If you attend a scientific talk on a controversial subject, you may be entertained or discomfited by the sometimes spirited discussion it can engender. Scientists love to pick apart new ideas, try to find their strengths and weaknesses. That’s because they know that for an idea to survive scientifically, it must be attacked by scientifically experienced minds; any faults must be aired out. That which survives is stronger for the effort, and more likely to closely model reality.
The key phrase there is “scientifically experienced”. When this happens with people inexperienced with the methodologies of science — or worse, those who actively oppose them — then the situation is very different. It changes from a way to strengthen our ideas on the Universe into a witch hunt. Instead of warming up people to discovery, it produces a chilling effect.
We’re seeing this play out in spades in the field of climate science.
To be clear: the climate is changing. There is zero doubt about that. None. Anyone telling you differently has an agenda to ram, and it’s one that is decidedly not realistic.
And some of those people ramming through this agenda are using — I would say abusing — their power to do so. For example, über-conservative Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — the same guy who was so offended by the artwork of a naked breast he had it covered up on lapel pins — is investigating climate scientist Michael Mann. Cuccinelli is claiming that Mann may have defrauded taxpayers while trying to get grants to fund his research. Mind you, Mann has survived such attacks before as fallout from the nonsensical climategate “scandal” (which was a completely manufactured controversy with no substance at all).
Denialists going after people because they do not like the science. When have we seen this before? With the cigarette lobby. They dragged so many researchers through the mud that many people chose not to go into the field. They did not want to have to deal with the harassment.
Now the same thing with climate scientists. Often done by the same people, taking their blood money in exchange for using political attacks on scientific figures.
Let’s see, where have we seen scientists and their work become trophies due to the political will of charlatans? Scientists were executed or sent to prison because they up for the truth when it went against the political thought of the time.
Seems to me that some politicians are starting to slide down that slope.