Words in His Mouth

The Wall Street Journal publishes a short op-ed signed by sixteen scientists who oppose public policy directed towards curtailing the human cause for “global warming” (AGW). Although when it comes to publicly stating my opinion on AGW I try not to pass judgment, since I am not a scientist and I am not well read on the facts, I nevertheless file myself as an “AGW skeptic.”  AGW skeptics tend to love these letters, because they reaffirm what they already believe in.  Some parts of this particular letter, though, seem particularly bad.

The op-ed states,

In September, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever, a supporter of President Obama in the last election, publicly resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) with a letter that begins: “I did not renew [my membership] because I cannot live with the [APS policy] statement: ‘The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.’ In the APS it is OK to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

This is my interpretation: we can debate topics as esoteric as the mass of a proton, but not one as practical and important as AGW?

This is how those sixteen scientists interpreted Giaever,

In spite of a multidecade international campaign to enforce the message that increasing amounts of the “pollutant” carbon dioxide will destroy civilization, large numbers of scientists, many very prominent, share the opinions of Dr. Giaever. And the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year.

On a second reading, I realize that I may be jumping the gun, which is why I included the second sentence.  My interpretation of the above is to claim that Giaever is a “heretic” (the use of the word “and” makes it seem as if the second sentence feeds off the first, and therefore the first is directly related to the second). That is, Giaever is opposed to “the message” of AGW.

It may, indeed, be true that Giaever does not agree with AGW.  But, that is not what his letter of resignation to the APS reads (at least, the excerpted part).  Giaever is opposed to the lack of debate, not to the argument in favor of AGW.

These types of tactics seem a tad bid dishonest; and if dishonesty was not intended (which very well may be the case), then the tactic is unintentionally dirty.

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  1. I think there are a number of issues where scientists see science as being under attack by politics or some other social forces. Global warming is one such case. The causes of sexuality/gender identification are another. Evolution is a third. The problem is that as a result, scientists appear to rally around the flag and defend the scientific position at all costs as though it were a political ideology or religion. There are cracks in all theories and the normal process is to acknowledge them and try to work out fixes, not get upset at people who point them out. I happen to largely accept the “consensus view” on global warming. But I don’t think science is being well served by scientific organizations declaring that certain theories are “incontrovertible”.

    • I never thought about the possibility of scientists taking up the anti-AGW position on account of their opposition to political intervention in scientific debate.