Science is in trouble. The process of scientific discovery is too often being traded for the practice of political science. The recent "Climate Gate" scandal is just a symptom of a much larger problem. When scientists at Britain's Climate Research Unit refuse to release climate data and dismiss any legitimate questions regarding their methodology or conclusions, they undermine the credibility of the very profession they practice.
The manipulation of the scientific process for political purposes is not new. What is alarming is the extent to which it is now happening and the potential impact on national policies.
Michigan State University reportedly is considering shutting down its geology program. Geology is a well established science that provides researchers with an understanding of prehistoric conditions that formed and transformed the planet. Future geologic investigation is critical to helping us understand the physical processes that formed and continue to shape the planet. It is hard to imagine that any intelligent decisions could be made regarding an issue as important as future energy sources without a thorough understanding of geology. National energy policy has a profound impact on the economic and personal freedoms of all Americans. U.S. citizens have a right to expect that any significant change in energy policy is underpinned by good science. Courses on environmental policy will not take the place of the scientific discipline of geology.
The increasing trend of politicizing science is being driven primarily by two factors: money and political agendas. The American and European governments are throwing large sums of money in the form of grants at universities and other institutions for the purpose of investigating man's impact on the climate. Climatologists Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling Jr., in a book titled "Satanic Gases," report that total spending on global climate change has grown from a few million dollars to more than $2 billion annually in the last 15 years.
It is inconceivable that such a large infusion of taxpayer dollars into the scientific research community would not lead to corruption of global climate science. Researchers at universities and other institutions, which are increasingly reliant on research dollars to fund their activities, understand their economic wellbeing is tied to receiving government handouts. Researchers who do not support the conclusion that man in causing global climate change simply are not going to be competitive in receiving that money.
The recent Copenhagen Climate Conference made it clear to the world that the global climate change issue has little to do with science and everything to do with political agendas. Any lingering doubts about global climate change being a scientific issue were quickly dispelled when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issued a blistering attack on capitalism to thundering applause from the climate change delegates.
The scientific process is one of discovery, not consensus. When claims are made that the science on human-caused global warming is "settled," those making such an argument either do not understand the scientific process or they are trying to intentionally manipulate it for their own political agenda. The integrity of the scientific process is more important than ever as we attempt to understand complex systems like the climate of our planet.
The ultimate result of the political corruption of science is the loss of the credibility of science with the public. Once public trust is lost it is difficult to regain. That is a much bigger problem than global climate change.