A reader wrote me:
Authors complained that although Crichton used their findings correctly, their own intention when writing was not to ‘dispute global warming’. That is the whole problem that seems to keep coming up – so what if someone ‘supports’ the consensus in their own private life and ideology? The point of science is to make judgements on data.
I wrote back something I have meaning to post here. Why do so many scientists from various fields, who may have less knowledge of the details of climate science than a layman like myself has, sign onto all these petitions and letters supporting the science?
One thing that helps explain some of this behavior is that there is a very strong social cost in academia to challenging global warming, so that even when findings in certain studies seem to undercut key pieces of the argument, the researches always add something like “but of course this does not refute the basic theory of global warming” at the end of the paper. In universities, being identified as having criticized catastrophic man-made global warming theory is sort of like standing up in a Harvard faculty meeting and announcing that one is a devout Baptist and a Sarah Palin supporter. So on the flip side, publicly declaring for climate catastrophe is a badge of honor and sophistication.
In fact, the lumping of climate skeptics with fundamentalist evolution doubters/deniers actually helps to explain a lot of academic behavior. We see all of these open letters and surveys that are signed by all kinds of scientists and academics from multiple fields supporting catastrophic global warming theory, but in fact many have not delved even a little bit into the science. Partially this support is professional courtesy to their peers, but in large part when academics sign these letters, they feel they are supporting science per se, rather than the specific science of global warming (which they have not really inspected) against the anti-science barbarians at the gate.
People often take public positions for what that position communicates about themselves, rather than based on any kind of rigorous analysis. I would argue that a solid chunk of the Obama votes in the last election were not based on any real understanding of the candidate but on the desire to say, “look what an enlightened person I am, I have voted for a black man for President.”