söndag 11 juli 2010

Honesty vs Scientific Truth

The Muir Russell CRU Climate Gate Review concludes, without assessment of the quality of the scientific work, that CRU scientists were honest. Muir Russell thus allows 2. as a possibility in the following list of combinations of honesty and science 
  1. honest and correct
  2. honest and incorrect
  3. dishonest and correct
  4. dishonest and incorrect.
Muir Russell states that e.g. Phil Jones and Michael Mann were found to be honest (scientists), while the correctness of their scientific work was not an issue and thus was allowed to possibly be incorrect without interference with honesty.

But is it meaningful to separate honesty (as scientist) from quality of scientific work? What is best: To get a bypass operation by a skillful surgeon with (possibly) some tax problems, or by a tax-paying surgeon with (possibly) a bad track record? 

Is it advisable for governments to listen to honest scientists informing about incorrect science?

Muir Russells idea to separate (or mix up) honesty as scientist (whatever it means) with quality/truth of science, is dangerous both for heart patients, governments and the people. 
My experience from 40 years as scientist, is that honesty is not a virtue of scientists; many scientists steal or "borrow" results from other scientists without giving proper credit, but this dishonesty does not degrade the value to humanity of scientific (possibly inconvenient) truths. 

The conclusion of the Muir Russell Inquiry that Climategate does not give evidence of dishonesty of Phil Jones and Michael Mann, is based on a dishonest inquiry with all critics excluded, and in addition it seems to be incorrect. Nixon had to leave office because of Watergate, but Phil Jones is now back in office thanks to Muir Russell, despite Climategate. 
It is an unstable situation...

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