Anti-Science Claim Is Devoid of Meaning

September 17, 2010 at 11:14 am


16-second Poopy Head! video

Cynthia Tucker is a remarkable woman. Born in Alabama in 1955, her formative years were racially segregated ones. But that didn’t prevent her from becoming a successful, influential, and renowned journalist. In 2007 her newspaper columns earned her a Pulitzer Prize.

It is, therefore, distressing to read her latest blog post. Because she believes the climate debate is over, she advises those with alternative points-of-view that they shouldn’t “bother to comment.” No other perspectives are welcome. The case is closed.

Tucker’s post is less than 400 words long but (when one includes the headline) she uses the phrases “know-nothing” and “flat-earth” three times each and the term “anti-science” twice.  Anyone who sees the fiendishly complicated topic of climate change differently than she does is, in her opinion, not only ignorant of the facts, but against science.

The anti-science insult is all too common these days. Joe Romm, over at Climate Progress, hurls it with abandon. Indeed, he barely seems capable of writing anything that doesn’t deploy this accusation.

The anti-science smear appeared in a Romm blog post yesterday and in one authored the day before. It appeared in a post dated  Sept. 11th, in two posts dated Sept. 10th (see here and here), in two on Sept. 9th (here and here), two on Sept. 8th (here and here), and in two others on Sept. 7th (here and here). He used the term in two blog posts dated Sept. 5th (here and here), in a Sept. 2 post, and in two on Sept. 1 (here and here).

During the first half of this month alone, therefore, Romm described other people as anti-science on 16 separate occasions. Which, let’s be honest, renders the term pretty much meaningless. This is the equivalent of a toddler calling everyone from the babysitter to grandad a poopy head.

Romm featured Tucker’s piece prominently and approvingly on his blog yesterday. He said it was sad and painful that people with alternative points-of-view had expressed their opinions in the comments section.

This, therefore is my personal plea to Cynthia Tucker: Please open your that fine mind of yours to other voices. Many of us who doubt, who have questions, are emphatically not anti-science. Neither are we know-nothings. We are independent thinkers who give our allegiance only to causes that make sense to us. In the finest activist tradition, we believe it’s important to question authority. We have learned, via both direct experience and the study of history, that even people with the best of intentions sometimes pursue paths that are unwise.

We therefore deserve to be treated with respect. We have a right to be persuaded by arguments that are sound and evidence that is convincing. Calling us names and insulting our intelligence isn’t the least bit helpful. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t sway a nation by dismissing those with whom he disagreed as flat-earthers. Instead, he argued his case patiently and politely.

The anti-science claim doesn’t stand up for the obvious reason that one of Australia’s most prominent climate skeptics, geologist Ian Plimer, has twice been the recipient of that country’s highest science honour – the Eureka Prize (in 1995 and 2002). Please note that he is also a vocal critic of creationism.

Speaking of Australians, a gent named Scott McCormack sent me e-mail recently – which he has given me permission to quote. Part of his message read as follows:

I’m finding myself beginning to doubt the whole human induced climate change hypothesis. To me, a real red flag is when the proponents try to suppress debate, or refuse to allow alternative views to be heard, or resort to ad hominem attacks to bully opponents into silence. Why would they feel the need [to] do this if they were 100% confident about the validity of their own views/theories? When they engage in this behavior it leads me to not trust or believe what they have to say, and seek alternative views.

I think anyone genuinely interested in the search for knowledge about anything should welcome debates. I agree with someone who said that we always profit from debating our opponents, as the act of responding to one another propels everyone closer to finding the ultimate truth.

Why, indeed, would smart people even consider stifling debate?

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Entry filed under: activist scientists, ethical & philosophical, free speech, media. Tags: , , , , , , .

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