An article at Daily Climate discusses the hate mail that climate scientists have been getting, and the likelihood that it's part of an organized campaign of intimidation.
The e-mails come thick and fast every time NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt appears in the press.I can't help wondering if it's really wise to delete e-mails like these, which could possibly provide forensic evidence for orchestrated attacks and astroturfing. As I see it, someone should be gathering these e-mails from as many recipients as possible: simply deleting hate mail, while understandable in emotional terms, doesn't seem like a good idea from a scientific standpoint or a political one.
Rude and crass e-mails. E-mails calling him a fraud, a cheat, a scumbag and much worse.
To Schmidt and other researchers purging their inboxes daily of such correspondence, the barrage is simply part of the job of being a climate scientist. But others see the messages as threats and intimidation – cyber-bullying meant to shut down debate and cow scientists into limiting their participation in the public discourse.
While we're on the topic of discarding useful data, get a load of this:
The nature of public discourse – be it climate change or health care – has changed; information that does not fit one's worldview is now discounted or rejected.This just in: Public discourse is irrational pretty much by definition, and our self-styled defenders of "objective truth" might be a little more convincing if they weren't constantly wringing their hands over the loss of some rationalist Golden Age that never fucking existed, ever.
Increasingly," wrote Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald recently, "we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth."
Never mind obvious examples like the Scopes trial and the decades of witless bickering it inaugurated; even something as apparently straightforward and logical as the imposition of standard time zones, back in the 19th century, was widely seen as arrogant tinkering with God's handiwork. To the extent that Pitts has a point, it's a point about the erosion of authority, not of "critical thinking." And even then it's dubious, since scientific authority has always tended to wax and wane along with its political utility. Power is knowledge, you might say.
As for being "alienated from even objective truth," I think Plato made a somewhat similar argument. As did Francis Bacon, when he said that "the mind of man is far from the nature of a clear and equal glass wherein the beams of things should reflect according to their true incidence; nay, it is rather like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture, if it be not delivered and reduced." As have more people than I can name, again and again, from the dawn of recorded history 'til now. If Pitts is truly unaware of these little details, I'd say he's a better example of our intellectual decline than the fact that the man in the street has insufficient respect for climate modeling.
You can't treat AGW as an appropriate matter for public debate, and demand that the debate be conducted rationally, strictly on the basis of the evidence, because that's not how the public reliably operates even when the evidence is clear and accessible. Unless we intend to dissolve the people and elect another -- or to treat dissenters as irrelevant anti-patriots, the way we do when it comes time to launch wars -- we're stuck with them. Which is to say, we're stuck with us. If we're going to treat realism as some sort of civic duty, perhaps we should start being realistic about human history and how it's made, and stop blaming its victims.
(Illustration: "Credulity, Superstition, Fanaticism" by William Hogarth, 1762.)