You are the salt of the earth. And if the salt shall lose its savor, what good is it?
And if scientists give up what is central to science, we can ask the same question of them.
Science does not claim to have "the truth". It proposes hypotheses, devises experiments to bolster or disprove those hypotheses and attempts to provide a theoretical explanation to account for the observations.
Which is why this is so deeply disturbing:
Two of the worldís leading scientific journals have come under fire from researchers for refusing to publish papers which challenge fashionable wisdom over global warming.
A British authority on natural catastrophes who disputed whether climatologists really agree that the Earth is getting warmer because of human activity, says his work was rejected by the American publication, Science, on the flimsiest of grounds. A separate team of climate scientists, which was regularly used by Science and the journal Nature to review papers on the progress of global warming, said it was dropped after attempting to publish its own research which raised doubts over the issue.
The controversy follows the publication by Science in December of a paper which claimed to have demonstrated complete agreement among climate experts, not only that global warming is a genuine phenomenon, but also that mankind is to blame. The author of the research, Dr Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, analysed almost 1,000 papers on the subject published since the early 1990s, and concluded that 75 per cent of them either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, while none directly dissented from it. Dr Oreskesís study is now routinely cited by those demanding action on climate change, including the Royal Society and Prof Sir David King, the Governmentís chief scientific adviser. However, her unequivocal conclusions immediately raised suspicions among other academics, who knew of many papers that dissented from the pro-global warming line.
They included Dr Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who decided to conduct his own analysis of the same set of 1,000 documents - and concluded that only one third backed the consensus view, while only one per cent did so explicitly.Dr Peiser submitted his findings to Science in January, and was asked to edit his paper for publication - but has now been told that his results have been rejected on the grounds that the points he make had been "widely dispersed on the internet". Dr Peiser insists that he has kept his findings strictly confidential. "It is simply not true that they have appeared elsewhere already," he said.
It gets worse.
Dr Peiser is not the only academic to have had work turned down which criticises the findings of Dr Oreskesís study. Prof Dennis Bray, of the GKSS National Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, submitted results from an international study showing that fewer than one in 10 climate scientists believed that climate change is principally caused by human activity. As with Dr Peiserís study, Science refused to publish his rebuttal. Prof Bray told The Telegraph: "They said it didnít fit with what they were intending to publish."
Prof Roy Spencer, at the University of Alabama, a leading authority on satellite measurements of global temperatures, told The Telegraph: "Itís pretty clear that the editorial board of Science is more interested in promoting papers that are pro-global warming. Itís the news value that is most important." He said that after his own team produced research casting doubt on man-made global warming, they were no longer sent papers by Nature and Science for review - despite being acknowledged as world leaders in the field.
As a result, says Prof Spencer, flawed research is finding its way into the leading journals, while attempts to get rebuttals published fail. "Other scientists have had the same experience", he said. "The journals have a small set of reviewers who are pro-global warming."Dr Peiser said the stifling of dissent and preoccupation with doomsday scenarios is bringing climate research into disrepute. "There is a fear that any doubt will be used by politicians to avoid action," he said. "But if political considerations dictate what gets published, itís all over for science."
Tempest in a teapot? No. It goes to the very heart of what makes science so powerful and valuable. Science changes its theories in response to observations and tests of its hypotheses. To deliberately suppress -- as opposed to analyze and perhaps refute -- contradictory evidence is to deliberately corrupt the scientific process.
That it is being done for political impact is unconscionable.
I don't have firm conclusions about the phenomenon of global warming (is it occuring in any sustained way?) or of the likely causes for it if it is occurring. I know just enough about modeling and simulation of weather and climate to know I'm way in over my head on that one.
What increasingly appears to be the case, however, is that the public, scientific debate on these issues is deliberately being distorted.