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Once it was the unshakable belief of experts that the Sun revolved around the Earth.
This Ptolemaic model of the solar system, so-called after the 2nd century A.D. Roman astronomer who cemented the hypothesis in the Western mind, was for centuries considered so obvious and uncontroversial that to even suggest otherwise was to be accused of insanity, stupidity or heresy.
One might say there was a scientific "consensus" that the Sun orbited the Earth. But guess what - all those elite thinkers were wrong. Embarrassingly, irretrievably wrong. It took Galileo Galilei's newly invented telescope in the early 17th century to shake the foundations of the geocentric model in the public mind, and even then the Italian astronomer was hauled before the Inquisition for his troubles.
The lesson is simple: Just because experts say it's so, don't necessarily mean it's so. They are subject to prejudices of heart and errors of logic like every other human being.
We should keep that in mind when considering the contemporary scientific "consensus" that man-made carbon emissions are causing the Earth to warm, the "anthropogenic global warming" theory (AGW).
Especially since that consensus has just been rocked by a Galileo-sized blow: The November release of yet another batch of emails (the first wave were leaked in 2009) from some of the world's leading proponents of AGW, including climate scientists Michael Mann and Phil Jones, which show researchers admitting to one another privately that the case for AGW is not nearly a solid as they claim publicly.
The emails also show AGW scientists conspiring to smear those who disagree with their apocalyptic diagnosis of the planetary temperature, and discussing with one another how to hide or minimize contrary evidence and evade lawful requests for their data.
Take this email from Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at University of East Anglia: "Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get - and has to be well hidden. I've discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data."
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, thinks this email alone should lead to a criminal investigation of Jones, the CRU and the Department of Energy.
Another nugget from Jones shows him attempting to evade Freedom of Information requests about his data: "I've been told that IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process."
Why would Jones want to avoid releasing his data? A clue comes from another message in which Jones admits to choosing only the data which supports his theory: "I, too, don't see why the schemes should be symmetrical. The temperature ones certainly will not as we're choosing the periods to show warming."
Let's be clear - this is not science. It's fraud. Fraud that has real consequences for real people: Recently a teacher turned off the heat in an entire school in England - on the coldest day of the year - to cut carbon emissions and fight global warming.
One enraged parent noted: "Turning the heating off in December is just mental." Quite, but as The Sun reports, the teacher responsible has "defended the successful experiment ... and vowed to stage regular 'eco-days' at the 640-pupil school."
Such madness is a direct result of the fraud perpetrated by Jones et al. It's time they were held to account before they do irreparable damage - not just to their own credibility - but to the credibility of science itself.