Trick or “Trick”?

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There has been much heat shed on the references in the East Anglia Climate Research Unit emails to “tricks” used in massaging temperature data, but little or no light.

Critics and skeptics have seized on the word “tricks” to suggest that this means fudging of the data to force an appearance of warming where none exists, or at least an exaggeration of the extent of actual warming.

Apologists for the scientists who used the word have claimed that it was all very innocent, merely a reference to clever techniques that were found to clarify the data or resolve uncertainties by normalizing data from different sources to make them consistent.

Marty media commentators have been quick to accept this convenient, defensive explanation as a way of avoiding the unfavorable interpretation of the critics, and to deflect any further scrutiny of the question of whether the “tricks” were legitimate scientific methodology or actually dirty tricks.

This softball treatment of a critical issue is in keeping with the historic treatment of all things global warming: advocates can do no wrong, and are always on the side of true science; skeptics are always sinister, looking for ways to subvert science.

But where is the traditional journalistic questioning, designed to get at the truth? These same journalists wouldn’t have gone to former Vice President Cheney to find out whether the Guantanamo detainees were mistreated, and they certainly wouldn’t have taken his word for it if they had. Why do they meekly accept the possibly culpable scientists’ word?

.The reporters should have taken a more objective approach to the issue. They should have attempted to pin the scientists down as to whether their tricks were scientifically justified, and why. They should have asked them to spell out in detail what their tricks consisted of, explain how the tricks affected the data, show examples of the before and after data, and show why the manipulations didn’t adversely affect the validity of the data. Other scientists could then be asked to evaluate the “tricks” – in the way real science is done. In doing so, journalists would, for once, have performed a service to the scientific community, and upheld the integrity of both science and journalism.

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