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.
Is he being purposefully obtuse? Once again the ombudsman decides to defend George Will, but only on a single point.
A key paragraph, aimed at those who believe in man-made global warming, asserted: “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”
Bizarrely, he acknowledges Will was wrong:
It said that while global sea ice areas are “near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979,” sea ice area in the Northern Hemisphere is “almost one million sq. km below” the levels of late 1979. That’s roughly the size of Texas and California combined. In my mind, it should have triggered a call for clarification to the center.
But according to Bill Chapman, a climate scientist with the center, there was no call from Will or Post editors before the column appeared. He added that it wasn’t until last Tuesday — nine days after The Post began receiving demands for a correction — that he heard from an editor at the newspaper. It was Brewington who finally e-mailed, offering Chapman the opportunity to write something that might help clear the air.
Will’s column is grossly dishonest, as we and others pointed out it wasn’t just sea ice, but the repeated misquote of a scientific paper and a whole host of dishonest statements. He’s apparently been misquoting one paper to push this “global cooling” nonsense since 1992 and basically recycling this same BS article for almost two decades!
Alexander may be correct there is fact checking “on multiple levels”, but that does not change that it was incompetent, missed willful errors, and that there has not been a correction of Will’s mistakes or a repudiation of his incessant repetition of falsehoods like the myth of global cooling.
For yet another week the Washington Post has failed to demonstrate accountability for its errors.
I’m heartened to see a broad disgust with George Will’s lies about climate science. After all it’s pretty extraordinary when a major syndicated columnist repeats a lie about science, not once, not twice but three times despite being corrected.
PZ wishes he too could just make up his own facts, and Mike too is pleased the disgust is moving beyond the scientific community. Carl Zimmer at the Loom covers the broad mistakes made in the essay, and TPM documents how it was almost all lies. Mark Kleimen has caught on to the fact that in the end, this is just another conspiracy theory on par with HIV/AIDS denialism ( would add anti-vax denialism, 9/11 trooferism, or evolution denialism and every other kind – they’re all ultimately the same).
It’s reassuring to me to see that people are catching on. When we hear pseudoscience drivel, it’s never unique. It always follows a specific method – the pseudoscientific method. We happen to call that method denialism.