Scientific American & Lemonick pull a Charlie Sheen — or a Richard Muller, which is much the same

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"Scientific American & Lemonick pull a Charlie Sheen — or a Richard Muller, which is much the same"

Michael Mann requests retraction of defamatory claims; frankly, the whole piece should be replaced with multiple apologies.

Scientific American MagazineScientific American has published easily its worst article ever, a multi-libelous puff piece by Michael Lemonick lionizing the widely debunked Prof. Richard Muller.  Its embarrassing title, “I Stick to the Science,” is a self-congratulatory quote from Muller as utterly false as most of most of his other statements in the piece.

Leading climatologist Michael Mann has rightfully requested a retraction of the article’s defamatory claims.  It also gratuitously libels Al Gore and Tom Friedman.

Memo to SciAm editors:  It is still libel when you quote someone else at length making a libelous statement.  That goes double for a proven fabricator like Richard Muller — a man whose previous libel of Al Gore was revealed to be a pure fabrication by esteemed climate scientist Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the head of the National Academy of Sciences.

This piece is a massive failure of editorial judgment:  It actually contains falsehoods that had previously been debunked by other articles published by SciAm! It is VERY hard to undo the kind the harm SciAm has done with this piece. It should be retracted in full and replaced by several apologies.

As Mann writes, “Anyone who thinks that Richard Muller has any credibility at all should see this recent video report by Peter Sinclair, which shows him clearly lying about the science and the scientists. There is no room for such dishonesty when it comes to discussions of science.”  Many other climate scientists have shared similar views with me.

While Muller’s version of climate science has repeatedly been shown to be wrong, his libels repeatedly shown to be fabrications, and his latest Koch-funded climate research to be riddled with conflicts of interest and anti-scientific partners, Scientific American manages to conduct an extended 3-page interview that never raises a single tough question, that never pushes back against Muller myriad libelous fabrications.  Indeed, the piece just credulously parrots Muller’s anti-science nonsense.

Here are just a few of the head-exploding low-lights from this People-magazine-style hagiography masquerading as science journalism:

Muller:  “I also separately learned of work done by Steve McIntyre up in Canada, who looked at the “hockey stick” data….  I reviewed the paper that the hockey stick was based on, and I became very uncomfortable. I felt that the paper didn’t support the chart enough.  A few years later, McIntyre came out and, indeed, showed that the hockey-stick chart was in fact incorrect. It had been affected by a very serious bug in the way scientists calculated their principal components. So I was glad that I had done that.”

What else can one call this but an outright series of libelous lies?

Scientific American itself published a piece in November 2009 titled “Novel Analysis Confirms Climate ‘Hockey Stick’ Graph!  That alone would probably be grounds for proving willful negligence in a libel suit against the magazine.  As far back in 2005, SciAm published a pretty solid piece on the Hockey Stick in which NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt pushed back against the McIntyre-type attacks that followed Mann’s initial publication:

That led to “unjustified attack after unjustified attack,” complains climatologist Gavin A. Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

So SciAm can’t plead ignorance in court about their decision to publish unchallenged Muller’s smear on the hockey stick and the scientists who put it together. For the record,

  • The Hockey Stick was affirmed in a major review by the uber-prestigious National Academy of Scientists (in media-speak, the highest scientific “court” in the land) “” see NAS Report and here.  The news story in the journal Nature (subs. req’d) on the NAS panel was headlined:  “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph“!
  • The Hockey Stick has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent studies — including one SciAm itself wrote about.  For a full list, see “Wegman scandal rocks cornerstone of climate denial.”

SciAm’s stenographic repetition of Muller’s smears must be taken down and replaced by an apology.  Mann writes me:

I find it terribly distressing that Scientific American — and Michael Lemonick (for the second time now) — would knowingly allow the pages of this once-respected magazine to be used to smear scientists such as myself. This is indeed a sad day for Scientific American. I suspect that many of my fellow scientists will decide with some regret, as I did more than a year ago in response to the eroding quality of the magazine, that they hve no choice but to cancel their subscription. What a sad loss.

I wrote about the first Lemonick piece — and the absurd online polls that came with it — here.  I said at the time:

Like most scientists, I have held Scientific American in high regard as a magazine that aims for the informed public while maintaining strong scientific standards with articles by respected scientists and science writers.  Getting two articles published in the magazine over the past three decades was certainly one of the highlights of my career.

So yes it is with great sadness that I am debunking yet another SciAm piece.  But this piece is indefensible.

There is no excuse whatsoever for Scientific American to simply be the mouthpiece of a serial smearer.  Consider this jaw-dropper:

MullerI’ve been quoted as saying that both Gore and [New York Times columnist Thomas L.] Friedman are exaggerators. These are people who are so deeply concerned with the dangers of global warming that they cherry-pick the data, too, and they’re not really paying attention to the science, which is not surprising. They’re not scientists.

But that’s not science. With science, you have to look at all the data and draw a balanced conclusion. And I believe they’re doing it because they are so deeply concerned, and they have accomplished some real good in alerting the American public to an issue that it needs to know about. But not being scientists, they feel they don’t have to show the disagreeing data, they don’t have to show the discordant data. To the general public, Gore is a scientist. The danger is that when you do it to exaggeration, eventually people will discover you’ve exaggerated, and then people react.

What else can one call this but double libel?

Please tell me what kind of a journalist and what kind of editors allow their pages to be used to call two leading Americans “exaggerators” who cherry pick the data and don’t pay attention to the science — without asking for a single specific instance or offering any push-back at all?  Let’s remember, Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership on climate communications and Friedman holds three Pulitzer prizes.

Let’s also remember that one of Muller’s major libels of Al Gore was revealed to be a pure fabrication by esteemed climate scientist Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the head of the National Academy of Sciences — see the work of CAP’s Brad Johnson in “Koch-funded scientist Richard Muller makes up story about Al Gore, Ralph Cicerone, and polar bears“).  In that piece, I wrote that “I spoke to Gore’s office and indeed they confirm they everything Muller said in that clip was a fantasy.  Indeed, they pointed out that everything else Muller says in his entire talk about Gore is false.”  And I listed the full debunking of Muller’s falsehoods by Gore’s office.  Apparently SciAm is incapable or unwilling to use Google for 30 seconds — let alone employ the minimalist editorial judgment of not simply acting as a stenographer of smears.

Both Gore and Friedman pay more attention to the science than Muller.

Lemonick:  Do you consider yourself a climate skeptic?

Muller:  No””not in the way that the term is used. I consider myself properly skeptical in the way every scientist would be. But people use the term “skeptic,” and unfortunately, they mix it in with the term “denier.”  Now, there are climate deniers. I won’t name them, but people know who they are. These are people who pay no attention to the science but just cherry-pick the data that were incorrectly presented and say there’s no there there.

I include among the skeptics people such as Watts and McIntyre, who are doing, in my opinion, a great service to the community by asking questions that are legitimate, doing a great deal of work in and out””that is something that is part of the scientific process.

Let me respond to this laughable statement by quoting Philip Yam, Online Managing Editor for Scientific American in his November 2010 piece “Do 80 percent of Scientific American subscribers deny global warming? Hardly

the poll was skewed by visitors who clicked over from the well-known climate denier site, Watts Up With That?”

Yes, even senior editors at SciAm know Watts is a well-known denier.  If only the editors had some influence over the magazine’s final product.

You’d think that after SciAm was played by Watts and the climate deniers over its online poll that they would have bent over backwards to double-check any story that mentioned Anthony “shout them down” Watts.  You’d be wrong.

Note how Lemonick lets Muller place himself in between the deniers and supposed exaggerators — but he never names the deniers, only the non-exaggerators.  The one can safely say is that Muller is doing as great a service to the community as Watts.  Almost everything Muller says is false or a self-serving half-truth.

Here’s something from the introduction to the interview, written by Lemonick himself (!):

More recently, Muller called Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth a pack of half-truths and asserted that measurements of global temperature rises are deeply flawed, insisting that many of those who warn of climate change have sold the public a bill of goods. Although he is convinced that climate change is real, potentially dangerous and probably caused in part by humans, he has taken climate scientists to task for ignoring criticisms by outsiders, including meteorologist Anthony Watts of the Watts Up with That? blog and statistician Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog.

Again, no evidence whatsoever is offered for this grotesquely libelous attack on Gore.  But then, as the climate scientists of RealClimate have shown, the movie isn’t “a pack of half-truths” and indeed has no blatant errors.

No evidence whatsoever is offered for the claim that measurements of global temperature rises are deeply flawed — mainly because they aren’t.  Lemonick seems unaware that Muller himself said in a March public talk, “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.” In fact, the latest science says measurements understate recent warming (see The deniers were half right: The Met Office Hadley Centre had flawed data “” but it led them to UNDERestimate the rate of recent global warming and “Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one“).

Scientific American is truly alone in thinking that serial-misinformer and scientist-smearer Richard Muller deserves a profile, let alone a pushback-free puff-piece like this one.   As one leading climate scientist emailed me, “As far as I am concerned, and all the real scientists, Muller is a nonentity.  He has has no published works of any value and BEST has not published. Many of his statements are wrong and poorly informed.”

Here’s a video everyone involved at SciAm should be required to watch:

The whole piece should be retracted and replaced by multiple apologies.

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71 Responses to Scientific American & Lemonick pull a Charlie Sheen — or a Richard Muller, which is much the same

  1. toby says:

    The once-great Scientific American has been in decline for some time now. Comparisons with People magazine are appropriate. It seems to have rushed into the old mainstream media trap that two sides must be equal, and presenting fights, wars, cartoon villains and brave heroes will sell more copies. The editor that published Lemonick should be fired or removed.

    That is not what I expect from Scientific American. I will certainly not be buying or reading that magazine in the future unless it cleans up its act.

    Is there a link where we can let our disapproval be known to the editor? I think I spent enough money on Scientific American over the years to justify letting them know how I feel.

  2. Susan Anderson says:

    So having a big ego is more important than telling the truth? Shame, shame, shame! Sure do hope readership rebels big time.

  3. Zetetic says:

    J.R. said….

    The whole piece should be retracted and replaced by multiple apologies.

    Respectfully I must disagree, I’d much rather see Mann, Gore, and Friedman take SciAm, Lemonick, and Muller to court for libel than an apology/retraction. In the long run even if an apology is issued right away this story will continue to still be quoted by denialists for at least the next decade since they know that most people won’t bother to investigate what happened later.

    Instead it’s long past time for the side of science to start fighting back against these groups and start holding them truly accountable in a way that hurts them financially and professionally for telling such lies and trying to undermine action on a serious threat to civilization. Much like the the Democratic party, the scientific community seems to be so concerned about being civil and not being aggressive that the denialists/Republicans are given free reign to stomp all over the truth, science, and freedom. Yet time after time the liars and deniers are given a free pass as long as they give an (insincere) apology. Making a court case out of this will hurt them not just professionally and financially but will help to educate the public about these lies and make it harder for the denialists to cite this story later, since more people will be aware of a big law suit than an apology.

    To hell with an apology… Release the lawyers!

  4. Skepticsm used to be mere scoundrelism – but the consequences of deliberate distraction make this is climate criminalism

  5. Bryson Brown says:

    I’ve been a subscriber for more than 30 years; I thought about cancelling after the ‘through-the-looking-glass’ article they did on Judith Curry just a little while ago. Now I’ve written to tell them, either this changes or I’m done with them– a sad day.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    [snip]

    I don’t think a libel suit will go anywhere, especially since oil companies have unlimited money for attorneys. Organized canceling of subscriptions and raising a public outcry will do more damage. Scientific American has become so casual about the facts that they deserve to be discarded, and their readers referred to competing publications such as Science.

    We need to remember that Koch, Exxon, and Peabody think their disinformation campaigns through very carefully. Note that now that Monckton has been eviscerated by Abraham- and Lomborg and Wegman have endured similar spankings- the baton is now in the clammy grip of frauds like Watts and McIntyre. W and M specialize in misdirection, feigned outrage, and claims that are either irrelevant (“why are you hiding the codes about the tree rings?”) or demonstrably false (Temperature Station Project).

    Muller is another story. His reputation in Physics is pretty solid, according to physicist friends, but as we’ve learned from a few others in the field, physicists are dangerous when they stray. Because they published in physics when they were young, they think that this entitles them to lifelong opinions on matters that they know very little about, including climate science.

    Serious pushback is called for, and not just geeky sounding position papers. I’m glad that Mann isn’t bullshitting around here, and he should be loudly supported by other scientists in this latest McCarthyite attempt to discredit him.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    Next up: Muller states, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”

    Being well acquainted with Shakespeare, Joe knows where I’m going with that one.

    Back in the 1970s, I believe it was, I was glad to see Scientific American survive — though I regretted the loss of its “classic” format. The articles were less rigorous but still worthwhile. Now, however, the magazine seems to be trying hard to lose credibility entirely.

  8. catman306 says:

    Perhaps the answer to the cause of the demise of Scientific American lies in these words.

    In the years after World War II, the magazine was in steep decline. In 1948, three partners who were planning on starting a new popular science magazine, to be called The Sciences, instead purchased the assets of the old Scientific American and put its name on the designs they had created for their new magazine. Thus the partners—publisher Gerard Piel, editor Dennis Flanagan, and general manager Donald H. Miller, Jr.—created essentially a new magazine. Miller retired in 1979, Flanagan and Piel in 1984, when Gerard Piel’s son Jonathan became president and editor; circulation had grown fifteenfold since 1948. In 1986 it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group of Germany, who have owned it since.

    In the fall of 2008, Scientific American was put under the control of Nature Publishing Group, a division of Holtzbrinck.[1]

    Donald Miller died in December, 1998,[2] Gerard Piel in September 2004 and Dennis Flanagan in January 2005. Mariette DiChristina is the current editor-in-chief, after John Rennie stepped down in June 2009.[1]”

    It got offshored.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_American

  9. Mark Sandeen says:

    @catman306 – So if I understand correctly – the magazine is currently neither Scientific nor American.

  10. Mauri Pelto says:

    He sticks to the science, hmm. How does that explain Muller and Associates clearly a for profit endeavor not aimed with science as the bottom line certainly. http://www.mullerandassociates.com/index.php

  11. LucAstro says:

    Good to know before I renew my subscription.

  12. jcwinnie says:

    @Mark Sandeen – So, it is putting a lie to the idea, like so much else being done of late.

  13. Zetetic says:

    @ Mike Roddy #6:
    Respectfully, and keeping in mind that IANAL, but I’m not so sure that a libel suit can’t be won as long as a good case can be made for it. Libel suits filed by denialists against their critics have been withdrawn, and the fossil fuel companies haven’t seemed to be so eager to support the accuser then. In fact here is a link from “Watts Up With That?” on April 8, 2011 asking for donations in a case to help defend Timothy Ball from a suit by Michael Mann. Help asked for Dr. Tim Ball in legal battle with Dr. Mann
    Therefore obviously similar suits have been filed before (Go, Mann!), yet there seems to be a lack of oil money for the defense in this case.

    IMO, I rather doubt that the fossil fuel companies actually care about those that speak as AGW deniers to the public. “There will always be more waiting in the wings, the next one will just need to be more careful”, is probably what the corporate heads will think if such a suit goes against a denialist.

    Also, I think that part of the problem for the fossil fuel companies is that they don’t want to be too blatant about their support, especially in cases of alleged libel, because they need to make sure that those speaking against acting on climate change have at least the appearance of objectivity. That is why most of their money is in the form of political contributions donations to “Think-Tanks”, for “speaking engagements”, etc. People that are familiar with the debate know about the connection, but if they are too obvious about their efforts then it will be much harder to create the illusion of doubt among the general public that they need to maintain. Many people still think that there is a big scientific debate ongoing about the reality of AGW, the fossil fuel interests need to maintain that false perception.

    Again IANAL, but I have to wonder if being too directly involved in those charged with libel may possibly make them vulnerable to such suits as well? In other words they don’t want to be seen as part of the accused party in any case of libel and wind up as a defendant. Perhaps that is another reason for distance in past suits? Not that they couldn’t afford it financially, but it’s important to maintain the appearance of a major scientific debate on climate change for those in the public that are still “on the fence”.

    In short, IMO if there is a good case to be made for a libel suit (and that can vary depending on the countries involved) I don’t think that it’s likely for the oil companies to join in such a legal fight if they can avoid it since they apparently haven’t done so in the past. If there is a good case to be made (again depending on the laws of the countries involved) I see no reason not to purse it if possible. Trying to be “the bigger person” and not taking action in such matters is just handing them an easy victory and encouraging any further inaccurate claims.

  14. jim says:

    Cancelled my subscription. The Judith Curry article and now this. I no longer trust the articles in Scientific American.

  15. MapleLeaf says:

    Joe,

    This indeed is truly pathetic on Sci American’s part, not to mention disgraceful and unscientific behavior by Muller. I wonder how Anthony Watts will respond? He had a fit when the BEST results (run by Muller) contradicted his beliefs, but will he now jump to Muller’s defense just because he is libeling “The Team”.

    Muller knows he has erred, his errors/misunderstandings have been brought to his attention– perhaps even personally by email. At the very least he cannot feign ignorance about these debunkings of his BS (Bad Science) by SkepticalScience.

    Like Curry, Muller has been misled by McIntyre’s tricks and sleight of hand. This piece by the Policy Lass shows how McIntyre and his cohorts operate.

    I wonder if Muller was misled to by McIntyre about Wegman?

  16. MapleLeaf says:

    Used to sometimes buy Sci. American to read on business trips. Well no more.

  17. paulm says:

    Was thinking about an e-sub but will skip it now.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Here’s Muller’s biggest inaccuracy:

    I didn’t volunteer. I came close to turning it down. And I discussed it with my colleagues, and for the most part they said, “Look, this is the government. This is important. If you don’t give them your honest opinion, your honest thoughts on what you know, they’re going to pass legislation that doesn’t take into account the current status of the science.”

    Muller (or at least his colleagues) actually thought that energy legislation would be based on science!

    Someone has not been following the news for the last 30 year or so . . .

    [JR: More BS self-puffery.]

  19. Bill W says:

    Did Murdoch somehow buy SciAm?

  20. Mark Shapiro says:

    OK, here’s another Muller whopper:

    “I’m not even going to guess at the Re- publican committee chair’s motivations. Having testified before Congress, I have a sense that most members of Congress are serious, that they are thoughtful, that if they have a point of view that disagrees with what you call the mainstream, it’s because there have been legitimate skep- tics who have raised real issues that have not necessarily been answered.”

    Has Muller heard these “serious” members of Congress looking for science in the Bible? Has he seen their serious campaign contributions?

    Wow.

  21. Mike Roddy says:

    Mark Shapiro, #20,

    Double wow. Thanks.

    Zetetic, I appreciate the clarifications. You may very well be right about the chances of prevailing in a libel suit- I know little about libel law. And maybe it’s a good idea to keep the pressure on everywhere- courtrooms, Congress, the press (what’s left of it), and through ad hoc citizen groups like this one.

  22. harvey says:

    VERY SAD!
    I will not renew my subscription again.
    At one point I had every single issue starting in 1968.
    My first computer program I wrote for myself was conway’s
    game of life, in fortran on an IBM 360, based on an article from the magazine.
    RIP SciAM

  23. Jon says:

    It’s a common trap that publications fall into. It become more about bottom line that the integrity on which most were founded. Time for the Scientific American team to go back to the past and reconcile its mission.

    The paradox is that we are all talking about, in some way vindicating their decision to publish the article.

    [JR: Destroying their print reputation for a few extra online eyeballs is a Faustian bargain.]

  24. Solar Jim says:

    HELP – it’s getting darker and darker!

    The global multi-billion dollar annual PR budget by big fossil/fissile for pervasive public deception activities like distorting The New York Times and Scientific American is truly impressive to behold. There are several books (and web sites) about the global “fuels” agenda (basically, protect assets at all costs).

    For the sake of civilization I hope that everyone involved “fires back with all cannons blazing.” Big Oil, etc. have so much dirty profit that they can actually buy a magazine with pocket change. So they do, in various regards. Soon we may have “a non-fossil website” sponsored by Nixon/Exxon. Perhaps we’ll have another Contract On America with Newt.

    I do not think shame will work. However, a legal action could be a news story, especially if successful.

  25. BobG says:

    So far I haven’t heard an explanation of why the magazine would publish this story. I don’t follow Scientific American. But I am a former journalist and the story sounds like a very unusual one to publish. Why such a long piece on a soft interview with Muller?

  26. Adam R. says:

    Good grief. Who the hell is in charge at SciAm?

  27. adelady says:

    I’ve been resigned to steady progress towards grumpyoldfartland now that I’m over the 60 mark. I now realise that there are people trying to push me over the border.

    First New Scientist and now Scientific American. I’d always preferred NS for broader coverage of more topics – and had to drop that. Bit of a heart-breaker because they’d been my main source (since they printed in B&W only on grade ZZZ paper) on issues about environment and climate and technology. Was thinking of online SA, now that’s off the list.

    Even more grumpy now I’ve written that.

  28. Why would Sci Am publish this ?? Follow the money.

    Who owns them? Count the advertisements… there are a few high-end car ads. Full page ads bring in big revenues. “Hey before we buy a full page ad from you, what are you saying about global warming?” That sentence does not even need to be spoken. It is just known. Oil company advertising influences just by their business with the magazine.

    Check their media kit. Four color world rates are $50,000 for a full page. See the rates for yourself http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=advertising+rates+for+scientific+american

  29. John Hollenberg says:

    Small typo in first paragraph “most of most of”.

  30. Artful Dodger says:

    Why bother sueing? The Pollutocrats have already purchased the Courts. Ask yourself, why is nobody taking individual States to Court in defense of Rowe v. Wade? Not convinced? Just ask JoAnne Kloppenburg in Wisconsin (or Al Gore) how they made out…

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Of course he must sue and not accept ‘apologies’ or being bought off. The phone-hacking scandal in the UK may, with luck, bring Murdoch down, which is why he is spending millions in out of court settlements to buy people off. Scientific American is owned, I see, by a German conglomerate, a capitalist enterprise, so its position defending the capitalist destruction of humanity in pursuit of profit must come as no surprise. Really, until we understand exactly how capitalism will, if not stopped, destroy everything in pursuit of profit, if not now with cli8mate destabilisation, then later with some other cataclysm, we will not begin to understand or address our predicament.

  32. Zetetic says:

    @ Mike Roddy #21:
    I hope that I didn’t come across as too heavy handed there, I just though it important to point out that there have been precedents for past victories on the “libel front” (so to speak) and that the rules seem to be different there than for the influence of political candidates.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    @ Artful Dodger #30:
    While I can understand the pessimism, the rules do seem to be different in cases of libel (so far) in part because they involve different types of cases with different laws. The fact remains that when fought the few libels suits so far seem to have been successful in large part I suspect for the reasons I listed above at #13.

    Obviously such suits won’t hurt the fossil fuel companies, but it does seem to be effective againt the “talking heads” that speak for them in one capacity or another. While it won’t stop denialists from making public comments it can cause them to tone down the more extreme rhetoric and make it harder for them to continue to successfully disparage the reputations of credible climate experts and climate action advocates. To not fight such statements is to effectively concede to them the argument, and allow them to further distort the public’s view of the conflict. IMO, allowing previous incorrect statements to not be sufficiently challenged is part of how we got to the current mess in the first place.

  33. Douglas says:

    I subscribed for several years, let my subscription lapse when work got very busy, and was just thinking of renewing. No more. They crave the ad dollars more than their integrity, I guess. What else to explain this hit piece?

  34. Sime says:

    Mean while outside of “la la land” and planted firmly in reality some really clever people with very, very big brains had this to say on climate change…

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/05/nobel-laureates-speak-out-2/#more-7768

    Hum who to trust with the lives of your family, friends and the rest of humanity, tricky one… NOT!

  35. dhogaza says:

    Mike Roddy:

    I don’t think a libel suit will go anywhere, especially since oil companies have unlimited money for attorneys.

    Two words for you:

    Canada. UK.

    Sci-Am offers international subscriptions and I’m sure shows up on newstands in both countries as well …

    Of course the smeared victims might not be interested in taking them to court, but they’d have a much more solid case in either of those countries than here.

  36. Bernard J. says:

    Like Adelady I was a decades-long subscriber to New Scientist.

    I used to recommend subscription to my first year undergrads as a way for them to garner a good general understanding of scientific disciplines beyond the ones they were studying: at that stage many were not particularly interested in Nature or Science for such reading, apparently because it was ‘too hard’. SciAm was always my second recommendation to my students.

    For me the rot set in about three or four years ago after an ever-growing list of dubious commentary on climate science, especially by Fred Pearce. I stopped subscribing, and have dissuaded others from buying NS ever since – there are far better options for most people these days, especially when half of NS’s pages are goofy illustrations, or advertisements for over-priced watches and luxury vehicles, or simply great expanses of blank paper between columns.

    As others have noted, shame itself matters not to the business model that drives these rags. Nor does the threat of litigation present an especially dissuading possibility, if there is an overall benefit of greater exposure. What hits their bottom lines are sales and subscriptions, and I would strongly urge people to cancell theirs, or simply not renew them, and to to encourage others to do the same.

    And a nice, terse letter or email to the publishers, stating why their brand of scientific reporting is no longer required, will do wonders in making them sit up. If they lose their core audience, it matters not how they play to the lay fringe in order to enhance overall sales.

    On a slightly different matter, although not completely unrelated, Australia’s Climate Commission today released it’s report The Critical Decade. It is a very good summary of the state of climate change science in the Australian context, and provides the sort of lay explanation for the science that NS and SciAm have demonstrated themselves to be incapable of achieving well over recent times.

    Expect the Australian denialist media, vested interests, and conservative body politic to all screech like scalded cats.

  37. Icarus says:

    If Lemonick had done the slightest research before writing this article, he would have known that Muller has been thoroughly discredited on anything to do with climate science in the last few months, and shown to be dishonest and unscientific.

    As for the part about Muller asserting that “measurements of global temperature rises are deeply flawed”, Lemonick should have known that it was Muller himself who only a couple of weeks ago agreed that “We are seeing substantial global warming” and “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”

  38. Anne says:

    Here is a set of short bios for each of the Editors of Scientific American, including the Editor in Chief, Mariette DiChristina:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/mediakit/editorial/bios.cfm

    Each editor should receive a letter urging them to read this post and all the comments, and demanding a retraction.

  39. Spaceman Spiff says:

    from last Lemonick quote, referring to Muller:
    “he has taken climate scientists to task for ignoring criticisms by outsiders, including meteorologist Anthony Watts of the Watts Up with That? blog and statistician Steve McIntyre of the Climate Audit blog.”

    Exactly which criticisms of climate science by these two guys have not wilted under the bright light of science? Which of them were published in journals? Are you kidding me? Now, being wrong in science isn’t wrong in itself, but repeating things demonstrably wrong is. And yet none of that seemed to matter to Lemonick, a veteran science writer who must know better. I am flabbergasted.

  40. Tyler says:

    The article was irresponsible for a publication like SciAm, but is calling someone an “exaggerator” really libelous, particularly in the United States? Just curious…

  41. caerbannog says:


    I include among the skeptics people such as Watts and McIntyre, who are doing, in my opinion, a great service to the community by asking questions that are legitimate, doing a great deal of work in and out—that is something that is part of the scientific process.

    Over at realclimate.org some time ago, I posted a comment directing readers to a piece I wrote about Watts and one of his more egregious claims about the surface temperature record. Here’s the link to that piece: http://forums.signonsandiego.com/showpost.php?p=4349787&postcount=3

    Folks, this is what Muller has been endorsing. He should not be permitted to “live it down”.

    (BTW, Eric Steig over at RC responded to my comment there with a nice little “thank you” note.)

  42. adelady says:

    spaceman – me too about Lemonick. I don’t recall ever noting anything particularly odd about his writing. Perhaps I’ve not read whatever items he’s produced that are like this. I was a bit surprised.

    I thought he’d know the field and the players – which means he should know better than this. (Any hint of aggressive (sub)editing at SciAm?)

  43. BBHY says:

    I was already very upset at SciAm for this hit piece on electric cars:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=why-electric-cars-will-failand-have-2011-05-20

    Now I am just beyond myself.

    Am I working on a new approach to combating the climate deniers. Trying to look at this in terms of Sun Tzu. I got the idea from watching a show about famous battles throughout history and how different it would have been if the generals had followed Sun Tzu in their tactics and strategies. The Battle of Gettysburg was particularly interesting.

    The Untion force had a perfect hilltop defensive position. They Confederates had virtually no chance to win in a straight forward attack. General Lee should evaluated the situation in terms of what Sun Tzu would do. That would have led him to turn and march on the city of Washington. The Union forces would have been obligated to follow to defend the capital. Once the Union gave up their strong defensive position, the Confederates would have had a good chance at victory.

    I know, pretty far off topic, but the point is that we need to get much smarter about coming up with tactics and strategies that will win, or at least give us a fair fight. Right now it seems the climate hawks are getting pretty badly beaten on many fronts. Even trusted allies like Scientific American are now turning to the “dark side”.

  44. Zetetic says:

    @ Tyler #40:
    It’s not the “exaggerator” part that’s the issue, it’s nearly everything else that was claimed. J.R. had even highlighted some of the portions in the quoted parts of the article.

    For example accusing Gore and Friedman of “cherry picking” and “they’re not really paying attention to the science” when it fact it’s the deniers that act in such a manner. Also, accusing them of hiding data that conflicts with AGW. Or, still claiming the Mann’s “hockey-stick chart was in fact incorrect” when in fact SciAm ran a previous article demonstrating that it was correct (also noted above by J.R.).

    Those kinds of statements are what is at issue, not describing them as an “exaggerator”. You may want to read the article and quoted sections more carefully in order to better understand the reason.

    All of this isn’t even touching on the way that Muller misrepresented what was in the so-called “Climategate” emails to the public (watch the video for that one).

  45. Mike Roddy says:

    The passion and intelligence of the comments today made my Monday morning. Thanks to all. We need to think about better ways to harness the people who show up here.

    Another suggestion: Many Americans learn about science magazines at their local libraries, and then go on to subscribe. Scientific American is the one you see most frequently, probably from habit as much as anything else.

    Librarians and their professional organizatios are unlikely to be aware of Scientific American’s embrace of climate trolls.

    This is a dangerous development, and should be countered by organized pressure on library trade and professional organizations. They need to cancel SA subscriptions, and replace them with Nature and Science, which are currently far less common in US libraries. Support for this move could come from providing a transcript of this blog post, with comments incuded.

    CP has been excellent at noting bad media stories, but not enough people are being reached. As I’ve said before, an organized and well researched media monitoring campaign is needed. The fossil fuel companies already have one, placing the truth at a big disadvantage. This is just not acceptable, and has to change.

  46. Sou says:

    While you’re writing to SciAm to cancel subs giving reasons, perhaps a note to the main advertisers, explaining why you have difficulty buying products from a business that advertises in a magazine like SciAm has become.

    A few hundred (or even a few dozen) well written letters might get some of the advertisers asking questions of the magazine. And that wouldn’t do any harm at all.

    I’m also happy to contribute what I can to a fighting fund to help any libel suit by Mann and/or Gore and any other defamed climate scientist or spokesperson. Let me know how.

  47. MarkB says:

    Isn’t that nice. Muller doesn’t mind smearing certain people but won’t even name the deniers. It’s pretty much the Judy Curry narrative. Basically say that deniers exist (as to appear “balanced”) but don’t name any of them, then claim that the CEI, Heartland Institute, Watts, etc are all honest skeptics acting in good faith. Gimme a break.

  48. Lou Grinzo says:

    Sou(46): Excellent point. The worst thing one can do in this situation is quietly cancel a subscription, as it doesn’t send the desired message. Telling the magazine is good. Telling the magazine and the advertisers is better. But best of all is telling the magazine that you’ve told the advertisers.

  49. madcity smitty says:

    Lemonick did the same thing with Judith Curry (Climate Heretic Turns on Her Colleagues) in the October 25, 2010 Sci Am. Who is this guy?

  50. Badgersouth says:

    On the other hand, David Biello continues to be a bright spot. See his recent post, “America’s Climate Choices Are Narrowing.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=americas-climate-choices-are-narrow-11-05-15&WT.mc_id=SA_WR_20110520&posted=1#comments

  51. George Crews says:

    As you mentioned in your post, from what is known so far about the BEST project, we can be more confident about the reliability of the global temperature record. Thus, Dr. Muller and his team are providing a useful verification to some the important information needed for rationalizing the risk management of climate change. Good.

    His, shall we politely say, occasional lack of decorum may be upsetting to most readers here, but, IMHO, beside the main issue.

    [JR: BEST doesn't increase our confidence in the reliability of the global temperature record because it is being run by people who don't understand science and because the global temperature record was already wildly overdetermined and had withstood all scrutiny. Libel and serial fabrication ain't "lack of decorum."]

  52. Charles says:

    There’s another statement by Muller that concerns me. He says: “With science, you have to look at all the data and draw a balanced conclusion.” I don’t think “balanced” is the appropriate word, and it feeds into the desire of some of give “balanced” perspectives on climate change–equal time and weight, so to speak.

    But you don’t look at the data and draw a “balanced” conclusion. You look at the data and draw a conclusion based on what the data tell you, regardless of your hypothesis. As well, you look at the data and decide whether they are valid and reliable.

    Muller goes on to say: “But not being scientists, [Gore and Friedman] feel they don’t have to show the disagreeing data, they don’t have to show the discordant data.” Well, that’s not likely right, either. I suspect Gore and Friedman are well aware that when 97% of climate scientists support the consensus on climate change and only 3% don’t, you better pay attention to the 97% and, as well, that presenting “discordant data”–a significant amount of which has been refuted–only confuses a public not well versed in the intricacies of climate physics and chemistry. It seems to me that Gore and Friedman, on balance (ahem), have been quite astute in throwing the weight of their support behind the solidity of the climate science, as it is represented in numerous reports and statements from the IPCC, NAS, NOAA, Royal Society, etc., etc.

  53. Mike Bromley says:

    Wow. That’s all I can say. I cancelled SciAm years ago when it became a bastion of folk medicine. Expecting it to be otherwise is folly.

  54. Michael Tucker says:

    For reasons known only to Lemonick he wishes to present Muller as a credible climate scientist in order to elevate Watts and McIntyre to the level of serious skeptics who have raised credible issues with climate science. All lies! Muller is not a credible climate scientist and Watts and McIntyre are nothing more than complete science deniers.

    Lemonick, meanwhile, does more than write anti-science propaganda for SA. Princeton is proud to have him as a guest lecturer on a course called ‘Communicating Climate Change’ I shudder to imagine what he might be teaching his students.
    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S30/56/39O68/index.xml?section=featured

    Back in 2008 Lemonick wrote an article called Global Warming: Beyond the Tipping Point in which he said:
    “The basic proposition behind the science of climate change is so firmly rooted in the laws of physics that no reasonable person can dispute it.”

    When did Lemonick give up on reason and facts? When did he join the ranks of the unreasonable? What changed at SA?!!

  55. Richard says:

    Sou (46) Agree – But I just cancelled over the phone. They don’t prompt for a reason here, so you have to make sure to ask them to include a note referencing the article as the reason for the cancelation.

  56. PurpleOzone says:

    Well, I quit subscribing to Sci Am several years ago, for reasons noted above. Occasionally I’ve picked up a newstand copy if it looked interesting. NO MORE!

    All I can do to protest is go through my house and remove all my old copies I might get around to reading some day from the stacks of old magazines. The side benefit is a slightly tidier house!

  57. Jane Doe says:

    This is hilarious!

    The fact you guys can choke on such a resonable article really speaks volumes.

  58. toby says:

    @Jane Doe,

    Muller has “previous”, as the police in the UK say, and if you watch him on any on-line videos, he comes across to as egotistical and self-serving. The title “I stick to the science” is clearly meant to indicate that others do not do so. And given his extravagant praise of well know deniers and libellers of science, the whole thrust is to elevate his own standing at the expense of others.

    This is deeply wounding to scientists who have been defending their integrity for many years. Coming from a fellow scientist, who is using his own credibiity to attack yours, for no good reason and in a casual offhand manner, is really like “being attacked in the house of your friends”.

    Yes, scientific disputes get bitter and personal (Newton vs Leibnitz, Heisenberg vs Schrodinger)but usually AFTER the scientific dispute has begun. Muller has rushed straight in to the ad-hominem without even checking his facts, as you will see by watching the video.

    He has no expertise in paleoclimateology and just seems to be repeating what he heard from Watts and McIntyre. He seems not to be aware of the Wegman Scandal, where a Congressional report on Mann’s work has been shown to be largely plagiarised. You could say Muller has rushed in like a fool where he should have tread more cautiously and been more effective. Outside of the US and its lax libel laws, Mann would have a good case.

    Incidentally, I have seen Muller on video attack James Hansen and basically call him a fraudster in more flowery language. He seems to have rowed back and here praises the best-known climate scientist in the world. Maybe he is learning the hard way. But the one-sidedness of his comments are deeply troubling to anyone who has been defending climate science for years. They do not serve science, and I think Dr Muller might in time regret he was not more circumspect.

  59. Bernard J. says:

    Jane Doe (Lemonicky, or wattever other flavor you are).

    The article may resonably concord with your own ideology.

    However, it is not in any way remotely “reasonable” in presenting the scientific facts… which speaks volumes about your inability to accept objective truth.

    Just saying.

  60. Freedom is Slavery says:

    “The liberty of thinking and publishing whatsoever each one likes, without any hindrances, is not in itself an advantage over which society can wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountainhead and origin of many evils.”

    The rain in Maine falls mainly in the Seine.

  61. catman306 says:

    I had to see if the movie 1984 is free at YouTube (it is) and put it on. In the first minute the government tower is shown. The second lowest level proclaimed ‘Freedom Is Strength’. Higher up is ‘War Is Peace’. But the foundation level is ‘Ignorance Is Strength.’

    That sure explains our modern world.

  62. Sun Spot says:

    I think I like Muller and I like the article. Try the litigation route when the science doesn’t work for you.

  63. Tyler says:

    @Zetetic #44,

    Believe me, I’m not arguing against how bad the article is or how manipulative Muller is being. It’s certainly a failure of editorial judgement, and Muller is surely making incorrect statements aimed at misleading and confusing readers. It’s underhanded. It’s shameful. Call it immoral. But accusing someone of cherry-picking data or not paying attention to the science does not seem to be libel, certainly not in the United States. If it was, you could sue half the members of Congress.

  64. Zetetic says:

    @ Sun Spot #62:

    Try the litigation route when the science doesn’t work for you.

    Good point! That would certainly explain why the AGW denialists are so quick to sue climate scientists for telling the truth, as opposed to climate researches suing for denialist for lying.

  65. Zetetic says:

    @ Tyler #63:
    OK, so now you clarified by stating that it wasn’t about just being accused of being an “exaggerator” as you had stated earlier.

    The point of libel laws is to protect people’s reputations from being unjustly attacked and causing them to suffer undeserved pressures from the rest of the public and authorities. Therefore I’m curious about what exactly would meet your definition of libel?

    Does incorrectly accusing someone accusing of professional incompetence or misconduct, even when all of the available evidence and overwhelming majority of the relevant experts states the work was accurate? With Gore and Friedman he is basically accusing them of trying to deceive the public. BTW here is some of the other comments Muller made about Gore, it was linked in the above article but you may not have read it….
    Koch-funded scientist Richard Muller makes up story about Al Gore, Ralph Cicerone, and polar bears
    BTW don’t forget as that this SciAm article came out after Muller’s own B.E.S.T. group stated that their preliminary research agrees with the global temperature data (see the above video at about 14:20) indicating the planet is in fact getting warmer.

    As I stated before, watch the video linked at the bottom of the article about “Climategate” starting at about 9:50 and 11:35. How is what Muller said not inaccurately stating what was in the emails and leaving the audience with the false impression of deliberate professional misconduct on the part of climate researchers?

    If you don’t think that it is libel when someone systematically gives an inaccurate impression of the work by Mann or misrepresenting the statements of those trying to educate the public like Gore and Friedman then what about when such inaccurate statements are being used by other parties to incite others to issue threats of violence and death? Mann and Gore (and any other climate researcher that commits the heresy of performing accurate science and garners enough attention for it) constantly gets such threats thanks to being systematically misrepresented by the denialists.
    Even now, ClimateDepot’s Marc Morano reiterates his call for a “hostile reaction” to climate scientists

    What about when such inaccurate portrayals are used as an excuse by Virgina Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to engage in a “witch-hunt” wasting large amounts of taxpayer money in an attempt to discredit Mann, and apparently to silence other climate researchers?
    VA conservatives persist in bogus ‘Climategate’ witch-hunt against Michael Mann
    and
    Timeline of the Virginia Attorney General’s Misguided Investigation

    So we having inaccurately stating what others (Mann, Gore, Friedman, etc.) have done/said with the effect of unjustly disparaging their reputation and resulting in inciting abuse and threats from other more reactionary elements of the public and the authorities. If it isn’t libel then what on Earth would be, by your definition?

  66. DaveMcRae says:

    Further, Muller claims in that puff piece

    “..some of the issues raised by legitimate skeptics are valid.”

    Name one – name one that hasn’t been shown to be recycled rubbish! Why wasn’t that put to Muller by the interviewer, aghhh.

    Lemonick is associated with Climate Central according to the end of that article – an organisation committed to “reliable reporting” on climate change – if they were they’d get rid of that reporter. Or is that outfit crooked too?

  67. Tyler says:

    Zetetic #65

    You’re referring to stuff that was said earlier outside of this article, and that may indeed be found defamatory in the court of law. Based on the snippets Joe has provided — which I assume are the worst bits, as I haven’t read the entire article and don’t want to — this isn’t libel. Sure, he can be sued for libel, but whoever sued him would never win. That’s all I’m saying. This is softball stuff. I think the word libel is being thrown around too loosely here. Obviously we disagree, which is fine.

  68. prokaryotes says:

    When i read about the ongoing “Made-up” debate over climate change science and the denial it reminds me so much about this projection, which one came true changed everything.

    “In the sixth year a battle took place in which it happened, when the fight had begun, that suddenly the day became night. And this change of the day Thales the Milesian had foretold to the Ionians laying down as a limit this very year in which the change took place. The Lydians however and the Medes, when they saw that it had become night instead of day, ceased from their fighting and were much more eager both of them that peace should be made between them.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Halys_%28585_BCE%29

    Only fear can teach the humans a new behavior, to stopping Co2 combustion, each and every day at an accelerating pace. We grown into it, everybody does it, so why bother? We are doomed unless another behavioral change occurs, driven by large impacts. The onslaught will not stop it will not get better, only worse and we still do absolutely nothing what is needed to dent the slightest of the outcome. The entire human race has failed. We are a virus which destroys the earth. Can we change? Yes! Will it happen in time?

  69. prokaryotes says:

    Comment should have gone to the latest “Open Weekend Thread” …

  70. Zetetic says:

    @ Tyler #67:
    Here is a general version of what it takes to prove libel in the USA…
    First, you must prove the statement was false. (Already done, even for just the items in this article, especially for the comments against Mann.)

    Second, that person must show that the statement caused harm. (This is where the stuff from “outside” the article comes into play.)

    Third, they must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. (IMO, it’s unlikely that Muller, Lemonick, or SciAm would be able to get out of this one either.)

    The other “outside” items mentioned establish a clear pattern of such misrepresentation and harm so any lawyer for the plaintiff would undoubtedly try to have them included to establish both a pattern and the effects of such comments. If Mann, Gore, or Friedman does bring such a case to court do you think that the other items mentioned wouldn’t be at least brought before the court?

    So, can a libel case be won?
    IMO….Yes, especially since in a real court any such comments by Muller et al. wouldn’t be viewed in the total isolation that you are apparently assuming they would. Now, obviously, whether Mann, Gore, or Friedman would win in court is of course a different question, since there is always the possibility of loosing a case no matter how sound, especially with a subject that causes such ideological defensiveness in some. But if that happens there is almost always the option of an appeal.

    You are of course entitled to think that this is “softball stuff”, but clearly this example is within the necessary legal principles. Considering that well funded systematic attempts to undermine science and the prevalence of death threats and abuse of power, I think that libel suits need to be taken both more seriously, and used more often (when appropriate of course) especially since the denialist side doesn’t hesitate to use them.

  71. Felix MacNeill says:

    Are we getting to the point where even the term ‘Scientific American’ is becoming an oxymoron?

    Okay, I’m an Australian, and we’re hardly models when it comes to dealing with the climate problem, but all the denailism – and a lot of the real science – comes to us from the US.

    As our prime Minister observed in her recent speech to Congress, we used to look up to you – we used to think you could do anything and were truly lead by reason and science. What’s happened over there?