As President Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all the time. Once again, the people running the Weblog Awards have been suckered into legitimizing anti-scientific denialism.
The finalist list is out for the 2008 Weblog awards “Best Science Blog,” and two of the ten finalists are anti-scientific websites primarily devoted to spreading disinformation (and noninformation) on global warming– just like 2007.
The 2007 “competition” ended up being yet another classic exercise in the right wing perverting an otherwise reasonable web idea — online voting for the best science blog. As Desmogblog explained in a post titled, The “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” beating “Vast Left Wing” Voting for Best Science Weblog, the right wing voted en masse for Climate Audit and the rational people all voted for Discover magazine’s excellent Bad Astronomy Blog. In the end, the process was so controverisal that the Awards folk simply called it a tie — saying each blog ended up with exactly 20,000 votes.
It would be ironic that the choice of best science blog was not made scientifically — except that the result was an anti-scientific website run by someone who isn’t even a scientist has for the past year posted on his website a “Best Science Blog” logo. That isn’t ironic. It is both tragic and farcical.
It would be like James Frey winning an award for Best Memoir — but not like Dick Cheney winning an award for being the best Vice President, since Cheney is actually a VP.
To quote Lincoln again:
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
And calling Climate Audit and Watts Up With That science blogs — or for that matter calling the Drudge Report and The Onion science blogs — doesn’t make them ones.
And that brings us to 2008.
You’d think the Weblog Awards would have learned from the past and either dropped the category or the anti-science blogs. But as the saying goes, the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.
On Monday, voting will begin again on Best Science Blog, and I don’t think you need to be a scientist to predict what will happen next. It would be nice if the deniers split their vote, but they didn’t do that last year. That means all the rational people can’t afford to waste their vote.
Much as I’d love to recommend voting for RealClimate, the smart money has to be on voting for last year’s co-winner — Bad Astronomy Blog. So you can’t even recognize your favorite science blog, since you don’t want to let the deniers win — again. And that’s why this whole thing is a farce.
I do intend to write more about the denier websites, but since I’m still technically on vacation, I’ll leave that until next week. However, let me reprint something that gives you a flavor of how anti-scientific Watts Up With That is. In my post on Inhofe’s annual disinformation blast — Inhofe recycles long-debunked denier talking points — will the media be fooled (again)? — I noted the screaming headline from Inhofe staffer Marc Morano
Sea Levels Fail to Rise?
And then I debunked it as follows
SEA LEVELS ARE STILL RISING MORE THAN 50% FASTER NOW THAN PRE-1990
On what does Inhofe’s office base the “Sea Levels Fail to Rise” claim? Nothing more than a single blog post by a former TV meteorologist, Anthony Watts, who runs a denial website. That post claims “We’ve been waiting for the UC [Univesity of Colorado] web page to be updated with the most recent sea level data. It finally has been updated for 2008. It looks like the steady upward trend of sea level as measured by satellite has stumbled since 2005. The 60 day line in blue tells the story.”
Does it look to you like the recent data shows that the rate of sea level rise has slowed, as Watts says, let alone stopped, as Inhofe suggests? If so, I suggest you get your eyes checked. In particular, look at the most recent data points at the upper right. They are precisely on the long-term trend.
Yet Inhofe’s office looks at the data and sees “Sea Levels Fail to Rise?” Who are you going to believe, traditional media — Inhofe and Watts, or your own lying eyes? In fact, JPL has two nice side-by-side graphs of sea level rise that show the rate of sea level rise since 1993 has consistently been about 70% higher than pre-1993 — a far bigger jump than the climate models had projected:
The sea level rise data is in fact a reason to be more worried today about the pace and scale of global warming, not less.
It is absurd to call Watts Up With That a science blog. You might just as well call the Drudge Report a science blog. Or John Tierney a science writer. Oops.
The Weblog Awards should not be legitimizing anti-scientific denialism.
One more thing: Yes some people have e-mailed me to express their dismay that I didn’t make the finalist list. I confessed to being a tad pissed off for about an hour. But how annoyed can one really be not being on the same list as Climate Audit and Watts Up With That? I am more annoyed that I wasted your time voting to nominate me. It is odd and unexpected (at least by me) that Weblog Awards would use popular vote to select the winner but an undemocratic process to select a nominee.
I had thought I might be a finalist and beat the deniers. But it is more likely a general interest web science site can garner the votes to beat back the right wing.
In any case, the Weblog Awards are certainly entitled to run their competition however they want.
But they should not be entitled to call a tail a leg. The only thing to do now is to try to stop the anti-science folks from perverting the process again — and then pressure the Weblog Awards folks to simply drop the category in its entirety next year. My apologies again for wasting your time and frankly for not figuring this out and working to stop this farce sooner.