A Few Things Ill Considered

Bright Scientists, Dim Notions

“Bright Scientists, Dim Notions” is the title of a NYT article from a few days ago prompted by the recent controversy over scientifically unfounded and racist remarks made by James Watson about the supposedly inherently inferior intelligence of the African race as compared to Caucasians.

The article is an interesting review of a few other notable examples of scientific crack-pottery in one field coming from the mouths of scientists who have in fact achieved brilliance in there own fields. There is also some speculation as to why this happens and why it is different when a famous scientist does it as opposed to some other genre of celebrity. It is worth the read (and hat tip to Michael Tobis for that).

There are a few such “gone emeritus” characters in the climate change debate, though perhaps they would have been mercifully unnoticed (merciful for them as much as for the reality based community) if it were not in the interests of people with money to promote them. Tim Ball is one such character, well covered by Deltoid, and Bill Gray. Bill Gray is very well covered at Logical Science on this well source and written page, worth a careful reading.

From that page I got to an exchage between Gray and Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist from Texas A&M (who also blogs for Gristmill):

He gave his standard stump speech in which he claims that the water vapor feedback is negative. I followed up on this with him and it became quite clear to me that he is unfamiliar with all of the peer-reviewed literature on this subject that has been published in the last five years. This makes sense. Reading the literature is a difficult and full-time job, and emeritus faculty simply don’t need to do that. ……

But the story goes on. After arguing with him for a few minutes, it became clear that Bill Gray has no scientific theory of his own *why* the water vapor feedback is negative, and no data to support his non-theory. He has no manuscript describing his non-theory and no plans to attempt to publish it. After I pointed out all of the evidence supporting a positive feedback, he looked confused and finally said, “OK, maybe the feedback isn’t negative, maybe it’s neutral. I’ll give you that.” I quickly concluded that he has no idea what he’s talking about. I wish everyone that considers him credible could have witnessed this exchange

(from here)

This really says everything that needs to be said about Bill Gray and those like him who substitute their reputations for intelligent thought

Comments

  1. #1 oku
    October 31, 2007

    My impression is that Reid Bryson is also one of those characters. He often mentioned as a ‘respected’ scientist doubting AGW.

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