The House Science Committee’s Anti-Science Rampage

Sep 16, 2016

By Lawrence M. Krauss

If you know the answers you want in advance, you can always find them by cherry-picking your data. That’s what climate-change deniers have tried to do in recent years in arguing that there’s been a “pause” in the global-warming trend over the past two decades—suggesting, thereby, that global warming is just a temporary anomaly unrelated to human industrial activity. Last year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the “climate change hiatus” myth to bed. They published a paper in Science that showed, using new and more definitive data, that the claimed “pause” hadn’t taken place.

Not long after the paper was published, something odd happened. Kathryn Sullivan, the head of N.O.A.A., received a subpoena. It came from Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and it demanded that the N.O.A.A. scientists turn over records and internal communications. They had already turned over their data in response to previous requests but refused to turn over scientists’ correspondence. In a statement, Smith accused the N.O.A.A. scientists of falsifying their data:

It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want. . . . NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.

From climate change and evolution to sex education and vaccination, there has always been tension between scientists and Congress. But Smith, who has been in Congress since 1987 and assumed the chairmanship of the Science Committee in 2013, has escalated that tension into outright war. Smith has a background in American studies and law, not science. He has, however, received more than six hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the oil-and-gas industry during his time in Congress—more than from any other single industry. With a focus that is unprecedented, he’s now using his position to attack scientists and activists who work on climate change. Under his leadership, the committee has issued more subpoenas than it had during its previous fifty-four-year history.


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14 comments on “The House Science Committee’s Anti-Science Rampage

  • 1
    flyingfsck says:

    So, now it is called ‘anti-science’ when the government compels a scientist to publish his research and findings in a transparent way, to prevent him from cooking the data to fit a preconceived notion?



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  • Crass.

    Oh, please! Cooking data is never sustainable in the scientific arena. Lying bubbles burst to the huge detriment of any scientist-deceiver and her chosen evil plan.

    With the erosion of a viable fourth estate, it is reassuirng to have the formation of whimsical and uninformed public policy held to some account on occasions.



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  • If the first comment to this thread is sincere, it clearly shows either the failure of the educational system to properly teach how the scientific process works, or the effectiveness of pseudo-scientific propaganda, or both.



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  • Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on
    Science, Space, and Technology

    1- How on Earth did he get this position?
    2- Why is his additional role not stated? — “Principal Conspiracy Theorist”



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  • Climate change deniers are obviously thinking the rest of us don’t have eyes in our heads?
    The stats are backed up by real events. The change is obvious even to the most uneducated dolt.
    Unless you have a secondary agenda.



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  • To the first poster,
    Lets not try to beat around the bushes here. This “questioning” by the HCSST, is nothing but a partisan attempt by the gop to discredit science.
    The data has been published. The peer reviewed process has taken place.
    “Cooking the data” is a false flag, and insincere. That’s not going to work here.



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  • when the government compels

    1- Interesting phrase. ‘Tyranny’ comes to mind.

    Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. Abraham Lincoln



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  • “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. Abraham Lincoln”

    Jim, I think the government has already been sold to the highest bidder…….oil and its profits.



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  • @OP – Not long after the paper was published, something odd happened. Kathryn Sullivan, the head of N.O.A.A., received a subpoena. It came from Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology,

    Smith is too scientifically illiterate and bigoted to read the data he has been given, so he wants to look over the scientists personal correspondence to see if he can generate some media gossip to flesh out his biases and personal denial agendas, with a few out-of context quotes, like the UEA email conspiracy theorists did!



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  • Lamar Smith’s stance on climate change is fully in the same vein as everything that is wrong with our political system. Religion has a part to play in the political process of American unfortunately and Lamar is a devout Christian Scientist. He is fully funded by the Fossil Fuel industries, has sent subpoenas to attorney generals who are investigating Exxon’s fraud, was the author of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that tried to privatize the internet.
    We must as a people come together to stop Lamar once and for all. He has a strong opponent named Tom Wakely and I am hoping people from around the world see the threat coming from Texas in the form of Lamar Smith and choose to help in any way they can.
    http://www.Wakely2016.com



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  • I also used to think that most people were not stupid, just ignorant.
    I used to think that if people had good, as in verifiable, information, they would make good decisions.
    I was clearly wrong.
    This helps to explain why:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_M._Cipolla

    Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
    The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
    A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
    Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
    A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

    There are clearly too many stupid people holding the reins of power.



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  • George,

    Love this. Thank you.

    Jon Ronson in the Psychopath Test suggested that the slightly mad (schizotypal say) individual, of which there are many, (this trait being on a continuum of personality types from not at all through to clinical), cost society a disproportionate, indeed, huge amount of wasted time with their whimsical and spurious nonsense seriously asserted.



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  • George Murray #12
    Sep 19, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

    I think aspects of this well known effect are covered on this link:-

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

    where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyse their performance, leading to a significant overestimate of themselves.

    In simple words it’s “people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”.

    The inverse also applies: competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others; this is known as impostor syndrome.



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