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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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How not to defend science

Climate science inquiries are only exacerbating the damage to science's reputation

Bishop Hill is doing a great job of following the various inquiries into the climate emails.

The unthoroughness, biased membership and gullibility of the Oxburgh and Russell inquiries has the effect on a lukewarmer like me of driving me further into the sceptical camp. If the case for man made global warming needs this much flagrant whitewashing, then maybe, I begin to think, the exaggerations and mistakes are not just the result of sloppiness, but are part of a deliberate attempt to camouflage the truth to keep the gravy train on the track. If the science was any good then it could stand proper scrutiny.

As Christpher Booker writes:

Nothing will do more to reinforce suspicion of the CRU's conduct than the failure, first by those MPs, and now by the team led by Lord Oxburgh, to address properly the way in which it appears to have abused the principles of true science - a scandal which should be of concern not just to us here in Britain, who paid for it, but across the world.

The incomparable Clive Crook made a similar point when the emails first surfaced back in Novermber:

I'm also surprised by the IPCC's response. Amid the self-justification, I had hoped for a word of apology, or even of censure. (George Monbiot called for Phil Jones to resign, for crying out loud.) At any rate I had expected no more than ordinary evasion. The declaration from Rajendra Pachauri that the emails confirm all is as it should be is stunning. Science at its best. Science as it should be. Good lord. This is pure George Orwell. And these guys call the other side "deniers".

...Remember that this is not an academic exercise. We contemplate outlays of trillions of dollars to fix this supposed problem. Can I read these emails and feel that the scientists involved deserve to be trusted? No, I cannot. These people are willing to subvert the very methods-notably, peer review-that underwrite the integrity of their discipline. Is this really business as usual in science these days? If it is, we should demand higher standards-at least whenever "the science" calls for a wholesale transformation of the world economy. And maybe some independent oversight to go along with the higher standards.

The scientist Terence Kealey said to me recently that:

Science was never a public good, nor was it ever anything but a club

I have a horrid suspicion that defending the club is taking precedence over seeking the truth. It takes a lot for a science groupie like me to lose this much faith in the science establishment. Think how much more damage is being done among those who are not science groupies.