The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is our famous guardian of civil rights. They protect our right to say almost anything we want on the blogosphere, and much more besides. Most of the time they are a mainstay that obstructs governmental abuse of power (you know, that's what happens when the party you don't happen to like is in office!).
But some of the time, they take very unpopular stances for the exact same reason. They defend gross murderers when the latter haven't had a fair enough trial. They defend pornography or ugly speech like that of the Klu Klux Klan and other unpleasantness. Whether you think that's disgusting or not.
Most of us believe the ACLU is important, or even a vital element of a free society, because unrestrained government is repressive government.
A gut check and teachable moment
The Climategate problem (reviewed in this week's Science here, if you have a subscription, but of course many other places as well) is a challenge to us in a similar way. No matter how convinced we may be that global warming is happening and is human-made, we must allow complete investigation of the controversial emails. And we must condemn cover-ups and data massaging if that is what actually happened.
The result may be food for the Hummer crowd. It may set back the cause of definitive preventive constraints on energy use for years. It may give a great opportunity for those who can't spell 'science' much less understand it, to gloat in triumph (til their houses flood).
But this is a gut check and we must not flinch, even if we can't stand to see their smirks. We have to defend the integrity of science, no matter where it is compromised. And however it turns out, it's a teachable moment for everyone, professionals and students alike.