Letter to the Editor: Political Science


Brendan Fitzgerald’s article “Does anyone trust science anymore?” January 24, melds half-truths, undefined terminology, and under-critical reporting. The initial quote of Michael Mann, “hopefully every scientist…is a skeptic,” was hopeful. The next sentence has Mann revealing his own muddled bias as he elevates consensus to scientific fact, and then re-labels skepticism as denial.

Later in the article, the reporter introduces the idea of an “inflated idea of how many people disbelieve global warming.” Whether promoting manmade global warming or not, there are no informed scientists who “disbelieve global warming.” The globe has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 1800s, and since the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. This is a straw man set-up. As far as the general public is concerned, the Pew Research poll of January 11-16, 2012, finds public concern with global warming continuing to drop. It ranked last of 22 topics-of-concern. Consensus is not scientific proof; it takes only one negation to disprove the “truth.”

The quoted 2010 Stanford University survey of 1,300 climate scientists is a half-truth, as presented. The article notes that only 908 respondents of the 1,300 were used. This is a bit better than the 2009 University of Illinois survey of 10,000 scientists, winnowed down to 77, of which 75 agreed with two survey questions. Unmentioned is the reported “skepticism” of the British Royal Society, France’s National Academy of Sciences, India’s National Action plan, and others.

Unmentioned are the behind-the-scenes comments of Mann and others in Climategate 1 and 2, which indicate an organized effort to keep dissenting/skeptical climate papers from ever being published. Mann considered his methodology “proprietary,” thereby preventing others from verifying his work. Statisticians McShane and Wyner reported in Annals of Applied Statistics 2011 that such temperature proxies as tree rings and ice cores are no better than random numbers. Similar rebuttals were made by the 2006 Wegman Commission, and by McIntyre and McKitrick.

Unmentioned is the controversy behind Mann’s “divergence problem,” whereby he abandons tree-ring methodology when it showed cooling beginning in 1981, and then on used warming data from instruments for the “hockey stick.”

“Multiple investigations cleared Mann of wrong doing.” None, to my knowledge, ever investigated his science claims. He was cleared by Penn State only of procedural wrong doings. The attitude of UVA is interesting in terms of academic freedom. It has reported to have spent around $1 million in legal fees to protect Mann’s documents from FOIA requests. Uniformed police officers and plain-clothes detectives are the answer to dissent at UVA…Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village.”

Charles Battig, M.D.
VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy
and Environment
Albemarle County