Climate

Science historian Weart: “We’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.”

Spencer Weart: My most interesting conversations were with historians who have been studying the history of the tobacco companies that did their best, and quite successfully for many years, to cover up the fact that smoking kills people by the million.  Some interesting parallels, but…

The Discovery of Global Warming book cover imageSo begins a fascinating interview of Weart on the illegally hacked emails by Capital Weather Gang’s Andrew Freedman.  Dr. Weart is a physicist and science historian with the American Institute of Physics.

Weart’s website, “The Discovery of Global Warming,” is one of the places to start if you’re interested in getting the basics of climate science.  Based on the comments posted on CP, RealClimate, WUWT, DotEarth, etc., I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of the self-proclaimed “skeptics” (aka those who’ve been duped by the professional disinformers) haven’t even bothered to look at the most basic scientific evidence on human-caused global warming.

And the majority of the professional disinformers simply have no regard whatsoever for basic science or an evidence-based search for the truth — which is why they keep pushing talking points that have long been debunked in the scientific literature (see, for instance, Scientists advising fossil fuel funded anti-climate group concluded in 1995: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of GHGs such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”).

But as science historian Weart tells Freedman — spreading disinformation about science is nothing new.  What is new is the slander of both individual scientists and the entire scientific community:

Andrew Freedman: What effects do you think this will have on public perceptions of climate science and climate scientists?

Spencer Weart: I don’t expect this to have much impact on public perceptions of climate and climate scientists. Opinions have become so fixed that it would take serious evidence to shift a significant number of people. Since the late 1980s, just about every year and sometimes almost every month, a group of people (mostly the same ones) have exclaimed, “Now in these latest (whatever) we finally have proof that there is no need to worry about climate change!” There is a segment of the public that has believed every new claim. The rest will continue to doubt such claims in the absence of truly solid proof.

AF: What do you think this story reveals about the conduct of climate science?

SW: Back around 2000 leading climate scientists talked to each other mostly about their science–debating one another’s data and analysis and negotiating travel, collaboration and other administration–and a little bit about policy. As time passed they have had to spend more and more of their time answering criticism of the scientific results already established, criticism mostly based on ignorance, fallacious reasoning, and even deliberately deceptive claims. Still more recently they have had to spend far too much of their time defending their personal reputations against ignorant or slanderous attacks.

The theft and use of the emails does reveal something interesting about the social context. It’s a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science: Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.

Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers. In blogs, talk radio and other new media, we are told that the warnings about future global warming issued by the national science academies, scientific societies, and governments of all the leading nations are not only mistaken, but based on a hoax, indeed a conspiracy that must involve thousands of respected researchers.

Extraordinary and, frankly, weird. Climate scientists are naturally upset, exasperated, and sometimes goaded into intemperate responses… but that was already easy to see in their blogs and other writings.

Guess the tobacco companies just weren’t as clever and ruthless as the big fossil fuel polluters and their allies (see On the 150th anniversary of first commerical U.S. well, the oil industry is headed toward oblivion “” and trying to take civilization down with it and Obama takes on the anti-scientific delayers, while Australia’s Rudd slams the “deniers” and the “gaggle” of “conspiracy theorists” opposing climate action).

AF: For a science historian such as yourself, how valuable are these emails? And what is your impression of them thus far?

SW: There would be a lot to learn if the owner of these emails (I suppose the University) would release them for analysis; for example, you could run up statistics on the types of interchanges and the structure of networks of discussion among researchers. Of course no scholar can make use of stolen material, and in particular one cannot legally or ethically quote a private message without the explicit permission of the writer.

Historians do often work with collections of letters that have been donated to archives. Typically we spend countless hours trying to understand the context; scholarly reputations have been ruined by interpretations that turned out to be mistaken. The risk of misinterpretation is far greater with emails, written so much more casually than letters. Our society is having difficulty dealing with this new form of communication. Look at last week’s verdict on the Bear Sterns hedge fund managers who were accused of misleading investors. The prosecutrs based their case on a few seemingly incriminating sentences drawn from a mass of emails. When the jury saw the whole set of emails, they quickly found that there was no crime, just ordinary business chatter. From what I’ve seen, I expect that will be the verdict on the climate scientists’ emails.

Precisely — see Reuters: “ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer.”

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29 Responses to Science historian Weart: “We’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.”

  1. uncle Johnie says:

    This is the industry’s Katrina. Tobacco also hid data and unfavorable studies.

  2. Ruth Brandt says:

    This whole thing is kind of depressing, both as climate-realist (is that the opposite term to climate-denier?) and as a scientist. I hope Spencer Weart is right, and that it won’t have a lasting effect, but I’ve already heard from people with a general (and rational) interest in climate change, that don’t follow all the fine details, wondering what is going on.

  3. David A Kopta says:

    Joe, I don’t know how advertising works on blog sites. I noticed today as I read your blog that McDonalds is advertising on your site. Given the links to articles about how much greenhouse gasses are emitted by the beef industry, it seem strange to have McDonalds advertising on your blog. Do you have control over this?

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    This will have an impact. I interact with some people who are already strongly (and ideologically) “convinced” that climate change isn’t real. This e-mail thing just gives them another sort of “proof” (in their minds) that they are right. AND, there are many people “on the fence” who are being influenced by the “doubts” raised by the e-mails, supposedly.

    [JR: I have no doubt that those who will not be convinced by scientific evidence will continue not to be convinced, but add this to the general crap they push. I doubt it will have much effect on anyone else.]

    So, I think it would be unsound and naive to think that the e-mail hack won’t have an impact. And, when a group of people lose any hesitation about doing stuff like this, who knows what will be next?

    So, the answer is not to “think” that it won’t matter and “hope” that it just goes away. The best defense is a good offense.

    At this point, the authorities should find and prosecute the e-mail hackers and anyone who hired or paid them to do it. And, people should bring suits against companies like ExxonMobil. And, people should boycott companies like ExxonMobil, Koch, and etc. And, people should also boycott specific news organizations if those news organizations don’t give us the basic facts and do a much better job of covering the whole climate change issue. And so forth.

    And, scientists should speak up, period.

    [JR: That’s why I’m printing what scientists like UK Royal Academy, Weart, Mann, Curry, Trenberth, and so on say.]

    The e-mail hacking is an escalation — and not an unimportant one — in a battle over science and “fact”, and indeed responsibility. One side has basically (and already) divorced itself from any genuine interest in those things. And, the other side needs to defend those things and implement them in a way that addresses the real problems of climate change and energy. It’s not a small task. But, “hope” is not nearly enough.

    It frustrates me (to put it mildly) when people ignore science and responsible behavior. Doing so, in this case, is no laughing matter.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  5. Big tobacco is nothing compared to these stakes.

    It is easy to see any short-sighted carbon investor seeing AGW as the greatest threat to their investment. Worth any investment to erase the obstacle to a multi-trillion dollar industry.

    Why are we surprised by this applied agnotology? A business decision.

    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/AgnotologyConference.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnotology

  6. Jim Lowellson says:

    “… we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance”

    I have also followed the debate on “intelligent design” and while the scale (quantity and high profile) of these accusations is unique, the same wholesale accusation of malfeasance has been evident in that debate.

    This trend, calling all scientists liars and claiming the process doesn’t work, is worrying and I expect we’ll continue to see it until in quits working.

    I expect that education is the best remedy, but the political resistance makes that difficult or impossible.

    Website’s like this help people like me. Thanks.

  7. PurpleOzone says:

    The tobacco industry did sick the FBI on one early researcher in passive smoking. He was working on his own time with equipment and data from sources other than his government job. A senator had the FBI invade his official office to find evidence that he was actually doing the tobacco work at his place of employment. (He wasn’t).
    The researcher’s commented he’d have preferred beautiful women. (Refering to GM’s attack to destroy Ralph Nader’s credibility by planting models at his apartment swimming pool to seduce him.)

  8. Kevin says:

    Although the tobacco companies never did it, there is one group that often does accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. The evolution deniers.

    They often accuse science of ignoring their “proof” and deliberately misleading people. Evolution deniers regularly try and pervert and stop scientific debate.

    The biggest difference between the evolution and climate debates is how the scientists respond.

    Geneticists and molecular biologists don’t let deniers join the debate about how evolution works. They would not tolerate papers published in peer reviewed journals that suggest that maybe evolution wasn’t real. If any journal published such an article the editor would be fired.

    But for some reason, some climatologists think deniers should be allowed into the debate.

    To equate a “denier” and a “skeptic” is something only a clime scientists would do. They are very different things and not hard to tell apart.

    Every scientist should do everything they can to ostracize deniers, whether they are scientists or paid spokesmen. The anti-science crowd should never be treated as if they were just taking another side in a scientific debate.

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Joe, Regarding My Comment 4:

    Joe, thanks for your comments in my Comment 4. I appreciate all the great work that you do, of course, and my Comment 4 wasn’t meant to critique any of that. Also, I agree with most of what your comments (in Comment 4) suggest.

    But, I disagree with one thing, if I understand one of your comments correctly. I think that this sort of e-mail hacking thing (and how it is covered in the media) will have an impact, to a degree, on a not-insubstantial number of people who are “on the fence” and who don’t yet understand climate change OR science itself.

    I realize that (if I understand your comment correctly) you have a different view on that, saying that you “doubt it will have much effect on anyone else”. But, the reality (of whether it will or won’t) is, like many other matters, subject to empirical understanding; or, put another way, there are our hunches, and then there is some reality to the matter. I’ve come across a few fence-sitters who are influenced by such things, quite a bit. So, my data set, so far, suggests that these things DO matter and CAN matter, sometimes at least.

    I’m not suggesting a whole study or anything, nor should we waste time talking about what has already happened. But, my point is that we shouldn’t merely “hope” or “hunch” that these things don’t matter, if doing so causes us to take them too lightly or to avoid having a good “offense”.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

    [JR: I appreciate your comments. While I can get as focused on the blogosphere as anyone else, this sort of thing really doesn’t bubble up to the vast majority of people “sitting on the fence” who simply don’t pay attention to this kind of news. They’ll probably see the news coming from Copenhagen and then when Obama gives various speeches and the Senate debate, but fundamentally public opinion doesn’t change that rapidly and this is not the kind of thing to move it. BUT I fully agree that this is an opportunity for climate scientists to come out from behind their desks and start explaining the science to people, and I’ll probably do a blog post on that this week.]

  10. Leland Palmer says:

    Here’s one report, detailing ExxonMobil funding for a network of climate change deniers:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf

    Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air

    How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science

    In an effort to deceive the public about the reality
    of global warming, ExxonMobil has underwritten
    the most sophisticated and most successful
    disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry
    misled the public about the scientific evidence
    linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease.
    As this report documents, the two disinformation
    campaigns are strikingly similar. ExxonMobil has
    drawn upon the tactics and even some of the
    organizations and actors involved in the callous
    disinformation campaign the tobacco industry
    waged for 40 years. Like the tobacco industry,
    ExxonMobil has:
    • Manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts
    about even the most indisputable scientific
    evidence.
    • Adopted a strategy of information laundering
    by using seemingly independent front organizations
    to publicly further its desired message
    and thereby confuse the public.
    • Promoted scientific spokespeople who misrepresent
    peer-reviewed scientific findings or
    cherry-pick facts in their attempts to persuade
    the media and the public that there is still
    serious debate among scientists that burning
    fossil fuels has contributed to global warming
    and that human-caused warming will have
    serious consequences.
    • Attempted to shift the focus away from meaningful
    action on global warming with misleading
    charges about the need for “sound science.”
    • Used its extraordinary access to the Bush
    administration to block federal policies and
    shape government communications on global
    warming.

  11. Leland Palmer says:

    Here’s a link to the Greenpeace site ExxonSecrets, detailing some of the structure of this network:

    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy/exxon-secrets

    ExxonMobil is fighting for its life, here. Apparently, nothing is off the table in their efforts to derail Copenhagen.

  12. Anna Haynes says:

    > “I doubt it will have much effect on anyone else … this sort of thing really doesn’t bubble up to the vast majority of people “sitting on the fence””

    I agree with Jeff and disagree with Joe (who said the above). The deniers are loud, and we don’t have a hope in hell that the public won’t hear them. And this episode is a “poisoning the well” tactic, that undercuts any “nothing in the emails undercuts the evidence” rejoinder.

    The public is listening with half an ear at best, and hearing a cacophony, and we need to clean up that signal, or their signal processing, in order for them to have confidence in what the science is saying.

    [JR: But that is MY point! How does this move the needle?]

    As for “I doubt…” – that assertion has a faith-based feel to it; we need empirical data. What keeps us from assembling a “readers circle” of nearly-randomly-chosen consumers of various news media, and surveying them to find out their views, thoughts, understandings and wishes?
    Would the norgs be willing to cooperate on this? (if not, we should still be able to find at least newspaper subscribers through other means – papers on driveways, for one…TV might be harder though.)

  13. lgcarey says:

    Weart has articulated what Judith Curry doesn’t seem to get – try as you my to treat them as legitimate sincere “skeptics”, the “denier-carbon industrial-right wing blogosphere” crowd is pushing a strategy to completely discredit an entire field of science. Their strategy is entirely negative.

  14. Dan B says:

    It doesn’t seem clear that either Jeff / Anna’s proposition or Joe’s can be proven. Only time will tell if the Fossil Fuel industry will do serious damage to science. The fact that it’s quite possible should be a wakeup call. From my perspective as a communication / cognitive science junkie it’s been far too long in coming.

    I believe the way forward for climate scientists is to put a robust communication infrastructure in place.

    We live in a country in which commercial interests have a love – hate relationship with scientific inquiry. When science is good for the bottom line the “interests” are happy. We now have a corporate messaging strategy that is picking off scientists one at a time. It’s fairly easy to guess when and what their next attacks will be – during Copenhagen. They’ll probably use the line that “foreigners want to push America into radical changes that threaten our pocketbooks”. There will be many variations of this message, each tailored to a target audience.

    With a robust communication infrastructure in place it would be easy to smack down these nationalistic and zenophobic messages, simply by exposing them for their core beliefs.

    Most scientists believe that data and facts will clear the air and rescue them from further attack. They believe that more facts will persuade a skeptical public. Cognitive science, linguistics, and political science all disagree. The human brain and communities are not motivated by facts. They’re motivated by a shared understanding of values and emotions. It’s time for “scientists” to listen to scientists.

    For any readers of this log who are interested in a positive communication strategy there are two excellent resources that make a good starting point: Sightline Institute’s “Flashcards” – start with Flashcard #2. And ‘Made to Stick’ by Prof. Chip Heath, Stanford, and Dan Heath, his brother.

    Last night an acquaintance of mine described a trip to China to explore their sustainable energy initiatives. He was awestruck by how far ahead China is and how inspirational the Zero-Carbon new cities and Zero-Carbon rural homes were. Endless hot water and free lighting – does this sound like a vision for the future? They’re leapfrogging the fossil fuel model and arriving at the future technology.

    Take that George Will! (And Senator Inhofe…)

  15. mike roddy says:

    Scientists, with rare exceptions, may not be the best ones to engage the deniers and the general public. When confronted with the typically nonsensical arguments by people such as Michaels or McIntyre, a climatologist becomes discombobulated. It’s as if a gang of five year olds burst into a serious adult discussion: there are few common points of reference.

    At the same time, I don’t think we should mimic the tactics of Exxon et al and hire PR firms that are adept at pushing people’s buttons, and are indifferent about the truth. What we need are spokespeople who are fearless, intelligent, honest, and articulate. Included in this job description should be a willingness to call professional paid deniers out to be the lying scoundrels that they are, in restrained language, of course. There are few reporters can do it, and network anchors and reporters are no longer comfortable with reality based journalism. Wallace is too old, and Rather has been the target of a successful smear campaign over the Bush National Guard episode. Olbermann is too intense, and so on.

    Weart did this well in his contribution here, and you are good at this too, Joe. Unfortunately, for every one of you there are hundreds of scientists who feel soiled by the whole enterprise, and just want to go back to their laboratories. And as a poster pointed out, a well thought out communications infrastructure is required. Climate blogs are great, but the audience they reach is limited.

    This effort would particularly include good radio and TV interviewees, and a large group of advocates who are prepared to take their case to the media. For example, when George Will writes climate nonsense in the Post, outrage should be a lot more formidably expressed than through a few phone calls and letters to the editor. The issues are, after all, serious.

    I have a few ideas among retired generals, politicians and journalists, with a few scientists included, too. The main things are to address the issues squarely and comprehensively at every opportunity, and to be relentless and direct in addressing fraud and financial conflict on the other side. This is all quite doable, and would encourage a team effort from all Americans who’ve taken the time to study this. We remain a great country, with articulate spokespeople who would be inspired by this effort. Let’s see if anyone steps up.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    I’ll march with Weart, not Curry.

    Second try to post this.

  17. MarkB says:

    Weart’s analysis is top notch. He mentions “Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.” Indeed – this has been a new low. There are a couple of key differences between denial of tobacco effects on health and global warming denial:

    1. Mitigation of global warming implies fundamental changes to how we use industry. The tobacco industry, while powerful, is a much smaller confined segment of industry than energy. There is simply much more powerful interests protecting the status quo.

    2. Ideological bias – Those addicted to smoking might deny the harmful health effects of their habit. Those addicted to fossil fuels (largely a mental addiction) will want to deny the science on global warming. The latter group is much larger than the former, driven by their irrational fear of government regulation and the thought of someone taking away their habit.

    Given how much more powerful and broad the industry and psychological forces that lead to global warming denial is, such a persistent loud slander against science and scientists is not a surprise.

    I think Jeff’s 1st paragraph (#4) is essentially correct. It’s meat for the conspiracy theorists. Contrarians, fully-engaged in mass hysteria on the issue (much of it feigned) will become more zealous. One has to wonder about those “on the fence”. How can one be “on the fence” on climate change? It’s like being on the fence about the Earth revolving around the Sun, evolution, or smoking and health. Those in this category have not done their homework, and are likely to be easily influenced by misleading rhetoric.

  18. PurpleOzone says:

    Plus which Fred Singer did label the entire field of damage from passive smoking, “junk science” after the field was well established with thousands of researchers in many fields. And the New York times published this loony attack as a letter.

  19. David B. Benson says:

    An anti-enlightment trend in the USA has been noticed by others; more than just anti-science.

  20. EMTguy says:

    As an AGW skeptic, I have been warned that posting here is subject to ‘moderation’ and, indeed, my writing has been removed on occasion. However, instead of pushing a skeptic’s viewpoint, I would like to comment relative to the current situation and how to cope with it.

    Mike Roddy (#15) advocates the assembly of competent spokespersons to rally the response to the apparent effect on the populace of the email exposures. A good approach. However, in mentioning the name of Dan Rather as a ‘smearee’ as opposed to a ‘smearer’ his bias seems clear and the selection of spokespersons would need to be well thought out. The “60 Minutes” fraud was thoroughly exposed almost before Rather was off the air with the Bush piece.

    A better approach by AGW proponents, I think, would be to acknowledge wrongdoing by those who have committed it (if you can agree that such wrongdoing has occurred) and regroup. I feel that this would be a better response than trying to deal directly with the “five year-olds” who are disrupting things.

    I am not a climate scientist by any means. I am, however, steeped in the scientific method by virtue of having been an engineer dealing directly with the lives of astronauts engaged in human space flight. I write here only in the cause of scientific integrity and, above all, getting things right.

  21. mike roddy says:

    PurpleOzone,

    Many of us older guys thought for a long time that since the New York Times was the publisher of the Pentagon Papers over 30 years ago that they deserved a little slack. It took a little while to figure out what they are now all about.

    In fact, there’s a reason they’re in the same rack as USA Today at Starbucks. That’s where you go to get birdcage or catbox liner.

  22. Leland Palmer says:

    I think the way to approach this problem of paid attacks on scientific integrity is to investigate, investigate, investigate.

    Scientists have upon occasionally turned investigative reporter, in the past, as the Union of Concerned Scientists report shows.

    If scientists feel threatened by these fossil fuel funded slander campaigns, and they should feel that way, they should join the Union of Concerned Scientists or some other similar investigation, and dig to get to the bottom of the ExxonMobil support network for the deniers.

    We know that some sort of denier network was being run out of Senator Inhofe’s office by Marc Morano, and that after he left that job he was picked up by a think tank funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, which is no great surprise. He got spanked, and went running home to the Scaife network of conservative foundations, IMO. Likely Morano is still running the denier network, IMO.

    Scientists should not wait to have this done to them again. They should counterattack, and investigate, investigate, investigate to do so.

    Scientists have money, logical and investigative skills, and communications and networking skills. They should band together, join the ACLU, join the Union of Concerned Scientists, and start putting together investigative reports, not only on the Morano/Inhofe denier network but also on the Scaife network of conservative charitable foundations that supports such far right causes.

    Finally, the ExxonMobil/Rockefeller financial empire is long overdue for very, very serious investigation, IMO.

    We need to stop taking this sort of thing lying down, and go after this network of fossil fuel corporations, major banks, and charitable right wing foundations that are leading the world to ruin.

  23. Richard Brenne says:

    Mike Roddy (#15) and All:

    Mike, I’ve been thinking along very similar lines. All true scientists are interested in learning as much about their discipline as they can. They’re sincerely interested in reality, facts and truth.

    Conversely the most widely-heard deniers are professional arguers, often attorneys or with similar training and skills. They are not interested in the truth, but only in winning their argument.

    Most great scientists don’t necessarily seem like great communicators to me. It appears difficult for them to empathize with the far lesser knowledge the average member of the public has about their discipline. They have difficulty putting things into plain, accessible language, finding the best and simplest metaphors, and speaking concisely and in sound bytes.

    The best science teachers at smaller private liberal arts colleges, community colleges and even high schools are often better at communicating science to the public, who are closer to the level of their students than graduate students or even undergrads in the sciences at major research universities.

    Other great communicators in all types of media should also be enlisted.

    Then top scientists should be paired or grouped with these best communicators who are dedicated to communicating climate change and effectively rebutting the arguments of deniers.

    This is what I’m attempting to do through my infant (though hopefully not infantile) Anthropocene Foundation suggested to me by Paul Ehrlich and supported by scientists like Paul Crutzen, Kevin Trenberth and many others.

    Top scientists who are also top communicators: NASA’s James Hansen, NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth, Stanford’s Stephen Schneider (I’d love to know others – please list!)

    Expert scientists from other fields who are great at commuicating climate change: Joe Romm (Again, I’d love to know others!)

    Expert meteorologists who are great at communicating climate change: The Weather Channel’s Stu Ostro (formerly a denier), Huntsville, Alabama’s Dan Satterfield.

    Journalists: Bill McKibben, Jeff Goodell, Eric Pooley, Andrew Revkin (when focused on the science, not the controversy), Bob Henson of NCAR.

    Politicians: Al Gore, Bill Bradbury (running for governor of Oregon, primary disciple of Gore’s), Jay Inslee (energy expert in Congress).

    Others: Eban Goodstein (Economist at Bard College, creator of “Focus the Nation on Climate change), Toby Dittrich (my partner in our NASA-sponsored on-line class on climate change), Bud Ward (director of the Yale Climate Change Media Forum).

    Those with the potential to get this and communicate it: Bill Moyers, Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, etc.

    We should all be working together on this, and I hope we do. Your comment about this was very well-written Mike – thanks.

  24. jim says:

    I agree with Weart here that the stakes are enormous – and the attacks on individual scientists are ‘scorched earth’. I notice that he uses the term slander – and I am sure that is intentional as it also is a legal term. I hope the victims of this slander are considering civil action against the perpetrators.

    From Wikipedia:

    In law, defamation—also called calumny, vilification, slander (for spoken words), and libel (for written or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. It is usually, but not always,[1] a requirement that this claim be false and that the publication is communicated to someone other than the person defamed (the claimant).

    In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images. Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.

  25. This is so hopelessly complicated.

    In this case, to actively, deliberately encourage misinformation and doubt is to [snip]. Isn’t it?

    But we can’t accuse those who passively, silently ignore the issue of committing the same crime….And then there are so many of us who know the seriousness of the issue but fail to speak out.

    And a few just enjoy the carbon wealth and want to keep it going as long as possible, without any concern for the future. But they may not have direct malice.

    The big sin is to deliberately harbor wrong science, and then promote it too. This is a very familiar action in our culture – readily seen in the collection of old tobacco advertisements http://lane.stanford.edu/tobacco/index.html

    Science historians and all of us should scrutinize this time. We have done all this before. And we should not make the same mistake again.

  26. Joe, thanks for restraining my extreme speech above.

    If you will permit a revision, I would like to resubmit my statement to be:

    “to actively, deliberately encourage misinformation and doubt is to encourage mass extinction.”

    This is essentially saying that exhorting the world to ignore the science that reveals a danger means possible extinction.

    I can accept your request for careful language but I see nothing in the climate models that say this is impossible.

    [JR: Oh, the IPCC says 3.5 C warming would wipe out 40% to 70% of all species, so there is little doubt that would face mass extinction on our current emissions path.]

  27. SecularAnimist says:

    Science historian Weart said: “… we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.”

    Not true. Parapsychologists have been routinely subjected for decades to baseless accusations of “deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance” from organized groups of obstinate denialists masquerading as “skeptics”.

    Many people feel quite comfortable denouncing parapsychology as “bunk” when in fact they know less about modern parapsychological research than the Ditto-Head global warming deniers know about climate science.

    [JR: Uhh, not a good analogy.]

  28. Marion Delgado says:

    Parapsychology has no body of knowledge. Some parapsychology work showed promise, but it’s mostly not been subjected to rigorous analysis. As far as anyone can tell, it’s either a failed research program, a bankrupt research program, or a currently un-doable research program. Whether the truth is out there or not, a person with, e.g., a physics degree or statistics or psychology or what have you would not have a reasonable expectation of published results if they chose to devote their time and career to parapsychology of any sort.

    That’s why it’s fringe science – and most fringe science is denialist, unfortunately.

  29. SecularAnimist says:

    Marion Delgado wrote: “Parapsychology has no body of knowledge. Some parapsychology work showed promise, but it’s mostly not been subjected to rigorous analysis.”

    An extended, substantive discussion of parapsychology would certainly be off-topic, not to mention that it would be futile to begin one with the 28th comment on a three-day-old discussion thread which probably no one is looking at any more.

    Having said that, and with all due respect, I submit to you that both of your statements are quite incorrect and reflect a lack of knowledge of the field — not unlike similar statements about the status of climate science that are often made just as confidently by people who haven’t really studied the science but already “know” that it is bunk because that’s what they’ve been told by organized, so-called “skeptic” groups.

    That’s the parallel I was suggesting between attitudes towards parapsychology and climate science: they both come under attack from ideologues who have an a priori ideological opposition to their findings, or even to their very subject matter, and are most strenuously and vociferously denounced and rejected by the very people who know least about them.

    If you are genuinely interested in learning about modern parapsychology I recommend two books by Dean Radin, Ph.D — “The Conscious Universe” and “Entangled Minds” — which give a history and an overview of modern parapsychology research and the scientific evidence for so-called “psi” phenomena.