An unimportant moment in science history, but perhaps a lesson in “normal science” that will shut down Cuccinelli’s witch hunt
A physicist named Hal Lewis who doesn’t know the first thing about climate science has resigned from the American Physical Society because he doesn’t know the first thing about climate science.
The anti-science crowd has, with unintentional irony, compared his words of resignation to “a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door.” That laughable assertion might be a half-truth, I suppose, if scientific views were no different from religious ones, which, I suppose, for the disinformers they are. And it might even be a quarter truth if Luther hadn’t actually included any theses in his letter but instead cited, say, the work of Nostradamus in defending his critique of the Catholic Church. But it isn’t even be a semi-hemi-demi truth because it won’t be leading to a major new science religion of Lewisism, since, of course, that’s not how science works.
As we’ll see, Lewis couldn’t even bother himself to learn the basics of climate science and he apparently doesn’t know or talk to very many if any climate scientists. Indeed, this whole story isn’t terribly newsworthy: Lewis isn’t even the first physicist born in 1923 who was a longtime member of the JASON defense advisory group, who studied nuclear winter, and who has said absurdly unscientific things about climate science. That honor belongs to Freeman Dyson.
UPDATE: To see the APS’s reply, click here.
But it did inspire me to break out my copy of Thomas Kuhn’s landmark book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which is marked up from my MIT undergraduate physics days and still has some amazingly relevant insights for today, as we’ll see. It was Kuhn, after all, who originated the term “normal science,” a term confusionists and Tea Party extremists like Viriginia AG Ken Cuccinelli are, well, confused about.
If you want some backstory on Lewis and the APS, read our good bunny friend at Rabett Run, “Dear fellow member of the American Physical Society.”
Lewis’s letter itself is almost a satire of one of those “when I was a kid” reminisces of how great things used to be when people (physicists, in this case) were pure and poor: