Two parts to this. An email exchange with a reporter, and the column he eventually wrote. Regular readers know I’ve been documenting these so other can people can see just how honest, bright, unbiased, and flexible—or their opposites—members of the fourth estate are.
The reporter’s eventual column is duller than a rebuttal speech to a State of the Union address, so I quote from it only lightly. All I want to demonstrate is that reporters aligned with the mainstream are nearly unteachable.
Email exchange with yet another reporter
Dante Ramos of the Boston Globe emailed on 23 February and said:
I’m a columnist for the Globe’s op-ed page, and I hoped to check in with you about the recent stories in our paper and the New York Times. I was particularly interested in how the debate about your work relates to the concept of academic freedom.
About the column he wrote, more in a minute. First, I answered:
Now that is an excellent question.
The topic is large, but consider the effect government money has on science. Somehow, and against direct evidence to the contrary, funds from government are seen as pure and uncorrupting. And the same is largely true about the lucre from non-profits, such as the cult-like Greenpeace, an organization with an extreme ideology and long history of despicable (and illegal) behavior.
Yet money from private individuals and companies is uniformly seen as tainting.
People who receive (say) NIH or NSF grants pass a review process, but that is also true of private disbursements. The difference is that the government grant recipients of today are tomorrow’s government grant reviewers, and vice versa. The cliché Old Boys’ Club is not inappropriate.
The government hands out billions, and it is it that largely decides the course of science. This can be and has been for the good. But also for the bad, as when politics enters the system. Nowhere is this more obvious than with global warming. Even good scientists feel pressure to conform to The Consensus. Better to keep quiet and keep your reputation—and keep the grants flowing.
You’ve doubtless heard about President Eisenhower’s farewell speech in which he warned of the “military-industrial complex.” But less well known, and in that same speech, he also said this:
“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
Gravely to be regarded indeed.
Now as I have told your Sylvan Lane, and many many other reporters, for our paper “Why models run hot”, we received no money from anybody. We asked nobody for anything. Nobody offered us any anything. We did this paper on our own time driven only by our intellectual curiosity. We had no conflict of interest of any kind. And we said so. This is real academic freedom.
The whole flap over this paper is ideologically generated, as I have extensively documented. Why?
To distract. It is a fundamental unquestionable scientific principle that bad theories make bad predictions. Climate model predictions are lousy. It is thus necessarily true that the theories which underlie these models are bad.
We proposed one reason why this might be so. We might be wrong. But even if we are, it is still utterly certain that climate models are broken and cannot be trusted.
Every scientist used to not only know this, but they said it loudly and clearly. Not so now. Now everybody pretends not to notice how rotten climate models have become. Too dangerous.
There is no intellectual freedom left in climatology except by going outside the system as we did.
I’m happy to answer other questions you might have.
William M. Briggs
Dear Dr. Briggs,
Thanks for setting out your thoughts at length. I gather from the
email chain that Dr. Soon forwarded along my message. Just so I
understand, are you speaking on his behalf?
If so, I suppose an obvious question is why he wouldn’t just disclose the funding sources for the papers in question up front, and let the journals involved draw their own conclusions? I gather that Harvard-Smithsonian was aware of where Dr. Soon’s grants were coming from, so that wasn’t a secret…
I speak for the four of us on the paper “Why models run hot”. Your second set of questions (1) assume the conclusion you wish to ascertain and (2) are not unlike the “Have you stopped beating your wife?” ploy. Try again.
Anyway, you don’t understand. There was NO FUNDING SOURCE for “Why models run hot.” Where by “NO FUNDING SOURCE” I mean “NO FUNDING SOURCE.” I’m not sure how I can make it any plainer.
I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but reporters can be awfully lazy and narrow-sighted. You are aware, are you not, that there were four authors on the “Why models run hot” paper? Why are you focusing on just one? Why are you so eager to change the subject from Climate Models Stink to a false accusation about a conflict of interest?
Did you get the point of science I made? If so, this is your big chance. You can start a revolution in the public understanding of science! Now that would make a difference. Every reporter’s dream, eh?
You’ll take a lot of heat from your colleagues, sure—but hey, that’s what bravery is all about.
Ramos’s Academic freedom for sale appeared on the 24th (and I only saw it two days ago).
Ramos starts by saying some fool (Gillis of the NYT) reported Willie Soon had done wrong. Ramos does not attempt to correct this lie, letting that Soon was accused imply his guilt, a standard journalistic cheap trick. He then mentions academic freedom:
…such freedom is most vital for those who, like Soon, do research that rubs their colleagues the wrong way. But it doesn’t mean researchers should never have to answer for who funds them or how they conduct themselves. “Academic freedom” isn’t an all-purpose excuse, behind which anything goes. And for institutions, the term shouldn’t be bureaucratese for “looking the other way.”
A lot of nonsense. Ramos was told we received nothing for “Why models run hot”, but this factual news was of no interest to him. Ramos then began walking away from the charge that Soon’s employer remained unaware of Soon’s activities (that walk back will be back to the beginning, as it were, and Soon will, of course, be vindicated, because it was Soon’s employer who signed all contracts).
Anyway, Ramos said:
Soon didn’t respond to my request for comment; I did receive an odd e-mail, signed by an associate of his, quibbling with the premise that government grants confer more credibility than funding from corporate interests.
You can see what I wrote above. Ramos could not be taught that, inside the academy, government grants do confer great status—and great monetary and professional rewards. Ramos was also disinterested in how the vast sums injected into the system, as Eisenhower promised, corrupt science.
And science is indeed corrupt. As any disinterested examination of global warming would reveal.