Google “Climategate” you get 31 million hits. “Obama” returns 40 million. Yet mainstream media, such as the New York Times, have said little about it. The New Yorker has said nothing about it. Given so much interest, that will change.
Some of my prior beliefs — that empirical support for the view that man has caused global warming is weaker than we’re told, that bloggers are a powerful force for truth — are stronger. But here are a few things I didn’t think of until now:
1. The truth leaks out before it gushes out. Laurie David’s children’s book — its egregious mistake, her blithe dismissal of that mistake — is an example of the truth leaking out. In the Ranjit Chandra case, little facts implied he was a fraud long before this became utterly clear. An example is the claim in one of his papers (published in The Lancet!) that everyone asked agreed to be in his experiment.
2. Teaching is even better done via scandals than via stories. The number of hits for Climategate is an indication of how much people are learning from it. As I blogged earlier, they’re learning a lot about science. A mere story about science would never attract so much attention. I should think more about how to use scandals to teach stuff. When Nassim Taleb is scathing about this or that, he has the right idea. Spy was the perfect example. It taught me a lot about New York City.
3. Jane Jacobs was wrong. Or at least missed something very important. In Dark Age Ahead, her last book, she pointed to a number of disturbing signs. One was the rise of crappy science. She was quite right about thatÂ — as scientists have become more professional they have become more status-oriented and less truth-oriented. She didn’t foresee that the Internet would be an enormously powerful corrective force, as is happening now. Climategate is a (relatively) small example of even bigger force: the rise of the power of sophisticated amateurs/hobbyists. Who, unlike professionals, with jobs and status to protect, have complete freedom. The first big example was printed non-fiction books, as I blogged earlier (which are written with great freedom, usually); but now the Internet provides another great outlet, much faster, cheaper, and more accessible than books, for independent thought.