By Steve Goddard and Anthony Watts
They are mad, maybe not the crazy kind of mad scientist, but mad nonetheless. When people are mad, sometimes good judgment goes out the window.
The Guardian published a fascinating “open letter” from AAAS, signed by 250 biologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, etc. in defence of climate science.
So far, it has not gone over too well. Even Andy Revkin at the NYT Dot Earth blog points out that:
“The letter has a defensive tone that hasn’t served scientists particularly well in the past…”
Revkin also notes the fact that even the AAAS deputy editor himself tried to tone it down in a companion editorial:
The scientific community must recognize that the recent attacks stem in part from its culture and scientists’ behavior.
Of course, we, the great unwashed public, can’t read either the original letter nor the editorial at AAAS, since both are hidden behind the great paywall of science. We have to rely on the Guardian and NYT to give us mere mortals snippets of wisdom issued from on high. What a great way to “get the word out” to people you are condemning. Yes, “we’ll make them pay”.
In addition to the condescending tone, the use of the d-word, and the lack of open access to an “open letter” and companion editorial, the letter was so poorly written, that we thought we would pitch in and lend them a hand. Italics are their writing. Plain text interspersed are our suggestions.
We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts.
A better way to word this would be : “We apologize for the bad behaviour of our colleagues, and recognize that the public is well educated and aware.
Scientific conclusions derive from an understanding of basic laws supported by laboratory experiments, observations of nature, and mathematical and computer modelling. Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them.
Should read : “We recognize that the process is broken, and we appreciate the help of the public in correcting our errors.”
And then there’s this howler.
When errors are pointed out, they are corrected.
Should read: “We recognize that a few treemometers in Yamal, and particularly tree YAD061, aren’t really representative of the global climate for the past millennium and therefore a solid basis to overturn whole economies. We’ll fix that right away.”
For instance, there is compelling scientific evidence that our planet is about 4.5bn years old (the theory of the origin of Earth), that our universe was born from a single event about 14bn years ago (the Big Bang theory), and that today’s organisms evolved from ones living in the past (the theory of evolution).
That paragraph should be cut completely. Implying that anyone who criticizes you is a “flat earther creationist” is not going to win any converts. Insulting the customer is a really poor idea.
Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence.
Very bad idea to compare the customers, aka the referenced “all citizens”, to holocaust deniers. That is a total non-starter.
Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
Should read : “Few, if any, of us are climate scientists, but some of us did see Al Gore’s film. We talked about it over lunch.”
The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
Should read : “Wow, none of knew that it was the snowiest decade on record in the Northern Hemisphere, until we read it on WUWT.”
We also call 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.
Should read : “We promise to see the doctor about our paranoid delusions.”
All in all, this letter is a PR train wreck. Then there’s the signatories.
Since it is common to see the “but he/she is not a climate scientist” argument used against people that offer views differing to “the consensus”, here are the impeccable climate science credentials of the first 20 signatories :
Robert McC. Adams – Division of Social Sciences, UCSD
Richard M Amasino – Biochemist, UW Madison
Edward Anders – Geologist, University of Chicago
David J. Anderson – Biologist, Cal Tech
Luc Anselin – Geographer, ASU
Mary Kalin Arroyo – Biologist, University of Chile
Dr. Berhane Asfaw – Palaeoanthropologist, Rift Valley Research Service
FRANCISCO J. AYALA – Professor of Biological Sciences, UC Irvine
Dr. Ad Bax – Physics, NIH
Anthony Bebbington – Professor of Nature, University of Manchester
Gordon Bell – Computer Pioneer
MICHAEL VANDER LAAN BENNETT – Neuroscientist, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Jeffrey Bennetzen – Geneticist, University of Washington
May R. Berenbaum – Entomologist, UIUC
Overton Brent Berlin – Anthropologist, University of Georgia
Pamela Bjorkman – Biologist, Cal tech
Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn – Biologist, UCSF
Jacques Blamont – Astrophysicist
Michael Botchan – Biochemistry, Berkeley
John S. Boyer – Marine Biosciences, University of Delaware
After the first 20 names, they are batting 0.000. If anyone cares to go through the rest of the list and report, please pitch in.