all suffer the consequences.
American universities must promote free scientific inquiry instead of promoting dogma and ignoring dissent. The UAF Center For Global Change's deadline for accepting proposals for 2013 is in the first week of February. It will be interesting to see if they receive, or even accept, applications that challenge their own preconceived notions and truly seek to expand scientific knowledge.