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An Example of the Consensus Blocking Scientific Inquiry: Climate Change

"Inquisition" by Edouard Moyse

[Originally published in May 2014 as The Inquisition Strikes Again]. It is important to remember the history of how the scientific community interacts with ideas and the people who hold them.]

Dr. Lennart Bengtsson is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Reading’s Environmental Systems Science Centre. When it comes to climate scientists, there are few more distinguished.

He has been awarded the Descartes Research Prize (for outstanding scientific and technological achievements resulting from European collaborative research), the International Meteorological Organization Prize (for outstanding contributions to meteorology, climatology, hydrology, and related sciences), and the Rossby Prize (the highest award for atmospheric science given by the American Meteorological Society).

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He currently has 238 papers published in the nationally recognized, peer-reviewed scientific literature, focused mostly on climate science. Obviously, his credentials speak for themselves.

About a month ago, he accepted an invitation to join The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a think tank devoted to climate science and its effects on public policy. They say they are focused on “Restoring balance and trust to the climate debate,” and their members have a wide range of views on the science behind global warming.

Some agree with the opinions of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which says that human beings are causing the planet to warm and the results are potentially catastrophic. Others do not think the scientific evidence is strong enough to make such a statement, while others think the scientific evidence indicates that the climate changes we are seeing now are mostly the result of natural cycles that have been going on for a long, long time. In short, their membership represents the same variety of opinions found in the climate science community.

Unfortunately for Dr. Bengtsson (and science as a whole), this is considered unacceptable by the Inquisition, which seeks to enforce orthodoxy among scientists.

According to the Inquisition, the science is settled. Despite the fact that the data are far from conclusive, the Inquisition has decided that even to suggest there might be something wrong with the “scientific consensus” on global warming is downright heresy. As a result, Dr. Bengtsson was bullied into resigning from his position at the GWPF. In his own words:

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety…I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years. [Please note that English is not Dr. Bengtsson’s mother tongue.]

On May 16th, an editorial by Matt Ridley was published in The Times. It quite correctly decried this kind of McCarthyism, saying that it has no place in science. As a part of his excellent piece, Ridley asked the following question:

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What is going on in academia when demonising and silencing your opponents has become so acceptable?

I think I know the answer to that one. It became acceptable when it was applied to creationists. Once the Inquisition saw that it could use bullying tactics to silence the scientific opposition to materialistic evolution, it realized that the same method could be used to silence criticism on any issue. As a result, it became “open season” on skeptics of any topic that has been lifted to the level of orthodoxy in modern science (see herehere, and here, for example).

Ridley’s opinion piece ends with this statement:

Truly, the old joke is becoming ever more true: what’s the opposite of diversity? University.

I couldn’t agree more. Even back in the 1990s when I was on the faculty of Ball State University, there were speech codes in place that limited what the professors and students could say. The situation has just gotten worse since then. As long as we allow the Inquisition to stay active in the scientific community, the progress of science will be slowed.

[Editor’s note: For more on climate change as a whole, see this detailed and regularly updated article from Creation Ministries International]

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Dr. Jay Wile

Written by Jay Wile

As a scientist, it is hard for me to fathom anyone who has scientific training and does not believe in God. Indeed, it was science that brought me not only to a belief in God, but also to faith in Christianity. I have an earned Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in nuclear chemistry and a B.S. in chemistry from the same institution.

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