If you have never read President Dwight Eisenhower's January 1961 farewell address, you should. It's not long. He clearly foresaw the oncoming unchecked expansion of the federal government, and the associated dangers. The famous passage deals with the risks to science from the new-found gusher of federal grant spending:
A steadily increasing share [of scientific research] 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. . . . 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.
Fast-forward 55 years, and we are deep in the dystopia that Eisenhower foresaw. In science today, government funding is everything, and control of it empowers orthodoxy enforcement and the banishment of skeptics and dissenters -- the antithesis of science. Many examples can be cited of science gone completely off the rails through the perverse incentives of government monopoly funding (see, for example, my posts on the government-backed low fat diet, here and here). But really, nothing can top the hysteria -- underwritten by tens of billions of dollars of annual federal spending -- of the climate change machine.
Readers here are well aware that the scientific house of cards of anthropogenic global warming becomes more unstable with each passing day. As adverse information continues to pour forth -- from the Climategate emails, to the near-twenty-year unexplained "pause" in world temperature rise, to repeated revelations of alterations of historical temperature records by government functionaries trying to support the failing warming narrative -- nothing slows down the federally-funded juggernaut of political climate activism and fossil fuel restriction. The most recent body blow to the catastrophic warming narrative was the Research Report from Wallace, et al., reported here last month, showing no statistically significant warming in any major world temperature time series after controlling only for concededly-non-anthropogenic El Nino and La Nina effects.
So where do our major scientific societies stand on this issue? If you don't already know, you will be demoralized to learn that, with one notable exception, the principal societies are on record as supporting the official government narrative of dangerous human-caused global warming. In June 2016, some 31 scientific societies sent a joint letter to Congress, supposedly to "remind [it] of the scientific consensus view of climate change," and to urge further government action to restrict fossil fuel use. You can follow the link to get the complete list of subscribing societies, and if you do, see if you can spot the big one that is missing. It's the American Physical Society, the association of physicists! But, you ask, isn't the so-called "science" of "climate change" a matter specifically of atmospheric physics? Turns out that the APS commissioned a review of the science of climate change by a panel of its own members in 2014, and the panel's report failed to support the consensus "science." A battle continues to rage on the issue at the APS (you can read more about it here) but meanwhile, the key fact is that group of people who actually know the subject matter has so many dissenters and skeptics that it hasn't joined the bandwagon.
So who has joined the bandwagon? Well, as an example, there's the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Do they know anything about climate physics? Probably not much. But they do know that if you want to study snakes and you want to go where the government money is, you will put something about global warming in your grant proposal. How about seeking a grant for "the effect of global warming on the range of the lesser eastern tree boa"? That should work!
Anyway, the issuance of the Wallace, et al., Research Report prompted me to join up with Alan Carlin, an MIT-trained economist and 40-year senior analyst and manager at EPA, to send letters last Friday to each of the 31 unscientific scientific societies demanding to know the alleged scientific basis for their position on climate change in light of the recent findings. The full text of our letter can be found here. A few key excerpts:
The June 28 Letter to which you subscribed contains statements strongly implying that there had previously been some sort of empirical validation of a quantitative causal relationship between increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and increasing global average surface temperatures. . . . However, as noted above, the authors of the [Wallace, et al.] Research Report have been unable to find in any scientific study a rigorous empirical validation of a statistically significant quantitative relationship between rising greenhouse gas concentrations and tropical, contiguous U.S. or global temperatures. Indeed we can find no paper that actually provides mathematically rigorous empirical proof that the effect of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations on world temperatures is different from zero with statistical significance.
As you might realize, we are concerned that prestigious scientific societies, including your own, have subscribed to a letter to Members of Congress purporting to convey scientific propositions as having been definitively established, when in fact there has never been a mathematically rigorous empirical validation of the propositions stated, and indeed there now appears to be a definitive scientific invalidation of those propositions. . . .
In short, if you have mathematically rigorous empirical validation of the hypotheses that underlie your advocacy, kindly provide it. If you do not, kindly say so.
Joseph D'Aleo (one of the co-authors of the Wallace, et al., Report) has posted the full text of our letter, along with commentary, on his excellent ICECAP website. Carlin's treatment of the subject can be found at his CarlinEconomics website here. D'Aleo minces no words in his description of the corruption of the unscientific scientific societies:
The once professional societies continued their slide into unprecedented advocacy in recent years as they boarded the politically-driven grant gravy train and recruited to their memberships a whole generation of eco fanatics indoctrinated in our failing schools at all levels. Their advocacy with congress is not at all scientific.