From an old post of mine, something I think we need to keep in mind as we talk about UEA/CRU…
What I’m wrestling with as a first step is my belief in the power of groupthink. In the power of the innate human desire to go along with the group, and the effect it has on people.
When I was in college, I was a pretty serious photographer. I made some money doing it; I sold some pictures (journalism to local and regional papers and sports photos to some calendars) as well as took some fairly serious classes. I took a class from a photographer named Joe Czarnecki – I’ve remembered his name because of what he did.
He told us that he wanted to calibrate our meters, and walked up to a wall held up his expensive light meter, and announced that it was an EV of – I don’t remember – and that it would thus be an exposure at 1/250 at, say F 2.8 (I’m making up the values).
One by one, we walked up to the wall, looked through our SLR’s or at our meters, and announces that yes, the right exposure for ASA200 film was F2.8 @ 1/250.
I walked up to the wall, held up my camera (I had a meter stuck to the top of a rangefinder Leica) and it read something completely different. I remember looking at it, and in what even then felt like an act of complete, if minor, cowardice, announcing that I agreed with the group within a 1/4 stop.
Several others came by, agreed, and then once we were all in, Joe walked back to the wall.
“Oops,” he said. “I must have made a mistake. It’s really F1.4 at 1/60.” And he looked at us with what I can only describe as contempt.
The room was full of mortified silence. Everyone else had done what I did.
Czarnecki explained that his point was simple. When our eyes disagreed with what other people were telling us, we should trust our eyes.
He had a larger point, about artistic vision, which he went on to make. But his basic point – believe your eyes and don’t give in to the pressure of the group is a memory that’s pretty well rooted in me; and as I see sensible people like Kevin Drum explain that the only thing that keeps The New Republic from being the anchor point of modern liberalism is this one issue where they just won’t go along, the image I keep having is of my professor leaning into the wall, holding his light meter, and going “Oops”.