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June 27, 2010


New study finds that 97% of the most active climate researchers believe in climate change caused by human activity

First of all, it's not a "study" like the scientific studies that are typically reported in Nature. It's a survey.

Second, articles on the web have pointed out that the authors were not careful nor accurate in assigning scientists to the "believer" or "skeptic" category.

Third, surveys are not how science works.

Fourth, note how weak the conclusion is. Suppose we knew for certain that climate change was caused in part by human activity. What could we do with that knowledge?

-- We wouldn't know how much temperature was going to rise.

-- In fact, the wording "climate change" means we wouldn't even know if man's activity was making the climate warmer or colder or causing more rain or some other change in the climate.

-- Cutting CO2 would be pointless, because we wouldn't know whether the amount of any reduction would be enough to do any good.

-- In fact, we wouldn't even know whether man-made CO2 was the activity causing climate change, or whether it was due to some other human activity.

The bottom line is that climate science is unsettled. Science is settled when a particuar formula has been validated and is widely accepted. E.g., scientists don't merely agree that mass can be converted into energy. They agree that the relationship is e = mc^2.

This useless survey is not a study; it's a political shot.

My wife was a working scientist on the faculty of a medical school. The last thing she wanted to do was to spend time and effort correcting public misconceptions. There was no payoff to her in terms of grants or publications. She wasn't trained to deal in the political world. She didn't enjoy it; that's why she was a scientist. Getting involved politically could even make enemies.

I think the scientific establishment needs to find a way to get more involved in issues where the public is being misinformed. It can't be left to the voluntary actions of individual scientists.

The Dave Weigel story has been no end of fun here in DC. Weigel, the Washington Post blogger assigned to the "conservative movement" beat, was revealed by a leak from one of his fellow-lefties on the JournoList listserv to have made some imprudent remarks there and was obliged to resign. His desire for Drudge to set himself afire got a fair amount of press, but it was simply juvenile. Far worse, in terms of demonstrating Weigel's approach to journalism, were his suggestions that Journolisters emphasize how bad a candidate Martha Coakley was and that Journolisters deny the Washington Examiner links because their gossip columnist had written something Weigel didn't like.

These proposals for concerted action by left-of-center journalists and pundits to adopt a chosen narrative and to choose whom to link on the basis not of what is newsworthy or worthy of comment but instead as reward or punishment are an affront to the most fundamental principles of journalism. Weigel's professors of journalism at Northwestern must be cringing. Weigel's comments also validate the criticism often leveled at media that their reporting is all too often an exercise in spin.

Weigel's own reporting shows evidence of this. In reporting on video of the thuglike attack by Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) on a young man who'd asked him a question on a public street (an incident sadly missing from Brendan's list of attacks on dissent), Weigel minimized the event as "video of a member acting strangely" and mischaracterized Etheridge's grabbing of the young man's hand and refusing to let go, then grabbing his neck and pulling him, as a "hug." Note that Weigel's blog was the only attempt at real coverage of the incident by the Washington Post for most of the day (the incident was also mentioned briefly in two other WP blogs). (Following the pattern of its coverage of the Van Jones and Helen Thomas controversies, the New York Times didn't even cover it that much, waiting to report anything about the incident until Etheridge had abjectly apologized later in the day--but I digress.)

Weigel is an embarrassment to the Washington Post and to journalism. Though he's no longer at the Post, he's expected to find a happy perch at either the Atlantic or the Huffington Post.

Here's another view on Weigelgate and yet another I was particularly struck by this:

Small wonder, then, that whenever a controversy breaks, Dave Wiegel is Johnny On the Spot for reproducing leftwing blog memes.

But of course that's what the Washington Post wanted. They don't want an actual conservative writing this blog; such a person would be very much up on conservative thought, but such a person would also be eager to transmit such thought to Post readers, and that's not what they want.

The Post created this position begrudgingly and for the sake of appearances. And that's precisely what Wiegel delivers. A begrudging repetition of a few headlines he saw on the right side of the aisle, for the sake of appearances only.

Conor Friedsdorf says, "[Weigel's] work is the only standard by which I judge him, and so long as he writes at the level to which I am accustom, I'll read him regardless." The trouble is, conservatives and liberals will judge Weigel's work quite differently.

E.g., conservatives see the Tea Parties as an appropriate reaction to a dangerous and unpredecedent growth of government. (Even the snail-like New York Times finally noticed the deficits in public pension funds today.) Conservatives believe that the LaRouchites and other oddball hangers-on at Tea Party events don't represent the vast majority of tea partiers. OTOH many liberals believe that Tea Parties consist mainly of kooks and racists who are promoting divisiveness and violence.

Articles that focus on the kooks and oddballs and ignore governmental fiscal follies might look like good reporting to Friedsdorf, but conservates will see them as inaccurate propaganda.

Liberal-leaning Dave Weigel makes obnoxious comment about how Drudge should set himself on fire: "you're fired!"

Conservative-leaning Bill O'Reilly, on his radio show, makes far worse comment where he invites Al Qaeda to attack Coit Towers in San Francisco: keeps radio and Fox News gigs.

Ultra-conservative Glenn Beck fantasizes on the air on his radio show about STRANGLING Michael Moore to death: Beck not fired from show and soon gets own CNN Headline News program.

daniel, the problem with Weigel's comments was that they showed that he hates conservatives and conservatism. That should be unacceptible, as can be seen with analagies to other groups.

If a newspaper wanted a regular blog on the subject of black cultural issues, could they selecte a blogger who hates blacks? Could a known homophobe be assigned to write about gay issues? Similarly, once exposed, Weigel could not remain as the blogger on conservative issues.

"Similarly, once exposed, Weigel could not remain as the blogger on conservative issues."

Agreed, and Beck and O'Reilly should not have remained as radio/TV hosts after their publicly announced terrorist/murder fantasies.

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