"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ludicrous Article on Slate

Andy Revkin is taking bait set by Ron Rosenbaum in a ludicrous article on Slate.

Here is my response.

Well, I've been advocating you cover dissent too, but from a sociological perspective. You should report on Naomi Oreskes' work uncovering the roots of the pseudoscientific footdragging that bypasses the scientific community entirely and goes directly to the press. It's an effective strategy; wearing white coats and looking authoritative takes so much less effort than actually participating in the scientific process. I'd be happy to give their silly argunents their due if the press were to also put a little investigation into who these people are, why they do what they do, and how much they participate in science as actual contributors.

I write, though, mostly to express my bemusement at this astonishing blurt from the Rosenbaum article:

It may be that believers in anthropogenic global warming are right. I have no strong position on the matter, aside from agreeing with the CJR editorial that there's a danger in narrowing the permissible borders of dissent.

But I take issue with the author's contention that the time for dissent has ended. "The era of 'equal time' for skeptics who argue that global warming is just a result of natural variation and not human intervention seems to be largely over—except on talk radio, cable, and local television," she tells us.

And of course we all know that the Truth is to be found only on networks and major national print outlets. Their record has been nigh unto infallible.


I think the generous term for this is "obtuse". He refers to the bigger publications with a hint of jealousy, and to the scientific community not at all!

Truth, on matters of objective physical reality as opposed to social or political reality, is pretty much the specialty of science. The very fact that slate.com exists is a testament to the capacity of science to find truth.

On matters of scientific fact, the scientific arbiters of what is or is not beyond the pale have not a perfect record, but it is a solid one indeed. At some point, the press owes it to the public to have sufficiently solid communication channels to the scientific community as to stop troubling the public with empty crackpot posturing. That is your job. Your job is not to sell "papers".

The national science academies of all G8 nations along with most of the remaining scientifically active nations all have issued staments regarding the urgency of action to curtail carbon dioxide emissions. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorology Society and the American Geophysical Union have all issued statements concurring with the summaries of the scientific working group of the IPCC.

When exactly will the press give us the permission to treat this pernicious nonsense for what it is? I don't know about you, but my vote is for about eight years ago at the latest.

Update: Here's a related article by P Z "Pharyngula" Myers.

Update: Things Break, tackles Rosenbaum's article with great panache if perhaps in more detail than it really deserves. Many interesting points made along the way, though, and very much worth the read on that account.



Anonymous said...

MT- good choice with the socio-Oreskes route. I wish I had thought of it. My response just went up, and it's in a point-by-point format.

The one thing that struck me was how disrespectful Rosenbaum seemed of journalists that cover climate- which dovetails nicely into what you noticed about his stance on the bigger media outlets.


Anna Haynes said...

Pajamas media. English Lit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, MT. CJR put out their own response to Rosenbaum today as well.