by Judith Curry
Other sites that are discussing Muller’s interview include:
My favorite excerpts from the interview:
CONAN: And is it accurate to describe you as a climate change skeptic?
Prof. MULLER: I don’t think so. I’m just a scientist. People want to pigeonhole everybody in this field just to simplify the argument. They want you to be either a warmist or a skeptic or something like that. And that tends to make the argument sound like it’s a case of law in which you have lawyers arguing both sides. In fact, scientists need to be properly skeptical, and the debate is never closed. A scientific issue should always address questions that are raised and some of the skeptics raised very good questions, and I wanted to answer them.
CONAN: How much of that is attributable to humans? But do you agree that at least – does the data show that at least some part of it is attributable to humans?
Prof. MULLER: Yes, yes. It’s us. People call me a skeptic, because I drew attention to many of the exaggerations that in – is in former Vice President Al Gore’s movie. But I think a scientist has to recognize when there are exaggerations and settle down on what is solidly known. Temperature has been rising over the last 100 years. That’s pretty clear. How much is due to varying solar activity and how much due to humans is a scientific issue that we’re trying to address.
CONAN: And when this testimony came out, did you come to the impression that you had been expected to say something else?
Prof. MULLER: No, I didn’t. I have created a new project here in Berkeley – we call it Berkeley Earth – that is doing a reexamination of the global warming issue. We are addressing all of the issues that have been raised – all the legitimate issues that have been raised by the people called the skeptics. And there are some legitimate issues there. Because we listen to the skeptics, we got misclassified as a skeptical group. We’re no more skeptical than any other scientist should be skeptical.
CONAN: Do you find that, though, there is a lot of ideology in this business?
Prof. MULLER: Well, I think what’s happened is that many scientists have gotten so concerned about global warming, correctly concerned I mean they look at it and they draw a conclusion, and then they’re worried that the public has not been concerned, and so they become advocates. And at that point, it’s unfortunate, I feel that they’re not trusting the public. They’re not presenting the science to the public. They’re presenting only that aspect to the science that will convince the public. That’s not the way science works. And because they don’t trust the public, in the end the public doesn’t trust them. And the saddest thing from this, I think, is a loss of credibility of scientists because so many of them have become advocates.
CONAN: And that’s, you would say, would be at the heart of the so-called Climategate story, where emails from some scientists seemed to be working to prevent the work of other scientists from appearing in peer-reviewed journals.
Prof. MULLER: That really shook me up when I learned about that. I think that Climategate is a very unfortunate thing that happened, that the scientists who were involved in that, from what I’ve read, didn’t trust the public, didn’t even trust the scientific public. They were not showing the discordant data. That’s something that – as a scientist I was trained you always have to show the negative data, the data that disagrees with you, and then make the case that your case is stronger. And they were hiding the data, and a whole discussion of suppressing publications, I thought, was really unfortunate. It was not at a high point for science
And I really get even more upset when some other people say, oh, science is just a human activity. This is the way it happens. You have to recognize, these are people. No, no, no, no. These are not scientific standards. You don’t hide the data. You don’t play with the peer review system. We don’t do that at Berkeley.
CONAN: And Richard Muller, that’s – you get to the point where – obviously policy decisions are involved in this and people do have a stake in how it comes out and they do care very much what the science says.
Prof. MULLER: Well, I think the key thing here is for scientists to stick with the science. I don’t know – I don’t have personal experience with scientists who have been silenced. I think, in fact, most people on the field of global warming have been well-heard.
CONAN: On all sides.
Prof. MULLER: Yes, on all sides. And the one thing that I think really I would encourage is that one should not play this credentials game in which you say ignore so and so, he has no credentials in this field.
In fact, in science, no matter who raises the question, it’s a valid question. Whether it’s a citizen, another scientist or a politician, you have to be able to address these questions. And if they are scientific questions, genuinely they can be addressed. I believe that what makes science separate from many other disciplines is that in the end we all agree on the science. It’s that small realm of knowledge on which knowledgeable people will in the end reach agreement.
Prof. MULLER: Well, I agree. And I’d like to draw the distinction between a scientist and a layman. A layman is someone who is easily fooled and even fools himself. A scientist, in contrast, is someone who’s easily fooled and even fools himself and knows it and takes measures to undo that. Science has to be objective. We can’t be advocates. We have to objective. And to the extent we’re not, we’re no longer being science – scientists.
I thought the Michael Crichton book actually raise a lot of issues. I have some sympathy for the people in the field because they’re working really hard. The other groups that have measured global warming are working – many of them are working very, very hard to try to update and get better measurements, and they’re besieged with questions. It’s a full-time job, if you’re going to do nothing other than just answer the blogs and answer the public criticism.
But I felt the Crichton book raised some good issues, and there are issues that need to be addressed. We’re trying to address them maybe in more detail than other people have because we have a fresh start. We have the full set of data and we’re doing a new analysis.
CONAN: Well, given the analysis that you reached, aren’t there urgent policy decisions that need to be made?
Prof. MULLER: Oh, that’s the irony. The policy decisions are so urgent that people tend to abandon the scientific method. It’s ironic that when something’s important, they sometimes feel they have to not be so candid and unbiased because it’s urgent. I think just the opposite. When things are urgent, that’s the time the scientist has to settle down and show – do things using the unbiased methods that they’ve been taught.
JC summary: very well said Professor Muller!