Science Versus Groupthink

It’s become clear to me that it is not possible to undertake independent research in any area that touches upon climate change if you have to make your living as a professional scientist on government grant money or have to rely on getting tenure at a university. The massive group think that I have encountered on this topic has cost me my career, many colleagues and has damaged my reputation among the few people I know in the field.

David Small, PhD

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  1. Over on the Imaginative Conservative website, Joseph Pearce stresses the need to define the words that we use more definitely and precisely so that we can communicate our understanding of reality with greater clarity and less ambiguity. Toward this end he places “science” under the microscope and study’s it with meticulous and definitive precision.

    Pearce begins by defining science:

    “The word comes from the Latin scientia, which means “knowledge.” For our ancestors, all fields of study or modes of perception that lead to a greater knowledge of the cosmos were regarded as “science.” Thus, for instance, theology, the study of the word of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, was seen as being not merely a science but as being the very “queen of the sciences.” The sixteenth-century Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, described theology as “the science of things divine.”

    Read more:

  2. As a Reformed Christian and working climate scientist, I’ve observed a reaction against the idea of anthropogenically driven climate change in conservative churches that seems to be driven more by political and ideological affiliation than any actual knowledge of the relevant science. Without any information on the situation described above, I can’t comment, but I’ve not observed massive group think in my professional interactions. I have seen hypotheses rejected due to poor arguments and evidence. One should be careful about attributing group think to fields of study with which one has little personal knowledge and expertise, as I presume is the case for Dr. Clark regarding climate science.

    • Joel,

      1. If you haven’t spoken to David Small, then (please note the conditional) your response seems like prima facie evidence of groupthink. I hope you can see the irony of calling his testimony into question without first contacting him and investigating the situation.

      2. I quoted him here because I thought it was interesting and plausible. I’ve seen enough groupthink in the academy.

      3. This seems like evidence of exactly the sort of thing that about which he is complaining.

      4. Scandals such as this one also make one wary about claims of “consensus” and illustrate, to paraphrase Eisenhower, the scientific-governmental complex about which Small complains.

      5. Yes, I’ve seen cases where bad work has been rightly rejected and where the candidate has complained about prejudice—and I’ve seen really bad work accepted by the academy and even published by reputable academic publishers—but I’ve also seen plenty of examples of groupthink, i.e., instances where the dominant paradigm has become an unquestioned dogma. By definition true science cannot be unquestionable. The history of scientific revolutions demonstrates the foolishness of that approach. That’s one of the ironies of the present debate. The pro-AGW folks remind me of those who knew a priori the geocentrism had be the truth. Here are other examples of groupthink that make David’s complaints seem plausible:

      • Michael Polanyi’s work alerted us all to the subjective element in the modern/post-Enlightenment scientific enterprise.
      • The higher-critical approach to scripture in the 19th and 20th century was built on unquestionable suppositions and a priori commitments. It still dominates biblical studies in the name “science” and “scholarship.” I am aware of cases where scholars have been made to change their conclusions in order to support the status quo. That’s not science. That’s groupthink.
      • History faculties are so dominated by (usually Marxist-influenced) social historians that the study of the history of ideas has been pushed to the margins. That’s evident from what is allowed to appear in the journals that, 25 years ago, routinely published research in the “history of ideas” have been taken over by those who regard only social-economic-class motivations as valid explanations for human actions. Today, in those same journals, one is more likely to see surveys of grave stones in Bedfordshire from 1520-21 than an investigation into Johannes Reuchlin’s pioneering Hebrew grammar. Some historiographies are so ideologically colored that they virtually admit that they no longer care about the past—eschatology has replaced history. Those are a little marginal but they are regarded as more acceptable than investigations into the history of ideas.
      • In my own area of specialization people routinely published accounts of 17th-century Reformed orthodox made of whole cloth (e.g., virtually any account of Theodore Beza prior to the work of Richard Muller). The dominant story from the mid-19th century until 1978 was almost entirely false. The fact that a historical narrative can be almost entirely without merit and yet dominate a field for more than a century tells me that scholars are capable of being deluded, of misinterpreting evidence, and of blindly relying upon poor secondary work for a very long time. Even though those accounts have been shown to have been false (I’ve been part of the revisionist movement) they remain influential to this day. The revisionist account is noted and then writers proceed as if the new work had never been done. It’s evident that they know the work exists but because it conflicts with the story they want to tell, they ignore the methodological challenge presented by the revision and they ignore the particular consequences of the new work. How is a demonstrably false paradigm still so influential? Groupthink.
      • I infer from your comments that you side with what is supposed to be the majority position re AGW. Take a minority position and see if you find the same collegial reception. I know of a case that swims against the majority in certain significant respects, that when it is published will upend some beloved apple carts (which carry in them status quo apples) and yet the evidence is compelling. More broadly it would be naive to say that scholars do not respond to incentives and government funding creates incentives that change plausibility structures even when students/scholars are not aware of it. In my field writers refer routinely to 16th-century figures as “early modern” when those figures were nothing of the sort. Martin Luther was a medieval man. John Calvin was a medieval man. The Anabaptists anticipated aspects of modernity. The anti-Trinitarians in the early 16th century anticipated modern assertions of human autonomy with respect to all other authorities but the magisterial Reformation generally was not “early modern” and yet that nomenclature is almost unquestioned in Reformation and post-Reformation studies. That’s groupthink.

      I may not get to wear the high-priestly lab coat but my conversation with Todd Pedlar suggests that he’s aware of groupthink in the hard sciences.

  3. Global change science, just what is it?


    “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.” David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth

    “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsiblity to bring that about?”- Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Program

    “Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.” UN Agenda 21

    “I envisage the principles of the Earth Charter to be a new form of the ten commandments. They lay the foundation for a sustainable global earth community.” – Mikhail Gorbachev, co-author of The Earth Charter

    “We are close to a time when all of humankind will envision a global agenda that encompasses a kind of Global Marshall Plan to address the causes of poverty and suffering and environmental destruction all over the earth.” Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

    “We have reached the critical moment of decision on climate change. Failure to act to now would be deeply and unforgivably irresponsible. We urgently require a global environmental revolution.” Tony Blair,former British PM

    “Climate change should be seen as the greatest challenge to ever face mankind.”Prince Charles

    “Climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.” – Barack Obama,US President

    “Coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick. It’s global warming. It’s ruining our country. It’s ruining our world.” Harry Reid, U.S. Senate majority leader

    “By the end of this century climate change will reduce the human population to a few breeding pairs surviving near the Arctic.” – Sir James Lovelock, Revenge of Gaia

    “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.” Club of Rome, premier environmental think-tank, consultants to the United Nations

    “We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.”- Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

    “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”- Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment

    The world is being actively transformed by a spiritually pantheist power elite and their minions according to a very narrow economical/political/social philosophy called Technocracy, and it is impacting every segment of society in every corner of the world:

    “….Technocracy is being sponsored and orchestrated by a global elite led by David Rockefeller’s and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Trilateral Commission….Originally started in the early 1930s, Technocracy is antithetical to every American institution that made us into the greatest nation on earth. It eschews property rights, obsoletes capitalism, hates politicians and traditional political structures, and promises a lofty utopian dream made possible only if engineers, scientists, and technicians are allowed to run society. When Aldous Huxley penned Brave New World in 1932, he accurately foresaw this wrenching transformation of society and predicted that the end of it would be a scientific dictatorship unlike anything the world has ever seen.” (ibid, Preface, Technocracy Rising, Patrick Wood)

    According to Patrick Wood, our existing price-based economic system is being reinvented with new and untested ‘green’ economics theories such as carbon footprints. Carbon footprints supposedly equal the amount of carbon dioxide allegedly produced by driving your car, running your refrigerator and small appliances, and cutting your grass, for example. If you use too much, and your carbon footprint is too big, green Technocrats either want the government to punish you or ration the amount of energy you are allowed to receive. The ultimate goal is that the personal energy consumption of every human being should be closely monitored and controlled.

    Steve Milloy, author of the book Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life opens with a brief summary of what the “Green Movement” is really all about:

    “Green ideologues are bursting with an impatient zeal to begin dictating, through force of law, your mobility, diet, home energy use, the size of your house, how far you can travel, and even … how many children you can have … this is how the greens themselves describe their intentions … Living green is really about some else micro-regulating you ­– downsizing your dreams and plugging each one of us into a brand new social order for which we never bargained. It’s about you living under the green thumb and having the boundaries of your life drawn by others.” (Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them, Steve Milloy p. 3)

    There is a time for everything, including the weather, which changes seasonally and sometimes daily. The people most in touch with the vagaries of weather are those such as farmers, who live closest to nature. Their knowledge (scientia) is sensible and poses no threat to our flourishing as opposed to the phony science of global change/climate science, which if accepted without question means forceful imposition of a spiritually pantheist, communalistic totalitarian social order which was known as Marxist Communism during the 20th century. While 20th century Communists and Socialists annihilated in excess of one-hundred million men, women and children on behalf of their agenda today’s totalitarians speak in terms of billions. In order for new totalitarians to “save the planet” billions of men, women, and children must die around the globe while America’s population must be reduced by millions. In this light, I welcome Dr. Clark’s implied questions with respect to climate change science.

    • This is an excellent example of views on climate change driven by ideological affiliation rather than any actual knowledge.

  4. Thank you for your reply above, Dr. Clark. I’ll respond to some of your points.

    1. I have not spoken with David Small, but I find to be unconvincing his claims to which you linked in the orignal post. Dr. Small complains that his first paper was rejected because it contradicted climate models, but I doubt this is the full explanation because I have had absolutely no problem publishing multiple papers before and after tenure demonstrating major flaws in climate models. Dr. Small then complains that another paper was refused by a high-profile journal without review, but the reality is that it is difficult to get published in a high profile journal and very typical to experience rejection of a paper without review. His final complaint is that he published a paper that subsequently received substantial criticism, though it is not clear to me how that criticism is related to AGW groupthink rather than routine scientific disagreement. It’s possible that David Small has suffered unfairly for his views, but the experiences he relates strike me as quite ordinary and shared by many no matter what position they take on AGW.

    3. If widespread agreement by scientific societies that AGW is real is evidence of groupthink, how is the widespread rejection of the Federal Vision by Reformed seminaries and NAPARC denominations not also evidence of groupthink?

    4. The “Climategate” episode was blown way out of proportion, and the validity of the temperature dataset has been independently verified by an outside scientist who had been previously skeptical of AGW.

    5. I agree that poor scholarship sometimes gets published, good scholarship sometimes gets rejected, and there is a subjective component to science. And obviously it is easier to publish with the conventional wisdom than against the conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, what I’ve seen holding back anti-AGW scientists with whose work I have direct familiarity is their own lack of convincing arguments and evidence.

    • To add to point 5, sometimes dishonest and fraudulent science gets published. Wei-Hock Soon is just the latest example of that.

  5. Climate change for dummies.
    Long story short. At one time they used to call it Greenland, but then the Vikings kept driving around in their SUVs and snowmobiles ride ’em lawnmowers all the time. That caused everything to get colder so the Vikings got snowed out and had to leave/go back home. Then the Eskimos took over, but they never got around to changing the name because they were too busy hunting seals and polar bears.
    IOW don’t let the color on the map fool you.

  6. Following quotes from: “The Climate Con Goes On,” by Paul Driessen

    “…. Christiana Figueres, the UN’s chief climate change official, has declared that her unelected bureaucrats are undertaking “probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the [global] economic development model.” Her incredible admission underscores what another high-ranking IPCC official said several years ago: “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection. The next world climate summit is actually an economy summit, during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”

    “Why would any sane families or nations consign their fates to such insane, perverse arrangements? The arrangements are being imposed on them, through force, fabrication, and fraud. Poor, middle, and working class families will get little but more layoffs, further reductions in living standards, and longer postponement of dreams. But meanwhile Climate Chaos, Inc. (Big Green, Big Government, alarmist scientists, crony corporatist “Green” energy companies, and allied universities and scientific groups) will become richer, gain more control over our lives and livelihoods, and rarely be held accountable for the damage they cause. Retracting their “dangerous manmade climate change” tautologies would endanger their money, power, and reputations.”

    “That’s why their hypotheses, assertions, intentions, and computer models always trump reality. It’s why they are increasingly vicious and relentless in vilifying realist scientists who challenge their “97% consensus” and “manmade climate catastrophe” mantras – and in demanding that the news media ignore experts and analyses that do not toe the Climate Chaos line. They denigrate realists as “climate deniers” (deliberately suggesting Holocaust denial) and “oil industry shills” (while hiding their own suspect ethics, data “adjustments,” and Big Green billion-dollar Russian and other funding sources).”

    Read more:

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