The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Journalism Like This, Please

Stuart Jordan in the Humanist:
A more rational explanation for Climategate is that the climate contrarians had run out of alternative scientific hypotheses for global warming and were desperate to find another way to discredit the prevailing science. Several independent reviews of the controversy, completed in the UK this past spring, found no evidence of malpractice on the part of CRU, nor did they find anything to contradict the consensus that human-caused global warming is a threat. A Pennsylvania State University review of the work of faculty member Michael Mann (he of hockey stick and now Climategate fame) likewise found no evidence of wrongdoing. Yet Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has revisited the case. In April Cuccinelli ordered the University of Virginia, where Mann was formerly employed, to turn over more than a decade’s worth of emails, documents, “things or data” related to Mann’s research (most federally, not state funded). This tactic has been used before to intimidate scientists, or at least to waste their time.

A distinguished group of 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences published a letter in the journal Science on May 7, 2010, striking back hard against those who egregiously misrepresent science to a vulnerable and confused public in support of “special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.” They note that no serious study has found anything wrong with contemporary climate science, even though scientists have “quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes.” They go even further in connecting their letter to Climategate in calling for “an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.”

Why can't more journalists write like that?
Stuart Jordan is a senior staff scientist (retired emeritus) at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He has a PhD in physics and astrophysics and is science advisor for the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC.
Oh. Not a journalist. I see.

OK, then, why don't scientists do the writing about science, then?

3 comments:

mothincarnate said...

It wouldn't help... Those who don't want to believe the science will argue that the scientist writer is bias and will just search out anti-science writers like Nova and Bolt here in Aust.
It's amazing what rubbish is allowed to be published! I made a conscious decisions years ago not to read papers like the Australian or the Advertiser (SA rag)simply because I got sick of all the sensationalism rather than real news. At least there are some good outlets online and some excellent blogs! :-)

Steve L said...

I disagree with mothincarnate, mostly because there are people who don't have an entrenched opinion, but also because details (such as, precisely who wrote exactly what) are often ignored by deniers (eg, see Monckton's citations).

mothincarnate said...

True Steve.. There are people who don't have entrenched opinions, however, there are plenty of people who do have a certain agenda who work for a number of major newspapers.
I still believe that if people don't like what they hear, that won't buy the paper. People who want to listen to the rubbish Andrew Bolt says (for instance) will read and believe him regardless.