71 Responses to 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 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:
Muller: I’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.