When any new scientific discovery is made, it should immediately be leaped upon by doubters and dissenters all doing their best to prove that it’s wrong. If the discoverer is a genuine scientist, he or she will include with the announcement anything and everything the naysayers might need to disprove the discovery. If it really is a discovery, if it really is a new and correct exposition of some feature of Universe, it can stand anything thrown at it; if it is not, if it is incorrect or deficient in some way, the sooner that is found out the better for all concerned. At the root of every scientific paper, never stated because it’s redundant, is a schoolyard taunt: Nyaa nyaaa na nyaa nah, can’t touch this ’cause it’s right.

But that hurts people’s feelings. Having your work savagely attacked by naysayers and dissenters is hard on the ego; few have the guts to stand up to the slings and arrows of savage detractors, and that’s made even more difficult by the fact that Universe is large and various, and it’s almost a certainty that anything said about it — scientific or otherwise — will be inaccurate in some way.

Enter “peer review”. The new work is submitted to what amounts to a committee of people who are (at least presumed to be) eminent in the field, and they decide whether it’s acceptable or should be revised. This is much easier on the submitter’s ego — the reviewers can be relied upon to be collegial, by which is meant giving the author the benefit of the doubt as a fellow “scientist”. Members of the Club get gentle treatment because they’re “one of us”.

The trouble with that is that the reviewers, being eminent in the field, are by definition wedded to whatever the conventional wisdom may be on that subject. Anything new or startling, especially if it contradicts the current “consensus”, is virtually certain to be rejected. This at least partially fulfills the requirement for adversarialism, but it is a pale and ineffective shadow of the full-throated attacks that should come from the rest of the scientific community. Scientists abdicate their responsibility to examine and attempt to disprove discoveries in favor of turning new material over to gatekeepers who ensure that nobody rocks the boat. It’s particularly pernicious when funding is involved. A bureaucrat charged with deciding who gets the money for experiments is unlikely to be deeply knowledgeable about the field, and must therefore play it safe by going with what the reviewers say is reasonable. It means, ultimately, that the pace of scientific discovery is slowed to a crawl, requiring at minimum that all the “i”s be dotted and all the “t”s crossed in any given field before anything truly new can emerge.

So it is, today, with “climate science”. There does exist a consensus — that the Earth is warming, that the result of the warming will be disastrous, and that human activities are responsible for it — and contrary views or assertions are savagely attacked as “denialist“. In a way, this is simply a particularly rabid version of the standard adversarial process, and if the debate were confined to the scientific community it would be just that. Unfortunately it has escaped into the realm of Politics and The Media, and contrary data is being rejected on the ground of failure to agree with the consensus rather than on scientific merit, while “researchers” who echo the Conventional Wisdom are allowed to conceal or even destroy data that might contradict their thesis. Yes, my friends, there is data that would appear to contradict some or all of the Three Pillars of AGW; yes, there are theories requiring investigation that posit effects other than the ones cited by the Eminent Scientists. Whether or not the data and/or theories are correct or valid is beside the point. The problem is that they aren’t being followed up on political grounds, not scientific ones.