History is rife with tales of fraud and corruption, of cheating and controversy. We've learned to accept that it's a "dog-eat-dog" world and nothing is truly as it seems. People are, by nature, fallible, and this fallibility drives us to dishonesty. So when we hear about the governor of South Carolina cheating on his wife, we may get to chuckle at his expense, but we won't be surprised. Letterman, too? Well he always seemed a little strange. Tiger Woods? A little surprising, but not mind-blowing. Balloon Boy was a hoax? Attention seekers are everywhere.

While we may feel disappointment or even a tinge of surprise initially, we realize that people just can't ever be fully trusted. At least not like we can trust science. Wait, what? We can't trust that either? Well who can we trust? In the latest controversy to assume the suffix "-gate," Climategate has left many of us asking that very question.

Unless you have been living under a rock (or, more likely, a pile of final papers and exams), you have probably heard about the cleverly coined scandal "Climategate." For those of you who haven't, I'll summarize.

After a mysterious hacker exposed thousands of e-mails and documents exchanged by scientists and researchers working from the University of Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU), a whirlwind of controversy has engulfed the scientific community. The CRU is one of the leading research units on climate change, and its scientists have played an important role in creating the United Nations' global warming report and, subsequently, in fueling political movements to reduce carbon emissions.

The e-mails in question suggested that a group of scientists had been adapting and altering their findings so that they would correspond to and support their theories. Particularly damaging was an e-mail correspondence in which a scientist brags about a "trick" he uses to "hide the decline [in temperature]." The head of the CRU, Phil Jones, responded to the public outrage with this mea culpa: "My colleagues and I accept that some of the published e-mails do not read well." Some might call that an understatement.

Unfortunately for Jones and his climate research team, how the e-mail correspondence reads is but a minor issue when compared to the larger implications their very public manipulation of data has for the greater scientific community.

Just when the majority of the public began to be convinced by the seemingly overwhelming unanimity among members of the scientific community on the existence of climate change and the direct causal effects human activities were having on the environment, we are reminded that even scientific truths carry some uncertainty. Suddenly climate-change skeptics' claims that scientists invented climate change to scare us into implementing economic and social policies don't seem quite so crazy.

On the eve of the Copenhagen Convention, the largest convention on climate change since Kyoto in 2005, this scandal carried even more weight. Governments from all over the world are currently meeting to set international goals for carbon reduction based on the once undisputed scientific evidence that we, the human race, were causing our climate to change in ways that would drastically alter our lives and, in some parts of the world, threaten our very existence.

This very well may still be true and we can't be too quick to dismiss the plethora of data compiled by scientists over the years that back up this belief, but we can no longer act on the findings as if they were scientific certainties, nor can we lend the same level of trust to scientists or their work that we once did. This is the fundamental problem created by the Climategate scandal.

When science becomes an integral part of politics and policy, scientists must walk a fine line between presenting their unbiased findings and making people care enough to do something about them. If there is uncertainty in the conclusions they reach, scientists should do all they can to make us aware of those uncertainties. The actions of the scientists involved in this scandal were unbefitting of the respect and confidence so many put in their work. Consensus is not reason enough to suppress findings that oppose the majority's view. If science wants to repair its damaged credibility, scientists must be scientists, not lawyers.

Craig Hardt is a member of the Class of 2012.