Monday, September 25, 2006

Dead scientists society....*


Early yesterday, Roger Pielke Sr. woke up and disapprovingly read quotes in the Denver Post from him and his posse on global climate change, but most concerning was a statement from Jim Hansen

”Some of this noise won’t stop until some of these scientists are dead,” said James Hansen, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and among the first to sound the alarm over climate change.”
Roger Sr. threw a hissy fit
Regardless as to your perspective on climate change, this callous statement from a federal administrator who is very visible in the climate science debate should be strongly repudiated by everyone who accepts that the debate should be about the science. I invite Dr. Hansen to expand on, clarify, or correct the comment that he made for this news article.
As Eli patiently noted in the comments at Roger's Sr.'s place
I am sorry Roger, but this is merely a restatement of Planck’s observation “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”[1]

1. Quoted in Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (second edition, 1970, Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press), ch. 12, p. 151.

Either you don’t know of this and have lead a very sheltered life, or you do and are merely trying to find a stick to beat Hansen with. I thought better of you.

Since this is metastizing, the editorial committee at Rabett Run thought it would be useful to publish this note to make replies easy.

* and if you don't recognize that as a play on "Dead Poets Society" you have the soul of an amoeba.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can see why some might find it offensive to be characterized as "noise", but do people like RP sr really interpret Hansen's statement as a personal threat?

Absurd as that would be, it sure seems that this is the way it is being interpreted.

ankh said...

Good pointer.
Speaking of noise, further down in the Denver Post article is this terrifying statement, without citation:

"At some point the Earth will wobble on its axis again, setting the stage for an ice age."

I suppose our task is to find that point and steer the Earth away from it?

Anonymous said...

A very good point about a very bad point.

But I'm still confused. I thought the earth had been wobbling on its axis for some time now.

Apparently, it just stops on a dime and then starts up again at some later time??

It must be great to live in the world that some of these reporters and politicians live in, where physical laws can be suspended without a second (or even Frist) thought.

llewelly said...


but do people like RP sr really interpret Hansen's statement as a personal threat?


Scientists pride themselves on their ability to accept evidence-based logical arguments. Planck's observation is widely known, but it seems to me most scientists behave as if they believe they are special, and not subject to it. (Certainly they seem more capable of accepting evidence-based logical arguments than ordinary folk. But not perfectly capable.) Hansen's remark blatantly implies that global warming denialists are unable to accept evidence-based logical arguments. It is not at all surprising a scientist who disagreed with the consensus would find this highly insulting; much the reverse. RP Sr's reaction is every bit as consistent with my understanding of human behavior as Hansen's remark is. However, I am neither scientist nor a psychologist.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Hansen's criticism was clearly leveled at those who deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming. Roger Pielke Sr is not even in that group.

Unfortunately, this whole thing has become personalized in a way that is not good either for the science or the scientists involved.

With a few exceptions, the people most responsible for the current sad state of affairs are not the scientists themselves, but the think think tanks and corporations with a vested interest in opposing action on global warming who have been stirring the pot for over a decade now trying to encourage such animosity among scientists.

EliRabett said...

Ask not whether the RP crowd believes Hansen is wishing them a speedy non-recovery.

Ask if they think it is a club that they can use to beat Hansen.

Remember the agressive cringe strategy on both of the RP blogs. Say something outrageous and then try and then criticize anyone who reacts strongly as being overwrought.

Which is why it is stupid to start a post to any RP with "Thank you for the very good, intelligent discussion here".

Much better is "You don't have a clue, stop pretending you do, and here is why"

EliRabett said...

On reflection, a less agressive: You are wrong, these are the facts, would do fine