Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field

Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry (click for source)
Climate Scientist Dr. Judith Curry
(click for source)
Dr. Judith Curry holds an earned Ph.D. in geophysical sciences from The University of Chicago. For the past 14 years, she has been on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and for the majority of that time, she was the chairperson of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She has authored 186 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has two books to her credit. By any objective measure, she is a giant in the field of climate science.

I wrote about Dr. Curry more than six years ago, when Scientific American branded her a heretic. What was Curry’s heinous crime against science? She didn’t toe the party line when it came to global warming. She didn’t claim that global warming wasn’t occurring, and she didn’t claim that people aren’t responsible. Instead, she simply started stressing the real uncertainties involved in climate science. That, of course, is an unpardonable sin, and as a result, she is routinely demonized by those who know significantly less than she does about climate.

Why has she decided to resign, even though she has not reached traditional retirement age? She discusses this on her blog, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Like most of the entries on her blog, it is thoughtful and revealing. She mentions several factors that have contributed to her resignation, and then she says this:

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide… [emphasis mine]

The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.

As a member of the Ball State University faculty, I was forced to choose between scientific integrity and career suicide. Since I would share my views privately with students who asked, I became known among some students as a creationist on campus. At that time, I was working with gifted and talented high school students at a special school on the Ball State University campus. That school had a short term in which 2-week intensive classes were taught. The classes were created by the faculty, and several students asked me to teach a class on origins science. Because I thought it might destroy my career, I was hesitant. However, after much prayer, I decided that “hiding” my views on origins was not the right thing to do, and since students wanted to learn more, I should teach the course.

In the course, I tried to be as even-handed as possible, but obviously, my view that the scientific evidence supported creation came through. The next term, I was asked by some students to participate in a creation/evolution debate on the Ball State University campus. Once again, I thought this might hurt my career, but the alternative was to “hide” my views, which I didn’t think was right. Interestingly enough, the evolutionist I debated came from a nearby Christian university. Students found it quite ironic that the professor from the Christian university was defending evolution while the professor from the secular university was defending creation!

Of course, this gave me the reputation of a creationist across the Ball State University campus, and that effectively ended my career. When I applied for the opportunity to seek tenure, I was denied, despite the fact that I had recently been a finalist for a campus-wide “Excellence in Teaching” award, was named a “Bene Facta Scholar” by Ball State University, and had the second-largest research grant in the department. One of the professors who voted against the decision specifically said to me that “what church you go to” shouldn’t have been a factor in the decision, but it was.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not angry or upset over that decision. I think it was God’s way of showing me what He really wanted me to do: write science texts for future scientists. Nevertheless, my experience at Ball State University caused Dr. Curry’s words (in bold above) to resonate with me. It’s bad enough that one field of science (origin science) is so politicized. It is truly unfortunate that another field has become like that as well.

Dr. Curry says she is not retiring from her professional life, and that’s good news. As one of the few sane voices left in climate science, she needs to continue to be heard. I can only hope that her resignation is a wakeup call to those in the field of climate science who are more interested in following the data than jumping on the bandwagon.

Only time will tell.

8 thoughts on “Climate Scientist Resigns Because of the “Craziness” of the Field”

  1. I, for one, of many, no doubt, am glad that you had an open mind and were willing to discuss topics sanely unlike what’s happening in the craziness of the current culture. It’s an odd world we live in where red is green and and “thumbs up” dictate direction, but I wouldn’t have benefitted from your decision of integrity if it wasn’t, I suppose. Blessings on you, friend, and on Dr. Curry.

  2. “The sad fact is that her observations are 100% accurate, and they can be applied to at least one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.”

    Here’s another one – the validity or otherwise of the childhood vaccination program.

    1. I would have to disagree with you on that, Tony. Unlike climate and origin science, for example, medical science is very interested in evidence against vaccination. For example, a rotavirus vaccine was licensed in 1998 because it passed all levels of controlled studies required for licensure. By 1999, however, the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) logged 15 reported cases of a serious bowel obstruction amongst those who received the rotavirus vaccine. Even though the frequency of this side effect was low (15 out of 1.5 million doses), it generated enough concern that studies were quickly done to see if these cases were related to the vaccine. The most thorough study demonstrated that there was a slightly elevated risk of serious bowel obstructions (one case in every 11,073 children vaccinated) for those who received the vaccine. Even though the risk was rare, the severity of the bowel obstruction combined with the low mortality of rotavirus in the United States led to the decision to pull that rotavirus vaccine from the standard vaccination schedule, and the drug companies involved lost millions of dollars. What happened to the researchers who did that study? They were given even more funding to do studies on other vaccines. Indeed, several of them (Tracy A. Lieu, Steve Black, Frank DeStefano, and Robert T. Chen) are still doing vaccine-related research. Unlike climate and origin science, then, these authors who demonstrated a problem with a vaccine were rewarded and included in further research.

      Also, unlike climate and origins science, medical researchers specifically include skeptics in their research. A 2007 study, for example, was designed by a panel that included Sallie Bernard of Safeminds. She was a strong proponent of the failed hypothesis that thimerosal in certain vaccines is related to autism. She was included on the panel specifically because she had the opposite view of most medical researchers.

      While climate and origins science tend to excommunicate those with contrary opinions, medical research on vaccines actually rewards those who find problems and includes skeptics in their studies. I see very little similarity between vaccine research and climate science.

  3. I am grateful for your integrity and your gift of teaching. As a homeschool Mom, I get excited about science when I see the scheduled curriculum is one of yours. You make it fun, challenging, and you are training our hearts to see God’s greatness & goodness in new ways. Bless you!!

  4. I have to disagree with you on one point: “… one other field of scientific inquiry – the investigation of origins.”

    The investigation of origins is not a scientific endeavor, at least not the science I was taught at a secular university. The definition of science I was taught is connected to the scientific method and can study only present day physical and observable phenomena. As such, it can deal with only a portion of reality, as there are areas of reality that are neither readily observable, nor physical, or both.

    Origins by definition deals with the no longer observable past.

    Inferences can be drawn from the study of present phenomena—e.g. from the type of complexity that exists in cells, it can be inferred that life was designed; but science, based on observation, cannot identify when that design took place, how the design was made, nor who did the designing.

    Therefore, it’s a logical contradiction to call the study of origins. a scientific study.

    I was taught modern science, where observations take precedence over theory or models. But there exists a different “science” where models and beliefs are taken as evidence, stronger evidence than observation. It is that “science” that is used to claim that the study of origins is “scientific”. It is that “science” that is behind the claim of human caused global warming (Anthropogenic Global Warming, AGW or “Climate Change”) that seems so crazy to a careful scientist like Judith Curry.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard. I am afraid that I will have to disagree with you, however. Origins certainly does deal with the unobservable past, but that doesn’t mean it is beyond the reach of science. Indeed, the scientific method allows for the study of nearly any phenomenon, as long as hypotheses that make testable predictions can be made. In the scientific method, you make a hypothesis about why some observation conforms to what you see, and then you use that hypothesis to make a prediction about something that hasn’t been observed. If you then test that prediction and it is confirmed by subsequent observations, you have the possible makings of a scientific theory. This can be done for things that happen in the present as well as things that have happened in the past.

      Thus, origin science is most certainly science, as long as it makes testable predictions. One of the reasons I am a creationist is because evolution has made so many predictions that have been falsified (see here, here, here, and here, for example), and creationism has made so many predictions that have been confirmed (see here, here, here, and here, for example). The very fact that evolution and creation can make testable predictions indicates that origin science is, indeed, science.

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