The raw politics of science

by Judith Curry

 The myth that there is no politics of science is dangerous as it prevents the important and urgently needed institution of some democratic control of the existing system of politics within the commonwealth of learning. – Joseph Agassi

Climate Etc. has previously addressed in numerous posts the role of science in political debates and the politicization of science. This post focuses on politics WITHIN science, and is relevant to several recent posts:

This post is draws from a 1986 paper by philosopher Joseph Agassi entitled Politics of Science (which was sent to me by Joel Katzav). Excerpts:

It is an empirical fact that when I report to colleagues, philosophers, scientists, university professors and administrators, and other intellectuals, that I wish to discuss the politics of science, they first ask me if I mean science policy. When I say, no, the politics within the commonwealth of learning is what I wish to discuss, the response is, there is no such thing. When I say, I have ample empirical evidence to the contrary, they say, there should be no such thing. When I retort that there should be no more war, they say, war is a part of political life, willy-nilly; but university politics and politics in learned societies, and other intrigues and power struggles do not in any way belong to science. Scientists, they say, may very well be politicians, yet as scientists they cannot do politics within science. There is no room, they say, for politics in science.

The simple-minded view does seem to be dogmatic, pig-headed and harmful. Yet I should not be indignant, not only because indignation does not become a philosopher, but also because it is a standard conservative defence of the status-quo and the top-dog’s way to tell the under-dog that there is no status-quo and no top-dog, that everyone who is very good has a road open to the very top. In other words, the theory that there is no politics of science is not only simple-minded, it is rooted in naivety and ignorance-in the same naivety and ignorance exhibited by any member of any tribe, society or club, who says the same. Nevertheless, for the top-dog to say to the under-dog that there is no top-dog and no under-dog but that everyone has his just share is plainly self-serving.

The claim that science and politics do not mix is not an empirical claim. The principle in question is that of impartiality. Now what forces science to be and stay impartial? Answer: science is inductive, induction is the basing of one’s beliefs rationally upon facts, and given a state of a science inductive logic prescribes unanimity. Schools and factions are thus unscientific. But inductive logic is a myth and in different ways. First, it does not preclude the misguided choice of data, only, allegedly, the misguided choice of theories in the light of data. On the whole, as Karl Popper has put it, even if inductive logic forbids the disregard for, or the explanation away of, unpleasant data, it does not forbid the shying away from the search for them.

In addition to this, though inductive logic forbids the disregard for and the explanation away of, unpleasant data, thus imposing unanimity, scientific practice goes the other way: there is no unanimity in science and each school decides which data it finds unpleasant and it then attempts to explain them away. Though inductive logicians oppose this practice, they nevertheless participate in it by making it sound insignificant: they gloss over the fact that scientific schools and factions exist. Yet the claim that these schools contribute to the growth of science in many ways is more plausible than inductive logic. Hence, science is inherently political, and its politics was fairly democratic before it became big business. It is time to rescue the inner democracy of science before the damage becomes too extensive.

The band-wagon effect discussed thus far has been independently discovered about one generation later, by a leading American sociologist who is credited, quite rightly I think, with the very invention of the field of the sociology of science. Robert K. Merton has announced the Matthew effect: an accredited scientist will find it easier to find a platform to express his opinions than an unknown scientist. The Matthew effect is explained in public on many occasions and, unlike the band-wagon effect, it causes no laughter at all. Nobody thinks it indicates that journal referees are as much inept and parasitical as the critics who praise famous playwrights. This, of course, makes them even more harmful to the system.

What is the role of the Matthew effect? It is to keep the establishment in the position of power, in which they can determine, for a few years, who is the best. And they decide that they themselves are the best and they give themselves a few years to learn who is the best available and to induct the best into their ranks; and if the worst comes to the worst, and then use this as evidence that you cannot keep a good scientist down. But at least they try, and this guarantees their power.

What gives any scientist power? His influence on others. His holding office in a learned society. His ability to influence appointments to jobs. His ability to get jobs to his pupils and cronies. His ability to secure the publication of a paper by an unknown writer in a prestigious periodical. Everyone knows that: we all try to get a powerful colleague to recommend us for a job, for a grant, for an acceptance by an editor. The Matthew effect, thus, is the means of maintaining the stability of power in a society in which there is no use for the normal means of the perpetuation of stability, such as money and power.



Hence, the tyranny of science must be checked before it goes too far and the trend becomes irreversible. Anyone who cares for pluralism, be one pro-science or not, must volunteer some effort to control the aggression of science.

What, then, should be done to curb the aggressive conduct of science?    Feyerabend has a proposal: separate state and science.

Let us assume that science does have authority, that the authority of Science exercises power, and that at times it does this quite unjustly. Which authorities? It seems clear that universities, scientific societies, national scientific research and development institutions, are among the candidates. To the extent that we can speak of the authorities of science separately from science, then we do need to control them and prevent them from misusing their power.

How are such things determined in practice? They are determined, to make an empirical observation, by the scientific leadership. Who are the scientific leaders? Empirically, again, we may observe that we do not know in principle, that we do know in fact. Why Einstein was not a leader and Niels Bohr was, is, in my opinion, a matter of self-selection. What causes self-selection I do not know, but it may be a sense of responsibility, personal ambition, the self-assessment as a burnt-out researcher, and more.

Let me say at once that as long as it is impossible to become a scientist with no college degree, science is facing the real risk of sclerosis, ossification, petrification. The Matthew effect is only the tip of an iceberg. To repeat, recruitment and job placement spell political power, and it is in the hands of the Ivy League universities, which take themselves to constitute the standards of excellence.

There is much more to the politics of science, of course, including the political power of journal editors and conference organisers, its use and abuse, the political control of access of scientists to mass media, legislators, and more. To repeat, these raise many background questions which have hardly been studied. Also, clearly, there are almost no longitudinal studies of current policies of editors, of grant-giving committees, and the like. Even the reassessment, in historical perspective, of researches which led to Nobel prize awards has hardly begun.

We can study the contributions in journals whose policy is not to publish controversies, we can ask how fruitful this or that controversy was. We will find that considered controversy is the leaven of progress, I think. But I will not elaborate now. Rather, I should say, what seems to me most urgently needed now is the replacement of the current institutions of science, based on the view that science and controversy do not mix, with institutions based on the canons of proper scientific conduct, especially in controversy and debate

The canons of conduct of the commonwealth of learning have served it admirably well. Yet this is not to say that we cannot study empirically their desirable and undesirable effects and attempt to reform them. The inductive philosophy which has helped establish the commonwealth of learning was based on the idea of the scientists as amateurs and of scientific information as easily available. It is no longer adequate. What we need most are standards and values regarding scientific schools and controversies.

 JC reflections

This paper, written almost three decades ago, provides some fascinating insights into today’s academic culture.  I  googled around to find more recent papers on this topic.  Unfortunately, unless I’m missing something, theres not much to find.  Agassi’s paper has been cited only 4 times.  JC note to science and technology studies scholars: lots of low hanging fruit here for interesting and important studies!

I haven’t previously heard of the Matthew Effect, other than ‘the rich get richer.’  It definitely has profound implications in academia.  Most recently I’ve been trying to counter this one in context of the stadium wave paper, to try to make sure that Marcia Wyatt gets most of the credit.

The whole ‘top dog’ issue is very well described.  Apart from obvious goals such as tenure, promotion and salary increases, most academics aspire to the status of top dogs – journal editors, officers of professional societies, membership on government advisory boards, leadership on government funded science teams, large government research grants, receipt of awards, etc.  When I read the Climategate emails, I read their motives as being more concerned with the scientists protecting their top-dog status, rather than as advocates for environmental policies.

Now it really gets interesting when you mix the politics of science with REAL politics related to government policies, in this instance energy and climate.  As recently as several decades ago, scientists that spent too much time on public communication (e.g. Carl Sagan) jeopardized their top dog status or engaged in public policy were regarded either as scientific lightweights or past their scientific prime (e.g. research burnouts).  At this point, public communication and engagement in policy debates actually enhances your top dog status, PROVIDED that you are on the side of majority/consensus.  The recent list of AGU awardees has a number of names whose main accomplishments or rationale for recognition seem to be communications or advocacy:  Scott Mandia-Ambassador Award, Katherine Hayhoe, Climate Communication Prize.

This article made me reflect on my own career, and the price I’ve paid for taking a  position that is counter to that of the top dogs.  I’ve lost my top dog status in certain circles.  Do I care?  No.  I’m trying to make a stand for merit and democratization of science, outside the reach of the gatekeepers   I’ve increased my influence where I think it counts: with a broader audience of scientists and technical people, and in the policy process.   Fortunately, top dog status in traditional academic circles no longer keeps ‘undesirable’ science out of the public eye or translates into political power because of the democratizing effect of the internet.

We could really use more sociological research on all this, I would appreciate any pointers to literature that I’ve missed on this.




170 responses to “The raw politics of science

  1. I’m in touch with my inner democracy, but, oh, the poll-rigging.

    • re: the cartoon, that should read

      “Pay no attention to the MANN behind the curtain”

      [no, I do not think that Michael Mann is in fact some wizard of universal political power in climate science, but he is indeed so much like the pretend wizard in The Wizard of Oz]

    • Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Statecraft’ stated ”Global warming ‘provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism’.

  2. Pingback: The Raw Politics Of Science | Transterrestrial Musings

  3. David Mermin wrote rather nicely about the Matthew Effect; I think you can find it in “Boojums all the way through” (1990).

  4. Interesting post, Judith.

    • A similar happening has occurred in “the Law” with the Judicial Branch beginning in the late 19th century. The “progressives” of which Woodrow Wilson was a member, began their indoctrination of learning lawyers that our Constitution was to be “interpreted” as opposed to “amended” pursuant to the plain language contained in the Constitution. The Courts moved from “the rule of Law” in the Constitution to “the rule of men” in our current “post-Constitutional” era where the Constitution means what an “expert” says it means.

  5. How is the rich get richer different from survival of the fittest? How did they get rich in the first place?

    • Have to end inheritence of $ to make this concept valid, methinks.

      • You thinks not of genetics — the original form of inheritance.

      • Talent always skips a generation they say, though. Or disappears altogether….

      • Taking your analogy back to academia, though, I see your point.
        But I don’t agree. There are a zillion smart people. I would argue that academic success has a huge component of luck, not so much fitness. Right dissertation, right papers (taking on problems that are hard enough, but not too hard, etc…). Falling in with the right research group, etc…. All on top of innate talent and hard work, which probably many people have….

      • nickels wrote, “I would argue that academic success has a huge component of luck … ”

        In which case it would not be the rich getting richer but the not-rich getting lucky.

      • Yeah, its sort of seems like the analogy between power from wealth as opposed to power from academic success is a little strained because academic success/power isn’t inherited.
        But the positive feedback of power is analogous in both cases….

    • Survival of the fittest is about inherent ability (effort and intelligence). Rich get richer is strictly about $$$$. The more money you have, the more opportunities you have to make more money. It is easy to see this in action in commerce where many of the richest make money by investing the money they have. In science it is a little less obvious.

  6. Seems to me that in climate science (and disciplines that are now related to it), a big part of the problem is that folks who got into the field in the past just wanted to know and understand more about the climate itself. They didn’t come in with political or social agendas. My impression is that the Team types probably felt like they ought to be saving the world, and came into their professions already predisposed to find human beings as a negative influence on the planet.

    I’m willing to bet that if the pronounced cooling trend back in the 1970’s (that was causing so much alarm in the media) had continued to the present day, the focus of modern climate science would have been on attributing human causes to the cooling, and entire volumes of papers would have been published towards that end

    • The old hubris in science was that everything was natural. The new hubris in science is that nothing is natural. Humans cause everything – at least everything negative. :) Record rains? HUMANS! Deadly mudslide? HUMANS!! Earthquake clusters? HUMANS!!!

      The hubris and the poor science it generates is bad enough. But what’s really disturbing is the emerging – and self-destructive – social morality that surrounds it. It’s now immoral to drive a car, eat a pig, or turn on your heat.

  7. Apart from obvious goals such as tenure, promotion and salary increases, most academics aspire to the status of top dogs – journal editors, officers of professional societies, membership on government advisory boards, leadership on government funded science teams, large government research grants, receipt of awards, etc.

    That’s the Peter Principle.

    You can avoid it by screwing up in harmless ways, like wearing Bermuda shorts to work, and spend your life doing something you’re good at.

  8. The “Matthew affect” is part of the problem with science. But there is no easy answer. The famous will be courted and wooed. The unknown ignored. But as much (discoveries) comes from the unknowns as ever comes from the “Matthews”. There are a lot more unknowns.

  9. A good pointer is John Gall’s _Systemantics_ which I think is originally 1976. The earlier versions strike me as better. He kept adding to it.

    It suffers a little from not deciding that it’s a serious work rather than another Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown, but like Catch-22 you’ll find it packed with insights.

    My favorite observation was very subtle, with application everywhere, quote :

    Orwell’s Inversion: the confusion of input and output:

    Example: A giant program is to Conquer Cancer is begun. At the end of five years, cancer has not been conquered, but one thousand research papers have been published. In addition, one million copies of a pamphlet entitled “You and the War Against Cancer” have been distributed. Those publications will absolutely be regarded as Output rather than Input.

  10. “Apart from obvious goals such as tenure, promotion and salary increases, most academics aspire to the status of top dogs – journal editors, officers of professional societies, membership on government advisory boards, leadership on government funded science teams, large government research grants, receipt of awards, etc.”

    I don’t see why this should be a surprise. Ambition…the lust for power, money, recognition…are universal….the quintessence of what it means to be human once the even deeper drives for food and shelter are satisfied. . This holds in every human endeavor, in all human institutions, all human groups, both formal and informal, including of course the Catholic Church. The tendency to see scientists and academics as somehow “above it all,” is a major mistake, leading to all kind of disillusionment…and most importantly, grievous policy mistakes..

    • We know we do it all just to impress the girls. Some things never change….

      • You nailed it as far as I’m concerned. The brute Darwinian nature of our fancified human activities is all too clear once you take a look.

  11. Judith, three observations.
    First, the easiest way to become a top dog is in a very small kennel. Otherwise it gets complicated by dog fights.
    Second, there is a vast literature on equivalent phenomena in business organizations that might prove fruitful by analogy. Fancy stuff like organizational behavior ( how human ‘kennels’ work) and leadership (top dog traights). ‘Office politics’ are probably no different than those in the AGU or APS.
    Third, what has turned the climate (and energy sequelae) situation so poisonous is a reward structure that is no longer just ‘scientific’ or ‘academic’. (publications, tenure, best grad students, that sort of thing). Too many dollars flowing to ‘green’ solutions (Solyndra being a US poster child) that do not work without subsidies or mandates. Wind in the UK. Previously solar in Spain. Ethanol lobby in the US. So too many dollars are going from those commercial interests to politicians to provide the requisite non- free market environment, and to ‘scientists’ to provide pseudo- scientific underpinnings. No different than pay to play Chicago style politics.
    Now that the climate (the pause) and renewables (200 bankruptcies just in solar just in the past two years) stuff is starting to unravel, we are getting told ‘the science is settled’ and that those who point out the unraveling are flat earthers. By no less than a sitting US President. Positively Orwellian. Also a sign of increasing desperation by the warmunists.

    • David L. Hagen

      Federal policy on funding drives science politics
      The Threat To The Scientific Method Patrick Michaels | Jul 21, 2014
      President Roosevelt asked Vannevar Bush, who oversaw the explosively successful Manhattan Project, if there was a way that the horde of scientists recruited to produce The Bomb could somehow be kept in government employment.
      Within eight months, Bush sketched out a blueprint in which the Universities, not the government, would be the employers, but that the pay, either for faculty or for hired researchers, would actually originate from federal science agencies, cabinet departments, or the clandestines.

      The consequences were obvious. Universities charge 50 percent overhead on federal grants, using these profitable science Department monies to pay for unprofitable Art and Music Departments. The seeds of political correctness—which requires big, expensive, expansive government—were planted as the schools became addicted to federal welfare.

      Under unforgiving competition to secure funding for their institutions (and promotion for themselves) some scientists are behaving badly.

      • Interesting. Good chance that corporate welfare/crony capitalism will be an issue next year. Sounds like it should include government grants.

  12. Danley Wolfe

    It is a risky business indeed, this science politics. Those who have been given the power (as in the case of climate science) wield power to keep others from threatening their power as well as to advance their own power, therefore status, ego, financial position, etc. But climate science is not social science in the same sense. I continue to believe (naively?) that in the end Science (capital S) will show the way unless those in power control the data (or models) as well and that is the risk. In which case they will always try to control, modify and spin the truth to fit their needs/wants. Dictators hold power only if they are able to and they try to control what they want the population to see (the proletariat, worker bees, general population … ) … and if you make noise it’s off you go to the Gulags or Chinese farms of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or some such. Tread carefully. Information, and the freedom to acquire it unfettered, are the best defense and access and communication – especially today’s internet and importantly, blogs like JC’s are important. You can’t permanently fool mother nature but people will always try to dress her up (control what she looks like or what she appears to say) claiming she is this or that in order to serve their own interests. Am I being overly cynical?

  13. The Mathew Effect:

    There’s a battle for the culture afoot. On one side we have academia and the rest of the secular, socialist government bureaucracy, supported by the media and all of the thankless Eurocommunist governments in dead and dying Old Europe. Their opponents are mostly those who work for a living, who pay all of the bills and who essentially do all the heavy lifting for everyone else –i.e., the realists!

  14. Jim Cripwell

    In climate science there is definitely an elite who wield too much power; as our hostess has found to her cost. Somehow this power will have to be returned to where it belongs in physics; The measured empirical data; not the biased opinions of a few self appointed experts.

    The key question remains. Who is going to bell the cat?

    • “Bell the cat”. haha, I learned a new one.
      I vote these guys (not sure how effective, but….):

    • Hope you’re hanging in Jim. Glad to see you participating. Can’t be easy…

    • Jim

      Sincerely sorry to read of your health problems. Hope you have very many more posts left. You still need to hold Mosh to account and no one else here had the patience to do it.


    • Jim Cripwell,
      Also am sorry to read of your health problems. You are an effective free market advocate and write amusing comments comment. In a good way. Plus you are always a gentleman. Glad to see you continue to join the discussions. Best wishes.

    • Jim, two things. First, hang in there. It cannot be easy for you, but rest well in the knowledge that you have already made a global difference. Every voice counts, and every person can make a difference if they choose. You chose, and already have.
      Second, I for one am increasingly trying to bell this cat for you. Tried at Science with Marcott based on previous posts Judith was kind enough to host. Failed. Tried more recently in Australia concerning Cook et. al. via a letter and Jo Nova. Failed as predicted, for different reasons. Learning experiences on how to grasp some very slippery eels. But the eels should never forget that true fishermen always get better…and I love fishing.

      As my business interests wind down these next many months (a process started last year), my energies increasingly turn to belling this cat for you. May not succeed, but am going to give it a serious go. Including a new ebook on some of this out somewhen soon that might get some US election traction. A complementary copy will be coming your way via our hostess.

  15. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Report: Climate Change Skeptics
    Could Reach Catastrophic Levels By 2020

    WASHINGTON—In a worrying development that could have dire implications for the health of the planet, a report published Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that the number of climate change skeptics could reach catastrophic levels by the year 2020.

    According to the agency’s findings, the rising quantity and concentration of individuals who willfully deny or downplay the ruinous impact of the ongoing climate crisis will no longer be manageable by the end of the decade, leading to disastrous consequences for global ecosystems that may well prove irreversible.

    “The profusion of these skeptics was something that we as a nation should have made a better effort to get a handle on in the past,” said report co-author Gena Orlofsky, noting that the increase in private sector groups actively seeking to cast doubt on the reality of declining biodiversity and the melting of the polar ice caps was observable as early as the 1990s.

    “But frankly, it appears to be far too late now.”

    Summary  Judith Curry, your enduring legacy as a scientist — ANY scientist’s enduring legacy in fact — is no more, and no less, than the cadre of committed young scientists who embrace your ideas.

    By this zero-politics measure, James Hansen is by *FAR* the most prominent living climate-scientist, and the energy-balance climate-change worldview is his enduring legacy.

    No surprises here, eh Climate Etc readers?

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    • Hugh Whalen

      Nothing you write is surprising. However, I think quoting The Onion is new.

    • .” …enduring legacy is no more, and no less, than the cadre of committed young scientists who embrace your ideas.”

      Well, it’s an interesting take Fan. Of course there’s a new crop of young scientists every few years, so not sure about the enduring part.

    • If we had known all along that FOMT is secretly a writer for The Onion, his effusions here would have fit into the category of self-parody very nicely.

      Now that we know that FOMT represents The Onion School of Scientific Parody no one need be offended any longer. His posts are supposed to be humorous, not rationally intelligible.

    • FOMD, Ha ha! It reminds me of the cartoon chart of the rise of the use of the word “sustainable” in modern language.

      …… it showed that by the year 2100 all sentences would consist only of repetitions of the word “sustainable”.

  16. Curious George

    A “top dog” is synonymous with “accredited”. Once accredited, you can never be discredited, no matter how hard you try. Read the history of Nobelists Prof. Mann and Prof. Parmesan. Also Professor Ehrlich is well known for catastrophic predictions.

  17. Judith,
    Thanks so much for taking on this fight.

    I am sure the costs have been high for your professional ladder but you achieved the creation of a major counterweight to climate hysteria pushed by a clique. Hopefully the data and observations will continue to validate your positions. But the most important position is “do the science and maintain objectivity.”


  18. Fan. Need to round up the skeptics and re-educate them.

    • Danley Wolfe

      The word is “rehabilitate.”

      • Thinking of the reeducation camps set up by Mao during the cultural revolution. The EPA believes that there are too many skeptics; the statement from the EPA is frightening for those who believe in freedom of speech.

      • @ rls

        “Thinking of the reeducation camps set up by Mao during the cultural revolution. ”

        They have been moved to the US and re-badged as ‘Public Education’ and ‘Universities’.

        And the Matthew Effect took over every other part of academia long before it completed its conquest of the hard sciences. The common thread: progressivism. EVERY academic field is completely dominated by progressives, who, as a first order of business, ensure that non-progressives have zero chance of achieving ‘top dog’ status in ANY field. For the empiricists among us: How do you rate their success?

        The progressives have succeeded in creating a society in which it is essentially impossible to ‘learn a trade’. You MUST have a degree to even start out in any field. This guarantees that at a minimum the progressives will extort somewhere around $100k out of every young person as a condition of entering society anywhere other than at the absolute bottom and gives the progressives the power of the ‘GPA’ to ensure that any non-progressive that successfully survives the academic gulag will emerge with credentials that ensure them of permanent ‘underdog’ status. It may be POSSIBLE, for example, for a non-progressive to graduate from the ‘Columbia School of Journalism’ but it is NOT possible for him to graduate with a GPA that will get him a journalism job outside of Podunk. Wash and repeat for EVERY field that requires a ‘college education’ to achieve entry status.

    • Hugh Whalen

      It’s from The Onion. According to Wikipedia …

      “The Onion is an American digital media company and news satire organization. It runs an entertainment website featuring satirical articles reporting on international, national, and local news, in addition to a non-satirical entertainment section known as The A.V. Club, and a creative services division called Onion Labs”

      “The Onion’s articles comment on current events, both real and fictional. It parodies traditional news websites with stories, editorials, op-ed pieces, and man-in-the-street interviews, using a traditional news website layout and an editorial voice modeled after that of the Associated Press. Its humor often depends on presenting mundane, everyday events as newsworthy, surreal or alarming (“Terrifying Man Selling Dead Trees Out Of Middle School Parking Lot”) or parodying the media’s portrayal of news (“‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”).”

      • Thank you. I fell for it.

      • Hugh Whalen

        Do you think FOMD fell for it?

      • Hugh,
        alas, since Fan’s output here is nearly indistinguishable from The Onion (except that Fan is rarely funny), it will not be possible to determine whether or not Fan was taken in by that parody from The Onion.

        For even if FOMT should claim he was not taken in, such a claim from him should not be regarded as credible.

      • Hugh Whalen


  19. Schrodinger's Cat

    It seems to me that there is a “Gilded Corruption”, a sort of expectation for the Good and the Great to support the System that graciously recognised the Good and the Great and placed them upon their gilded pedestals.

    At the very least it would seem ungrateful to insist on details like scientific truth and integrity and much worse, taking a stand on serious matters would almost certainly jeopardise funding, status, establishment and related peer support.

    It probably represents the end of a scientific career, to define these things in precise terms, since after that watershed, the subject is more a creature of the establishment than an objective scientist.

    I did not define it as the end of the career as a scientist, because the creature in the Gilded Cage can still sing establishment songs for the rest of his or her life, giving blessing to this project or rubbishing that cause.

    It is a sort of Noble Cause Corruption on steroids. The warm feeling is replaced by money, fame and status. Sometimes Government scientists suffer from this condition.

  20. Steve Fitzpatrick

    Interesting paper. Seems to me closely related to Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. The “establishment/powers-that-be/poohbas” in any human endeavor benefit from a continuation of the status quo, and they will usually act aggressively to maintain that status quo (all for the greater good, of course!)… but, coincidentally, also to preserve their own status.

    Makes perfect sense that people who have a huge personal and philosophical investment in a dominant scientific paradigm, and who have potentially much to lose if that paradigm is overturned (not the least of which is the gravitas that past work based on that paradigm gives them), will be very resistant to accept data which conflicts with the dominant paradigm, no matter its source, quantity, or quality. Or as Max Plank noted: “Scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents……”, the truth waits for them to retire…. or die of old age.

    You can see this playing out today with ‘the pause': multiple seemingly desperate published ‘explanations’ (some of which appear to conflict with each other!) for why the empirical data don’t actually suggest the dominant paradigm (climate sensitivity near 3C per doubling… or more) could be mistaken. And uniform reluctance by the poobahs in the field to even consider the most obvious and likely explanation. The decades long variations in historical temperature trends, the rapid temperature rise between ~1980 and ~2000, and the very slow rise since ~2000 all point to substantial internal variability on multiple decade time scales, and combined with lower best estimates of aerosol off-sets (AR5), are most consistent with significantly lower sensitivity to forcing than the current paradigm dictates. Have these folks never read Kuhn?

    There would be nothing special about the escapades within climate science (same things happen in other fields), save for the huge potential impact climate science has on public policy and quality of life around the globe. If there was ever a field that needed to get past human foibles and frailties, it is climate science. IMO, they aren’t doing too well so far.

    • I’m glad to see another who has read Kuhn and has an idea that scientists are people, too. I have little doubt that Gavin and the rest have some familiarity with Kuhn’s work and Kuhn’s explanation of how it works.

      Problem is ego. Yes, they have staked their careers on this. They believe that they are scientists and are the reasonable ones. They are therefore immune from this, and the only challenges come from those who aren’t “climate scientists” doing “climate science.” They are able to insulate themselves in allowing in only those who agree.

      The paradigm will shift when they die off. Like Hoyle, who went to his death refusing to acknowledge that some Belgian Catholic Priest was correct about the origin of the Universe, they will go to their elder years wondering why they just couldn’t find that missing evidence that would have proven them correct.

      This is what is the biggest problem with “science.” Those who are the “big-dogs” paint science as a “truth” because the paradigm of the time supports them. Then along come challengers, who use science for what it is – a “process” for discovering those truths. Then they take over and the process repeats.

      And nobody has figured out how to prevent it.

      • Jerry: The psychological and political process referenced in Kuhn applies with and without either side ignoring or embracing the principles of the scientific method. I am reading Joravsky’s book, The Lysenko Affair, and there a generation of Russian genetic and agricultural scientists were cowed, distracted and ignored by political actors. The political networks among scientists and scientific institutions can not be ignored.

      • They are now trapped like rats on a sinking ship. They need safe passage.

        They do not know how to escape and must therefore continue to defend nonsense as 97%-consensus science

  21. So . . . when did this become news? When Al Gore says (2007) “The science is settled.”, what does that say about science and politics?

  22. Judith, great post. I have a great deal of admiration for your efforts in this area.

    I am still wading through the original paper but have found a few other gems:

    The prime example, then, of a case where the scientific authority and the political authority are fused, is where the state legitimises science and the authority of science legitimises the state. This, indeed, ought to be prevented. How, exactly, is hard to say.

    Indeed, Feyerabend says science is harsh to all of its competitors, and every activity that may enter the curriculum, for example,or compete for a research grant, competes with science for a place in the curriculum or for the grant money. Hence, the tyranny of science must be checked before it goes too far and the trend becomes irreversible. Anyone who cares for pluralism, be one pro-science or not, must volunteer some effort to control the aggression of science.

  23. I’ve decided my blog posts need more images. Let me know what you think of the cartoon I’ve added to this one.

    • Great cartoon. Are you Dorothy?

    • Judith

      if you want to drive up numbers what you need (apparently) are images of cats doing cute things…

    • A fan of *MORE* discourse

      Judith Curry resolves “My blog posts need more images.”

      The overwhelming majority of young scientists foresee a mighty sobering punch-line.

      Why is that? What do young scientists know?

      The world wonders!

      \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

      • My blog uses images and it seems to help. But I’m a very visual person. And I think most of my readers are college students with a weird sense of humour. They seem to like the ones with funny photos. I would encourage Dr Curry to use them as well. Meanwhile I’ll see if I can write something just for you.

    • I like the cartoon and I like the post. Can’t deny that there’s politics in science and that the politics in itself is not bad. There are problems when good thoughts are silenced, but those problems IMO will not be solved in an organized way. They will however be solved; with good leaders as yourself, the Internet, and time.

    • You know the old saying: “One picture is worth a thousand GCMs!”

    • David L. Hagen

      Highly appropriate.
      Dilbert opines:

      “Certainty about the future is a sign of mental illness.”

    • In my opinion, a great decision. Images convey more than words. And on point satirical images are priceless. Have been since the Boss Tweed era at least. Your first was extremely well chosen. Beware the flying monkeys that will surely come to find you now. Keep a bucket of water handy…

    • Image of harried author busily hammering at the keyboard: Dear GOOGLE, was it 200 solar energy companies went bankrupt over the last two years or was it a large number that went bankrupt during the last two quarters?

    • Yes, as they say a picture paints a thousand words. You may get tired of looking for them. I guess you can always google images

      Can’t go wrong with a wizard of oz picture. I thought it came from the article.

      • yes i’m doing the google images thing, i have a good one lined up for tomorrow’s post :) Agreed i shouldn’t put the image in the middle of quoted text, so as not to give the appearance of of the image coming from the quoted article

    • This one’s still my favorite cartoon – says it all:

    • Excellent! 2 thumbs up!

  24. A leading Harvard Medical School scientist says….
    A leading MIT mathematician says…
    A leading Stanford scientist says…
    A leading Government scientist says…

    Power is in the eye of the beholder which is highlighted by various media.

    A leading Iowa State University entomologist says…

    How many times do the first four institutions appear in the news vs the Midwestern university professor.

    “What gives any scientist power? His influence on others. His holding office in a learned society. His ability to influence appointments to jobs. His ability to get jobs to his pupils and cronies. His ability to secure the publication of a paper by an unknown writer in a prestigious periodical. Everyone knows that: we all try to get a powerful colleague to recommend us for a job, for a grant, for an acceptance by an editor. The Matthew effect, thus, is the means of maintaining the stability of power in a society in which there is no use for the normal means of the perpetuation of stability, such as money and power.”

    The Matthew Effect (Biblical: pertaining to Jesus in relation to Jewish Laws and Traditions) describes many institutions not the least of which is science as a mechanism of control. Anytime there is control of others, there is politics.

    An early attempt to democratize academic departments was to rotate the chairperson amongst the senior/tenured professors. This failed miserably since the hassles, including teaching assignments became a political football. “I taught that class last. John on the other hand hasn’t taught that beginning class ever since I’ve known him.” You get the picture: hassles and back-scratching.

    I am optimistic that the internet is at least one of the democratization strategies. The demographics of retiring scientists, for now at least, they have the time and expertise to identify bogus science and cronyism. Something about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time.

    Congress on the other hand is beholden to the lobbyists that funnel the money that influences the agenda that ultimately ends up as an Agency’s rules and regulation. No dearth of examples here!

    And for Climate scientists who populate and direct the climate science agenda, “…we all know that…” “We are consensus”.

    • I told my daughter she needed to apply to those schools not because they give a substantially better education than those one step below, but because other people think they do.

  25. Wonderful cartoon. And a great post.

  26. Reblogged this on The Rio Norte Line and commented:
    Politics has twisted not only the Constitution and the “rule of law”, but also science.

  27. Tanya Hyman

    Dr. Curry- I’m finishing my M.S. At Georgia tech in the History and Sociology of Science and Technology. We did quite a bit of reading and discussion regarding the politics and sociology of the scientific community. You might be interested in talking to Dr. John Krige or Dr. Steve Usselman at Tech in HTS. Their studies are more historical in nature but I’m sure they could point to current scholarship in the area. I enjoy reading your posts.

  28. The Mathew Effect:

    “Al Gore’s bizarre Nobel Prize for An Inconvenient Truth… shows that the forces of reason and common sense are barreling out of control here. (Ethics Scoreboard)

    • 2007: “If Al Gore and others will not or cannot explain the real truths and controversies about global warming to the science-challenged public, then his side of the debate needs to be anchored by someone of integrity who can.”

      Well? Who’s it gonna be?


      • Shall we hand our individual liberties over to government bureaucrats today based on government scientists’ fears about climate change tomorrow? And, haven’t we learned that bringing stability to the world outside our borders is a thankless task? Can the new mainstream in academia and government – dedicated only maintain political power over the masses – ever be expected to heed traditional maxims that it rebelled against and prevailed over, such as: abundant caution causes no harm; and, when in doubt do not act. Phillip Stott warns us that actually attempting to bring stability to the world’s complex, coupled and chaotic climate system by singling out a single factor like atmospheric CO2 levels, “may even trigger unexpected consequences.”

  29. John Vonderlin

    Dr. Curry,
    Thank you for this post. Your mention of the Matthew Effect helped clear up for me why I am both incredibly intelligent and exquisitely beautiful. Why I should also be so devastatingly humble still remains a mystery though.

  30. So let me get this straight. If you accumulate some scientists in one place for an extended period, they tend to form a social hierarchy. The ones at the top of the hierarchy attempt by various, even nefarious, means to maintain their position because there are more perks for those at the top.

    Wait a minute! Are you saying … no! it can’t be … that scientists are HUMAN???

    Get outta here!

    • Yep. Scientists suffer from all the failings of Mannkind.

      But climos seem to suffer from them worse than others. Lots of ‘fail’, no so much of ‘kind’. And far to much Mann.

      See Climategate – the gift that gives on giving.

  31. ” I’ve lost my top dog status in certain circles.”

    FWIW, you have “top dog status” in my circle. Why? Because I believe you’re a genuine honest scientist. (Don’t expect any awards or perks…)

    Pielke Sr. is another one I trust and feel the same way about.

  32. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    In any group of people organizing to achieve a common goal, someone will have to lead. There are two types of leaders – those who are reluctant and lead because it is necessary, and those who are drawn to it. It’s the latter who are dangerous.

    There is nothing wrong with politics. Like propaganda, it is a value neutral term, until people start using the terms…politically. In its broader sense, “politics” is just how we get things done in the group, persuasion, coercion, coalition.

    The people for whom “politics” is a dirty word are those who want to claim to be above it, which in pro-CAGW advocacy is just about everybody. Yes, they’re trying to get people to implement massive policy changes, but its just science.

  33. Phyllograptus

    This post and the Matthew Effect explain why discussing Climate Change is so difficult. A lot if not most of the arguments are not really about the science, they are about belief and maintenance of status and funding. The differences in the science could be discussed and argued like any other normal science if status and funding were not so overwhelmingly powerful. Climate science has been raised from relative obscurity (for most of the general public) and now sits in status as one of the most talked about and important sciences out there.
    What other science is not just contributing to the betterment of humanity, but is actually us the path to save the entire planet and humanity from itself. What could be more important than that. /sarc

  34. Science isn’t political in the same way that the law isn’t political. Both should be without bias, but both are rife with it. Notice how which judges got appointed by whom seems to correlate with many legal decisions?

    It is the most ambiguous legal decisions with policy implications that often get decided on party line votes.

    Are the sciences with the most uncertainty and policy implications the ones that get most politicized? It seems that way.

    The more ambiguity and uncertainty in the topic, the more often your judgment will favor your value system.

    If it could go either way, then you might as well favor the version you like better.

  35. Do we need to feign surprise and look for literature on the subject? Philosophy and sociology to help us once again to the bleeding obvious? More of those “studies” required?

    That might be termed Captain Renault Syndrome, whereby one is shocked – just shocked! – to find that human nature is going on in this establishment.

    • mosomoso,

      Reminds me of the NY Times headline “Study Shows Men and Women Different.”

  36. The only reading I can think of off hand is Shakespeare’s McBeth:

    “Power corrupts absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    Not very original, I know, but definitely a good study so to speak.

    hmm, I wonder who we could assign the roles? I imagine Michael Mann sees himself as Duncan. Heart strings for the poor victim.

    Judy blew it she could have been Lady McBeth!

    • It’s not power that corrupts, it’s power without accountability. That is the problem with scientists being advocates. They suffer no consequences for being wrong. Paul Erlich is the prime example.

  37. “When I say, no, the politics within the commonwealth of learning is what I wish to discuss, the response is, there is no such thing.”

    They must be quite ignorant about the history of science. Even in the popular literature. For example, in his books Stephen Jay Gould well-documented how scientists were creatures of their time — working to support their beliefs and politics.

    Also, were these people not familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. A paradigm, a scientific consensus, is a social construct that through political means focuses the group’s effort — but not an ethereal object of logic.

    It’s odd that we’ve developed amnesia about all of this.

  38. The myth that there is no politics of science is…

    … definitely a crazy notion: Climate Change is (Political) Science –i.e., a manifestation of an Imperial Presidency and Senate and an Imperial Academia that is contemptuous of the constitution and of science, and condescending to the people with its anti-energy, pro-big government-global warming propaganda and anti-business policies.

  39. Judith — “almost two decades ago” – you mean three!

    • .. I’ve always wondered just how well climate scientists understand numbers …

      • Faustino

        This post is about ‘Politics within science.’ We have also seen in this and other articles about how scientists seem to become more outspoken on climate change only once they retire. I think there are many parallels with the ‘mouths of the leon’ post boxes used to denounce supposed enemies of the state in medieval Venice

        “The complaints could relate various types of crimes including the non-compliance to health, blasphemy or tax evasion . Were distributed at least one in each district, near the Judiciary places, the Doge’s Palace or the churches, and were used to collect information, reports or accusations against those who did the various crimes.

        Only the heads of the District could go to the back of the wall where the various cassettes was, whose keys were kept by the Magistrates, and each of them picked up the accusations for a different type of offense: on charges of tax evasion, related to the blasphemers, and various others.

        Boca di leon Sometimes it was accusations without foundation, due to envy or hatred of a person to the other, otherwise these reports saved the safety of the Serenissima.”

        —– ——-

        It seems to me that the modern internet is a close relation to the ‘mouths of leon’. Whilst much is done openly much is also done covertly to harm reputations..

        If one of the great and the good of climate science steps out of line, it is easy to denounce them as a blasphemer. Reputations become sullied without good reason and the former great and the good can become utterly ruined.

        Many of the denounciations in Venice were to do with envy, politics or ideology. Many people consequently feared to step out of line with the prevailing consensus for fear of being ruined by some one with a grudge.

        I see Judith and other sceptical climate scientists in this position and also know that many more would be more outspoken if it wasn’t for fear of being unveiled as a ‘traitor.’

        I also see Judith as somewhat cast in the role of Portia in the Merchant of Venice. She initially chose the Gold casket of consensus climate change where the rewards and benefits appeared to offer glittering promises, but as we all know the gold and silver caskets were false, and it was the lead casket that held the truth.

        ‘Finally, the lead chest, which is made of a very humble metal, seems to symbolize inner beauty and modesty (the exact opposite of the shiny gold casket) and contains a picture of Portia. The inscription is also significant: “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath”

        In choosing (eventually) the lead casket -the unfashionable and ‘treacherous’ view of climate-Judith is indeed hazarding everything she has spent an entire carer building up. She is a brave woman.

        Lets hope that other scientists choose the lead casket and brave the ‘mouth of leon.’


      • nottawa rafter

        I have no doubt someday Judith will be viewed by the climate community as prescient. Given the tenor of some recent papers, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. All it takes to see the holes in the story is an inclination toward a little detective work. Just like Colombo knew, things don’t add up. Of course what we don’t know is how many want to walk around all disheveled in a rumpled up trench coat chompin’ on a cigar.

      • nottawa rafter

        “There’s just one more thing.”

  40. No examples from the physical sciences? The problem with this hypothesis was that there was no supporting evidence that this has ever happened (names, places). In the physical sciences you can go out and measure something to show whether your ideas are right, which makes wrong theories short-lived. Copernicus, Newton and Einstein prevailed because each measurement supported their theories and predictions more strongly, and they also clarified things that were already occurring and previously not well explained. The physical sciences progress in this democratic way, where the arbiter is measurement, not by name-recognition and power. I would say that the critics of Agassi’s ideas that he started with are therefore correct. There is no room for politics to influence the physical sciences because it is so evidence-based. You don’t have an explained measurement means you don’t have a theory.

    • The Great Global Warming Debate has been an ongoing process in the US since about 1997. Much of the groundwork was surreptitiously laid by companies like Enron and Lehman Brothers that worked behind the curtains in concert with dead and dying Old Europe — especially France — to quietly stab America in the back. Then, as of November 7, 2000 it was certain that George Bush had defeated Al Gore (the EU and UN presidential choice) and the war against reason went mainstream.

    • John Carpenter

      Pioneers of science earn top dog status automatically. It is the followers that can get hung up in the politics. Though the idea of truth will eventually win out i.e. Arbiter is measurement, recognition and advancement can be delayed by those in power who see it as a threat to their position. Very common in all walks of life, science not withstanding. I think this is the issue. Those in position of power don’t ‘see’ themselves acting in this way (though some certainly do) as apperently as under dogs. In short, scientists behave like all other humans.

      • Jim Cripwell

        John, you write “Arbiter is measurement,”

        Can I get you to agree that
        1. Climate sensitivity, however defined, cannot be measured at the present time,

        2. Therefore all numeric values quoted for CS are nothing more than guesses.

      • Rob Starkey


        Would you agree that TCS can be measured over specific past periods but that is only an indication (guess, estimate, etc.) of what it will be in future periods.

      • Jim Cripwell

        Rob, you write “Would you agree that TCS can be measured over specific past periods but that is only an indication (guess, estimate, etc.) of what it will be in future periods.”

        Definitely, and emphatically NO. CS has NEVER been measured. Have you reference to claim that it hasÉ

    • Jim Cripwell

      I could not have said it better myself.

    • Jim D: Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein prevailed, following contentious political discourse.

      • Sometimes it takes decades, and sometimes it is after the lifetime of the scientist who came up with the idea.

  41. For further reading, I highly recommend David Hull’s long but very carefully observed (from inside) and thought-out Science as a Process. That book applies evolutionary reasoning to the ugly but entertaining top-dog and school-of-thought battles in science. It argues/shows that much of the success of science (in terms of both discovery and dissemination) comes from those battles. In fact, in true Fable of the Bees style, he shows how scientists engaging in various forms of unedifying behavior may advance the state of knowledge more than those who always play nice. His context is pure science with no policy implications, so your mileage may vary. But the point is that science may be like democracy, the worst system except for all the others. Even FOMD should like Hull, because his measure of success for a scientist is how much the scientist influences the discussion in the field going forward (even if everyone is attacking him).

    Other “science study” writings that argue for the functional self-regulation of science despite its kinked path to truth would be Michael Polanyi’s classic essay on The Republic of Science and Harry Collins’s books on the gravitational-wave-detection community. These are not mere apologetics but try to dig underneath to explain the mechanisms and incentives by which conflict is resolved in science. Again, though, neither discusses policy-relevant research, choosing to study pure-science areas where top-doggism and clashing tribes are uncontaminated by larger political issues.

  42. For some perspective, lets go back to 1613:

    SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS)
    Title: The Solar Activity in the Time of Galileo
    Authors: Sakurai, K.
    Journal: Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol. 11, P. 164, 1980….11..164S&db_key=AST&page_ind=0&data_type=GIF&type=SCREEN_VIEW&classic=YES

  43. For further reading you may want to consider: Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 21, 1991, 102-109.
    By Joseph Agassi,
    (That is, Mad Max Weber and science as a vocation and the myth of a value neutral social science. It’s on line. )
    Or C. Wright Mills, and “Situated Actions And Vocabularies Of Motives”.
    Goffman, Irving, Asylums.
    Berger and Luckmann, The Social Construction Of Reality.

  44. The Matthew Effect: gross initial conditions matter. About as profound as the psychology behind 99-cents.

    The Pleistocene is an Ice Age that until now looked to be heading to iceball. One wonders how to discombobulate the general public to a fearful frenzy over earths destination Venus.

    Raw? No no no. The political fermentation of science… or how to make a stink and get the girls to consens-us. Next on Fresh Air

  45. Environmental advocacy groups have actively inserted themselves and their political views for a long time at all levels science, education, government and policy shaping and at the United Nations. For the most part it appears they have operated under the radar of public attention regarding their true levels of influence, although a quick glance at the subject reveals the immense influence they’ve had for decades.

    Now, many of these groups are finally showing their cards and admitting their desire to have greater control and ultimate control over not just the politics, but over the general populations of nations.

    “The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system,” reads the final draft of the Margarita Declaration, presented at a conference including about 130 environmental groups.
    “To combat climate change it is necessary to change the system,” the declaration adds.
    Environmental activists met in the oil producing, socialist country of Venezuela as part of a United Nations-backed event to increase civil engagement in the lead up to a major climate conference.
    But environmentalists surprised U.N. officials by offering up a declaration that not only seeks to end capitalism, but one that also opposes U.N.-backed efforts to fight global warming — namely, cap-and-trade and forest conservation programs.

    Do these declarations really oppose U.N. policies? It’s doubtful.
    What better way to force the world to bend to their political will than by imposing worldwide statist control. President Obama has echoed similar sentiments over the years, lamenting he’s not a dictator, but authorizing his agencies to enact policies favorable to those desired by NGO’s, other environmental groups who have both pressured and invested $ for influence and true desires of the United Nations to impose restraints on nations at many levels.

    It seems that the direction these many groups are taking has to have a chilling affect on science and the degree to which politics is woven into it.

    • What about companies such as Exxon/Mobil and Haliburton. Do you not think that they exert a tremendous amount of influence in U.S. and World politics?

      I’m not bleeding heart “Liberal” and believe that “safe” fracking for natural gas is a key in addressing GW (as Dr. Muller of Berkeley Earth argues).

      But for 8 years, V.P. Cheney using his position of power blocked the release of information on what chemical “brew” was exactly in fracking — as intellectual capital and proprietary. Only now are companies coming forward in releasing this information so it can be fully evaluated/studied.

      Without V.P. Cheney’s actions, we would be a whole lot further along in understanding fracking’s impact on the environment.

      Is your opinion truly objective and balanced — or one sided?

    • crcarlson | July 24, 2014 at 4:56 am


      Exactly to the point.

      Why aren’t the “scientists” polled as we have crude polls of “journalists” who can’t even fake objectivity any longer?

    • I wouldn’t use anything out of Venezuela in these discussions. I lived there for quite a few years, today it’s like a Latin American North Korea. It’s so undescribable I gave up writing about it. Today I spent about four hours finishing my research on how billions of usd are stolen by the Venezuelan dictatorship and brought to Spain, and I was getting ready to publish something about it, but then I realized it was just way too big a story, too complex, and it could get me in real trouble. So I wrote a short article about the day I met Fidel Castro, and sort of left it at that.

      • I still have family down there. North Korea? I give it a marginally better score. But it is bad. I hear almost daily of the latest riots, shortages, loss of rights, etc.

  46. Our American friends need to consider the example of Britain’s climate policy, which has failed. Read: ‘The political sustainability of climate policy: The case of the UK Climate Change Act’

    Some highlights:
    The 2008 Climate Change Act has failed to produce political certainty and investor confidence.

    Public interest implementation theory is applied to analysis of the political sustainability of the Act.

    Climate change is a difficult policy problem due to low political salience and immediate costs.

    The Act has produced some institutional innovation and positive policy feedback effects.

    However, opponents have not been neutralised, investment effects are incomplete and the Act remains at risk.

    See paper here:

    Today we also learn British Gas wants to cut emissions targets in favour of gas. It has already sold its off-shore wind farms.

    I think the UK and EU will end up buying a lot of US gas, and cutting, or reducing Russian gas supplies , hence all the anti-Russian hysteria over the downed Boeing 777.

  47. Dear Dr. Curry — you mentioned the recognition that Dr. Katharine Hayhoe (TAMU) is receiving. I deeply admire Dr. Hayhoe, not as a climate scientist (I’ve learned a gazillion times more science from you and on this blog) — but as a Christian.

    Dr. Hayhoe is receiving recognition by her providing “blowback” against the “religious bullying” that is occurring in Congress and by Religious Fundamentalists in the GW debate (something you “never” discuss on this blog).

    Hearing people like Inhofe is one thing. But when the GW issue spills over into conservative churches (which I attend), you know something is really going on. A few months ago in general prayers, I heard about the “Green Dragon” campaign (which I found out was heavily funded by Exxon/Mobile of all people) where the purpose is to tell “Christians” how Satan is using GW to corrupt minds, especially of our youth.

    • Stephen: Perhaps you are attending the wrong church. I have never attended a church where acceptable political beliefs are preached, and that includes environmentalism. It is despicable to preach, even from a book or blog, that christian belief requies one to believe in AGW. There are weird religious beliefs abound, and environmentalism has become one of those.

      • You miss the first chapter, where the care of the Earth is given to Adam and Eve and their children?

      • Steven Mosher

        google stewardship..

      • rls — Katherine Hayhoe is absolutely not saying that Christians should believe in AGW. She is countering Religious Fundamentalists (people like Senator Inhofe who is citing things like God’s promise to never flood the World again). You can believe that AGW is or is not occurring — but an argument that AGW can not happen per God’s Word just isn’t Biblical. That’s Katherine’s message.

    • Again, the Exxon straw man. When are the clowns on the left going to figure out basic economics? (Likely never). You restrict supply, add graft (Greenwash extortion) you RAISE COSTS AND PROFITS. Exxon couldn’t have invented a scam better for its interests then the domestic greenshirt movement. AGW mythology is a conduit for 1940’s RATIONING and other failed top-down GOVERNMENT contrivances with a 100% failure rate historically.

      The price of finished carbon products is double what they would other wise be without extremist restriction of North American production. It isn’t a “conspiracy” but plain old opportunism.

    • “Dr. Hayhoe is receiving recognition by her providing “blowback” against the “religious bullying” that is occurring in Congress and by Religious Fundamentalists in the GW debate (something you “never” discuss on this blog).”

      And I pray we never do. Bringing religion into this will do nothing but confuse, confound and muddy the waters.

  48. Hello Judith. Have you heard of Mike Haseler? He did a series of articles which in part were an off shoot of his submission to the UK parliament climate committee last Autumn. It seemed, to me at least, that in his submission he left the best bits out, and posted them on his blog instead. A great shame. BUT, given the Matthew effect, it was probably the correct decision on his part.


    I think you will find that on his blog from the middle of last summer to present there are a series of relevant, interesting, and some well researched posts.
    And yes, on some of them I left comments…

  49. Staring me in the face! The politics of who will be first author on a publication. The dance is quite intricate for some.

  50. Jo Nova with insight;

    Statements like, “science has become aligned with the Democratic party” are a part of the problem. It’s not “science” that’s aligned with any party, it’s the bureaucracy of science that has aligned itself with the Democrats.

  51. As usual a confusion of he politics of scientists with the politics of science. FWIW, fifty years ago science departments were pretty well split politically (as a rule of thumb the physicists were more Democratic, the chemists more Republican, the mathematicians didn’t give a damn and nobody cared about the biologists. This changed cwon and others would do well to think about why.

    • It changed because the funding and cultural domination of academia and thereby “research” became more part of the Keynesian central planning design. The “blue state” economic model;

      While it’s commonly and ignorantly (Fanboy being a perfect illustrator of the delusion) claimed superior education leads to a more progressive (left-wing) outlook how does this explain the democratic party’s domination of prison populations, methadone clinics, homeless shelters or generally people with extreme low incomes and very poor educational results? (yes, they’re on the “blue” model as well). The urban poor and commonly dis-guarded? (blue model). Society is more complex with more enclaves and inner workings. Secular humanism, statism and/or atheism, the net cultural results can cross among many groups and classes. Hence the Hollywood producer, millionaire if you will, can share many of the same social and political views with someone he might never to directly associate with personally and hold complete contempt for in a mutually exclusive way (say other than politics).

      The same paradox is found in the “science” and “education” community. Many highly compensated (at least when compared to median incomes of different fields) consider themselves exploited economic victims who are under appreciated and under represented politically. Many share a great sense of job insecurity (although objectively their jobs are more secure statistically to the general population), a contempt for the “private sector” and those who pursue “profits”. This is very common across the country and at the university level and is essential to the socialization and peer group formation. So while Michael Mann might objectively be seen as paranoid delusional, in his own mind he is a “victim” fighting for a righteous cause (against industrial might for example) and is subject to persecution from political enemies. How this culturally becomes an enclave in largely government funded universities and perpetuates itself over decades is worth considerable reflection. The “Blue State” economic model which is also the tradition found in Old Media or the government bureaucracy itself both of which are also democratic (left-wing) enclaves. So what is perpetuated in public unionized schools to the proletariat, proliferates at elite and common university levels each with their own government related funding mechanisms (debt finance, endowments benefiting from fiat currency related asset inflation or who the “1%” REALLY ARE for example) consolidated over 100 years of massive government expansion, cronyism and institutionalization. The academic and “science” left aren’t just a political block they are a social and cultural class with a wide variety of groupings that even compete with each other but share the same political orthodox.

      Some sciences lead itself more to private sector symbiosis and there you will find the skewing of political acculturation less pronounced, computer science, engineers etc. as you stated. The fantastic growth in research and academic funding (largely through debt) from the WW2 period on has created the politically needed hand-to-mouth culture of a Blue State operation. From this abyss rose “climate science” which is comparable to casinos adding slot machines to bathrooms in the now distant past. Due to the massive over leveraging the “science” community, in particular the fluff and junk science portions which climate science is surely a member, are likely to continue in the most reactionary fashions as the events in Australia, little discussed for tactical reasoning of the media blue arm are certainly apparent;

      A rent seekers nightmare.

      • It is actually very simple (you can drop the word fog machine). There is one word that belongs in everybunny’s outlook, empathy. Conservatives and especially libertarians, have proudly lost that and that is why a lot of us have no use for them.

      • It’s a choice between freedom or a nanny state where everyone is born into debt and obligations to conform regardless of reason. The climate orthodox is a perfect illustration of the political repressive culture you demand a pass for because of “empathy”? Nice word co-op.

      • Eli: “This changed cwon and others would do well to think about why”. And Eli gives the answer. Drum roll: Empathy. This is apparently something liberal scientists have and conservative scientists don’t have. Guess we need some examples.

      • @Eli Rabbit “empathy. Conservatives and especially libertarians, have proudly lost that and that is why a lot of us have no use for them.”

        What an ugly and pernicious lie you commit when you say that the Left is empathic. The Left certainly uses the rhetoric of empathy but it begins and ends there.

        What possible meaning could empathy have for a group that refuses to be held accountable for its actions? That refuses to accept responsibility for the human wreckage its policies create? That refuses any historical context to their own behavior? That lies about its past?

        What meaning does empathy have for those who are always seeking ways to exercise their ‘empathy’ on someone else’s dime?

        Empathy at the point of a gun should raise everyone’s hackles.

        What the Left does under the rhetorical cover of ‘empathy’ is use the police power of the State to make people dependent on government for the sole purpose of increasing the tax take, for increasing the voter block and the hell with the consequences of the programs that are fashioned for that purpose.

        Janet Reno is a poster child for the Left and its relationship with responsibility. She claimed she was responsible for burning alive women and children. What were the consequences of her accepting responsibility? Absolutely nothing. Same with Bill Clinton, Hillary Godham Clinton, Barack Obama and the whole of the Progressive Left.
        With a lapdog press to whitewash their every move when they aren’t outright participating in lies, it simply encourages them to continue
        accreting more and more centralized power.

        I won’t say, ipso facto, that no registered Democrat is without empathy just like you can’t say Libertarians or Conservatives are without empathy.

        But the idea that the Left has empathy, or cares about much more than power and money for themselves is one of the biggest cultural lies that goes unchallenged, and we suffer for it. Greatly.

    • ‘Hello, is that the UN Department of Climate Change?’

      ‘It is. What section are you requiring?

      ‘Could you put me on to The Gravy Train Department,

      ‘Hold the line.’

  52. Here’s a good example of how politics infiltrates places where it shouldn’t.
    From the article:

    A search for synonyms of “obstructionist” on, which cites Roget’s, reveals that the source considers several words related to conservative and right-leaning political stances to fit the definition of a “person who is cautious, moderate; an opponent of change.” Under antonyms, it lists left-leaning words.

    Included in the list of obstructionist synonyms are “right-winger,” “right,” and “rightist” and ”Tory,” the British conservative party.

    Other synonyms listed for obscrutionst are “traditionalist,” “conserver,” “conventionalist,” “unprogressive,” and “redneck.”

    • Dr. Curry could only Google a few articles on the raw politics and motives found in “science”. This one goes back almost 30 years. What does that tell you about how thick the intellectual orthodox and conventionality of the science community is??

      It’s really about vast social administrative arrogance as a cover for various agendas.

  53. The “Mathew Effect” is an inherent part of human nature. I worked for many years in a corporate culture where it was the fundamental basis or driver used to manage personnel. Being an alien from another dimension I could sit in those conferences and watch Homo sapiens perform, and what I saw didn’t impress me very much. I guess this subject may be too painful for some, and some don’t get it. But I sense Dr Curry understands where I’m at.

    • Some businesses have discovered that, to be successful, it helps to develop good leaders. And I believe that good leaders can overcome some of the problems of the Matthew Effect.

  54. Judy: If you want to read a short but well-written case study of the Matthews effect, I strongly recommend Newton’s Tyranny. The authors relate how Newton purloined Flamsteed’s data and refused the publication of Stephen Gray’s breathtaking research into electrical phenomena.

  55. Edit: “This post is draws from a 1986″ — drawn.

    Once status-hunger is in control, others become mere cannon fodder. It is vital that they be deprived of defensive cannons.

  56. The Left love to quote this from Eisenhower’s farewell address of 1961.

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    But they seem to energetically ignore what comes only three sentences later.

    “Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

    How prescient of him to have foreseen The Global Warming cabal.

    • @Daniel
      Thanks for bringing the quote to light. Very interesting.

    • 1+

      Eisenhower was of course subjected to massive media (leftist)and “historical departments” (academic left) smear campaigns about how “dumb” he was before, during and after his Presidency. His questioning of assumed academic authority only increased and motivated the rising academic authoritarians in the campaign. It became a common talking point in part because the meme of what genius Adlia Stevenson was suppose to be. It was a storyline carried out during the Wilson Presidency in an inverted form but the convention was derived all through the “Progressive” era with the usual ties to Marxist rhetoric about going “forward” etc. etc. The GOP counter, Nixon having learned the game first hand, was the creation of the detached cerebral “elitist” out of touch with the working class. While successful, falsely reinforced the concept of the left holding the intellectual high ground in numerous policy debates. The establishment of the Keynesian economic orthodox which is a precedent and forerunner of the Climate/Anti-industry/Greenshirt authority structure of today being one example. “Experts” (progressives) and the assumed intellectually unwashed (conservatives) resistance to change talking point is played over and over in the climate debate with the usual media support structures playing their roles.

      With some irony, JFK/Truman/FDR while possessing many political skills and a varying degree of “intelligence” were far from “intellectuals” although there were active campaigns to myth make and distort. Despite many flaws, a poor upbringing away from elite education Nixon may have been the most intellectually inclined and gifted of the 20th century Presidents. Certainly Eisenhower and his writings in particular revealed the level of distortion involved in the “dumb” meme of his time. Again, the lesson of a concentrated academic partisan domination in this case “History Departments” is also analogues to what has followed in numerous fields such as “Environmental Studies” and the subset “Climate Science” generations later. The partisan smearing and media manipulation of holding the “intelligence advantage” either of politicians or policy disputes with an academia tied deeply to statist interests was clear even before Eisenhower’s speech.

      The charade of liberal intellectual probity has reached new levels under the current administration pursuing a collection of failed 20th century policy notions from Keynes to Soviet Marxist conventions (managed economies) under a hapless leader who refuses to even release his academic records. Not only are the policies wrong but laughably outdated based on central planning assumptions with proven track records of failure. The idea of a cutting edge academia has long since past, progressives are the actual “conservatives” clinging to orthodox statist views of the post WW2 establishment that proved unsustainable both economically as will as socially.

  57. And the real kicker to the idea he was elucidating, is this:

    “Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”