Climatologists Need Porsches Too!

This post on the economics of global warming research puts me in mind of the classic Bloom County cartoon below. Just substitute “climate change” for “defense”.


We like to think of scientists as secular monks who don’t care for material things, but they have the same desires and temptations as the rest of us.

They have bills to pay and families to take care of. They enjoy the little perks of money and status (like Porsches). Certainly scientists who do make a lot of money don’t live like monks.

Even if we assume that the joy of discovery, prestige in their field and a place in history motivate most scientists more than any amount of money, they still need to use someone else’s money to perform the work that brings those immaterial rewards. As a result, scientists spend a disturbing amount of their time scrambling for grant money

It is also an unfortunate fact that scientists suddenly develop interest in fields that politicians are willing to fund. That is how we ended up with a big chunk of our scientists doing military research. A lot of politicians would like for global warming to be a problem and they are willing to generously fund grants for scientists whose research gives the “correct” answer.

Sad to say, but we can’t discount the very real possibility that scientists are no more immune to the temptation of having tens of millions of dollars dangled in front of them than are the rest of us. Follow the money is a good rule in evaluating untested science as it is in any other field.

8 thoughts on “Climatologists Need Porsches Too!”

  1. Speaking of monks and monasteries, I expect some modern incarnation of Henry VIII will someday raid the sanctuaries for the silver and gold.

  2. Hmm. I think the money supporting bogus activities in the arts and humanities (“If you can’t be good, be transgressive”) will come under scrutiny first. The worst offenders are typically in the big state university systems, many of which are in states like New York, California, and Michigan which are all under huge financial pressures. Faced with the choice of cutting first-responder pensions or axing the critical-studies professor, which will state legislators be more likely to do?

  3. Jim Bennett,

    Faced with the choice of cutting first-responder pensions or axing the critical-studies professor, which will state legislators be more likely to do?

    Since the critical-studies professor (1)is in the business of creating rationals for why certain politicians should have more power and (2) indoctrinating as many students as possible in the same rationals, I’m going to say the politician will fire the first responder first.

    After all, if people complain, he can just have the professor show up and explain why its such a good idea and that anyone who prefers fire fighters to pseudo-intellectuals is a racist.

  4. If I’ve understood Shannon Love’s case correctly, scientists should reasonably be expected to show the usual and occasionally or often negative human aspects of excessive ambition and self-interest; also incompetence, greed, exaggeration, bullying, politicing; and misrepresentation, lying, fraud and various other criminality.


    Next: inside and outside of science, when the more bad of these things occur, and get found out, and the actions get attached most firmly to particular players: we variously reverse their good reputations, shun them, fire them and throw them into prison.

    Best regards

  5. I dunno — I don’t think most politicians think that far ahead. I think all that crap got added to the university system in the 60s and 70s because it got the university administrators off the hook from some local pressure and the legislators could always get more money by raising corporate taxes, borrowing it, or making promises that somebody in the future would have to find the money for (e.g., defined benefit pensions.) I.e., it was essentially free money as far as the legislators were concerned. They’ve never had to pit those interests head-to-head. And now the responders’ unions are more powerful and better connected to local voters. I think the professors will fall out quite low on the totem pole when push comes to shove.

  6. An interesting contrast to this unseemly exhibit of universities trolling federal grant reservoirs is the story of Craig Venter. You can read it in his own biography or in The Genome Wars, which is a bit older and a bit more objective. Venter is now a billionaire and has a whole generation of bacteriologists, many of them European, driving Ferraris in San Diego County. Porches are for climate scientists and other would-be types. The big, big difference is that he did it with private money. I have a bit of the story on my blog about 18 months ago.

    Unlike Al Gore, he made his money the old fashioned way; by inventing a better mouse trap (and its genome).

  7. Most of these politically-correct scientists have come to suffer from a false sense of moral superiority which deflects their scientific reasoning with terrible consequences for any genuine purpose of scientific research, instead they end up acting as if they were some kind of crusaders of a new faith and brutally attack those who dare disagree with their causes.

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