Well, there’s a huge hullabaloo going around about the sooper-top-seekrit e-mails of some of the biggest proponents of global warmening in the scientific community having been pilfered by some nefarious hacker (note to world: I have an alibi. In fact, I have several.) and published on the web. And my, isn’t it enlightening to see what they have to say amongst themselves when they think no one else is listening.
Probably the best site thus far for digging out the good stuff is PowerLine. They have a superb writeup of the first e-mail to garner attention — where Professor Phil Jones talked about using a “trick” to adjust the data to “hide” some inconvenient evidence.
Now, this is certainly incriminating, it is far from damning. “Trick” is not necessarily deceptive — a “trick shot” in pool is flashy, but hardly misleading. I use some math “tricks” to do complicated calculations in my head, and they are very accurate. And there is very little lying done between a “lady of negotiable virtue” and her “trick” — both know the exact nature of their transaction.
This would hardly be the first time a grand conspiracy theory hung on the definition of a single word. Remember the infamous “Downing Street Memos?” The “smoking gun” there was a single sentence that hung on a specific interpretation of a single word:
“Fixed” in that context could mean a couple of things. To the conspiracy-minded, “fixed” meant “rigged” or “fabricated.” To those of us who are a bit more familiar with the Queen’s English, “fixed” was more likely to mean “attached.” Or, as I thought at the time, a synonym for “fixated.”
Fortunately, in the Global Warmening case, there are more damning facts. The PowerLine guys found a chain of e-mails where the scientists were discussing how to best keep their discussions out of public scrutiny — including trying to solicit e-mailers to announce they had an “expectation of privacy” after the fact and discussing other ways to foil a Freedom Of Information Act request for the e-mails, including simply deleting them.
There ain’t no spinning those e-mails. There is a direct, causal link spelled out — someone wanted the e-mails, so first they tried to find ways to refuse the request, then moved on to deleting them.
I’m just a layman here, but I always thought the scientific ideal was the dissemination of information, not suppression of it.
I guess that’s why I don’t hold some advanced degree.