Sunday, February 7, 2010
Courtesy Mark Boslough
Copyright, NMSR Reports February 2010
In 2005, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Rep. Joe Barton, (R-TX) joined the assault by harassing three respected climate scientists, demanding immediate documentation of what he called “methodological flaws and data errors” in their work. Barton held hearings and ordered a review of the “hockey stick” temperature graph the scientists had published. Edward Wegman—a statistician with no background in climatology and little understanding of physics—led the investigation. Wegman’s team submitted a report that criticized the statistical methods used by the scientists. Denialists embraced this criticism, claiming that the hockey stick has been discredited and declaring that global warming was a fraud.
To many researchers, the investigation was nothing more than an anti-science witch-hunt. Scientists play by well-defined rules. They require peer reviewed publication, logic, and evidence. Science is like a hockey game that only works if fans understand it and teams play by the rules. Inhofe and Barton knew their side could not win against a world-class “hockey team.” They chose instead to create confusion and sow doubt. Their tactic was to act like unruly fans and throw hundreds of decoy pucks onto the ice and then take advantage of the chaos. The idea was simply to delay any action in order to protect vested interests in the status quo. They didn’t have to win the game. All they needed to do is disrupt it by turning it into one big “ClusterPuck”.
Scientists were understandably angry and were not always circumspect in their private messages. They did not expect political activists—willing to tap phones and break into computers—to steal their correspondence. Although there was no evidence for any wrongdoing by the scientists, their words were twisted and taken out of context. Emails were published by bloggers and broadcast by media for whom controversy and conflict trumps accuracy. This non-scandal became known as “ClimateGate.”
The actual scandal is associated with the Barton investigation. Last month a blogger called “Deep Climate” demonstrated that, in a cruel irony, the Wegman team actually plagiarized from a textbook written by one of the scientists under investigation. Even worse, they changed the meaning of the text they stole. The supposedly unbiased referees of the game were part of the ClusterPuck.
New evidence continues to mount (see deepclimate.org for updates). Will the media investigate and report the “ClusterPuck” scandal as aggressively as they did for the “ClimateGate” non-scandal? Or is there a journalistic double standard that favors deniers? Stay tuned.
From the Louisiana Coalition for Science:
New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) is one of the most dedicated, effective pro-science groups in the United States. Since 1996, they have successfully defended the teaching of evolution in New Mexico public schools against the Religious Right’s repeated attacks. Two NMSR members, physicists David Thomas and Kim Johnson, also do a weekly radio program, Science Watch, which airs each Saturday afternoon on KABQ AM 1350 Progressive Talk in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Concerned about the attack on science education in Louisiana by the Discovery Institute and the Louisiana Family Forum, Science Watch has done two interviews with Barbara Forrest about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). The first interview, “Statehouse Statue: Creationist Legislation Update,” on March 14, 2009, was intended to update listeners about the Discovery Institute’s promotion of its model “academic freedom” legislation in state legislatures around the country. The audio clip is posted here (14 minutes, 19.5 MB mp3). The second Science Watch interview, “What Hath Jindal Done? Scary News from Louisiana,” on October 31, 2009, reflects the seriousness with which NMSR views what creationists have done to our state. This interview includes an update on the creationist-influenced policy that was adopted in September 2009 by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education governing the filing of complaints about materials used in Louisiana science classes. The audio clip is posted here (11 minutes, 15.3 MB mp3). ...