George Will Controversy Now Over – Mooney Cleans His Clock

Congrats to Chris Mooney for getting his rebuttal to George Will published in the Washington Post. And kudos to the post for allowing his serious factual answer to an article composed entirely of crank arguments and lies (they also published a rebuttal from WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud dealing with the lies in Will’s article)

Mooney does an excellent job, and points out the frank dishonesty not just regarding the sea ice data (the only point the obtuse Ombudsman would even talk about), but also how every other argument in the entire article represents flawed rhetoric. In particular I enjoyed how Mooney made an issue of the denialist tactics that were used, the cherry-picking of data, the use of inappropriate sources, etc. His final point I agree with very strongly:

In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists — following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It’s also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be — now more than ever.

We can’t just hope people will recognize good scientific information when they hear it. It is important that those who present the information in the media have good standards by which they evaluate scientific information, and standards for the presentation of scientific results. The Washington Post initially failed to do so in this instance, hopefully they will evaluate Will’s factual claims more rigorously in the future, and subject his sources to a greater deal of scrutiny.