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Climategate and My Email to Steven Novella
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 30, 2009 10:28

I'm a regular listener to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast. Host Steven Novella and his crew put out an enlightening and entertaining product every week, and they come to reason's defense often enough to be called heroes.

I disagreed last week with SGU when Novella defended the climate researchers who've been accused of colluding to distort the science of climate research. The "climategate" storm began after many of the researchers emails were made public.

I briefly wrote about the issue in my post "Reality Always Wins: Climate Science Edition".

Novella contended that there are benign explanations for the emails and that they've been taken out of context, etc.

I wrote to Novella today to let him know my thoughts:


I'm a loyal listener and love the show. We don't have cable at our house, so we spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, and SGU is definitely our favorite.

I have learned so much from the show and I really respect your defense of reason -- especially with regard to evidence-based medicine.

Your response to the CRU climate research emails caught me by surprise. You seem to be letting the researchers off rather easy. At one point in the show, you admitted that "they certainly weren't being true to the spirit of open and transparent science publishing, but..."

Come on, Steven, the spirit of open science publishing is the whole point! We who are on the side of reason need to be above reproach and we needn't fake reality, even if it suits our ends in the short-term.

You wouldn't go this easy on anti-vaccers or someone studying the merits of homeopathy. You'd demand that they be true to the spirit of open and transparent science publishing and you'd regard a failure to do so as a major blemish on their records.

Keep in mind that the folks at CRU aren't researching something benign, such as distant quasars. Their research will have far-reaching political and social ramifications and I don't think we should allow sloppy science a mulligan here. The scientific community should be the best ambassador for the spirit of open science.

Keep up the great work at SGU.

Jeremy Browning

Edited Nov. 30, 2009 10:35


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