Climategate: The 21st Century Piltdown Hoax

Piltdown Man was discovered in Britain in 1912. Prior to his discovery, paleoanthropologists frantically searched for the missing link between Man and Ape. Scientists fought vociferously over whether man’s big brain preceded his upright stance or followed it. The greatest minds in paleoanthropology held out that the enlarged brain resulted in our expanded ability to solve problems.

When Piltdown Man came to light with his large braincase, simian jaw, and near human dentition, he fit the theoretical picture. Fifty years later, he was revealed as the greatest hoax in the history of science.

Until now. Climatologists have dug their feet in on both sides of the global warming debate (read here about global warming, the science behind my conclusion and a summary of Earth temperatures). An equal number believe man is responsible for the planet’s warming as reject the notion. Because of the parallel affection for green issues (we should take care of our planet; we shouldn’t be so wasteful of our resources), the momentum seemed to be on the side of man-caused global warming.

Until Climategate. Until thousands of emails were released revealing the dirty underside of scientific research–respected scientists with the ear of others in their field tilted the data until it supported their side of the argument. Shame on them.

Scientists are among the most trusted groups in society. With the disdain most Americans have for politicians, lawyers–in some case, their own native country–science provided a safe harbor that wouldn’t be bent by political or emotional winds.

Now that comfort has gone the way of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy–only for the naive and innocent. I’ll miss you.


8 Responses to “Climategate: The 21st Century Piltdown Hoax”

  1. December 16, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I’m afraid I don’t buy the notion that any hoax has been revealed by “Climategate” and certainly nothing that approaches the nature of the Piltdown Man hoax, one that was clearly perpetrated in quite different circumstances and from rather different motives.

    There have been scandals in various areas of hard science in the last few decades, perhaps the best known and most notorious being “cold fusion.” Last I checked, no one has lost faith in physics or physicists on the whole if at all.

    The reason posts like yours gain traction is that this is political. It has nothing to do with the reality of climate science as a whole, but those who are either legitimate disputants of one or more aspects of global warming who take one or more of the following positions ( A: it doesn’t exist; B) it exists, but it’s normal; C) it exists, but it’s not that bad; D) it exists, but mankind has little or nothing to do with it; or E) it exists, but it’s actually a good thing), as well as those who don’t give a rat’s ass about the science but are motivated by financial and/or purely political motives, are having a field day pretending otherwise.

    Even if the worst-case scenario were true, and some people made a political choice to fake or suppress or badly interpret some data, that hardly overthrows the entire of research and theory in this area. But for people with politically-loaded guns, that hardly matters.

    Finally, I don’t think it’s quite true that the knowledgeable scientific community is split down the middle on concerns about climate change and mankind’s role in it. But perhaps you have data to support your claim to the contrary.

    • December 16, 2009 at 7:55 am

      I have to say, I do hope you’re correct about not losing ‘faith in physics or physicists on the whole’. Even when I disagree with scientists’ conclusions, I have always considered them well thought out with no personal agenda.

      A question: Have you read the released emails? I have. I suggest you take some time, read them and then draw your conclusions.

      • 3 Stanley
        April 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

        Scientists are people just like the rest of us. There are some who are stellar people. There are others who are nefarious (like the Nazi scientists doing human experiments in the death camps).

        Some are motivated by noble purpose and are committed to truth. Others will manipulate data to get that government grant. All are influenced by their native prejudice and personal inclinations. They are human. Stop treating them like gods.

      • April 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

        You are right. We have tended to treat scientists like gods, though research shows they’ve tarnished their halos. We’ll have to find our gods elsewhere.

  2. December 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    This is an excellent example of how rumors work. Yes, thousands of emails were released — but only a small handful of those revealed anything remotely suspicious. The rest were simply normal communication among scientists, who are also ordinary people with opinions and feelings that they naturally express to each other privately.

    No one has presented a shred of evidence, in these emails or anywhere else, that any data were altered for nefarious (as opposed to legitimate scientific) reasons. There was no hoax. Furthere, thousands of other, mostly independent data sources confirm the surface temperature trends in the CRU dataset.

    The lower half of the graph presented on this page (without any mention of its source) is the real hoax.

    • December 18, 2009 at 5:40 am

      I see from your curriculum vitae you have a global perspective on your educational goals. I appreciate that. My question: Have you read the emails? Did you draw your own conclusions or are they from the same scientists who support global warming? When I ask this of people, I rarely get a response because their argument has no depth. I hope, based on a quick review of your background, you will be different. Read my other posts on the subject and then convince me the planet is warming in excess of its normal trends. You may gain a convert.

      I have seen no consensus on this issue, pro or con. I reject emotion as a deciding factor, so the climate warmers lose me when they must resort to hyperbole to defend their position.

      • 7 Orv
        December 21, 2009 at 3:35 am

        I might suggest you read Spencer Weart’s scholarly History of Global Warming (Harvard, 2004) and his periodically updated website http://www.aip.org/history/climate/. While there remains significant debate over the extent and even the options to counter act it, I am suprised that you have found no credible consensus among scientists (as opposed to political activitists (on both sides) posing as scientists.
        I would agree there is no concensus on say, Cap & Trade, or possibly whether significant changes go out of control in 2050 or 2150–pulling dates out of the air here–but that is quite different than no concensus on global warming. The problem here is that many whose primary interest is politics wish to take on a scientific mantel and, unfortunately, some scientists have become so enamored of the threat they perceive that they have become too political. I see a generic concensus, but find some otherwise legitimate scientists have lost scientific perspective in their realization that what they believe is requisite action will not easily be adopted by the general public. Unfortunately some, as you have noted, have succumbed to the poltical gamesmanship at the expense of scientific credibility. Comparing this to the Piltdown Hoax would be supportable only if the Piltdown man had been largely legitimate but had been modified to appear more convincing.

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