Yesterday Tim did a very nice blog post in which he took apart a Michael Fumento column attacking scientific journals. I contributed a smidgeon to the debunking in the comments section. I was very proud of myself.
But little did I know (mainly because I didn’t read to the end of Tim’s post) that Fumento’s rant had been picked up by the influential right wing bloggers at Powerline, who use it to declare that “in recent years, the politicization of science by the left has become a serious problem” (ha!). Powerline then goes on to show that, in fact, the right is the real problem with a sweeping statement more or less dismissing all leading scientific journals:
The moral of the story is that the leading scientific journals have been taken over by liberals who value politics over truth. So any time you see a news report on a “scientific” journal article that ostensibly has political implications, you should greet it with skepticism.
This sets the stage for nothing less than a complete conservative rejection of modern science itself. Nothing in journals is to be trusted? It’s all liberal activism? Are you kidding?
But from such logic–which is also used to entirely dismiss the “liberal” academy–it’s easy to see how the conservative think tanks come about. Having dismissed universities and scientific journals, the right has no choice but to create its own intellectual counterculture. But standards and rigor often don’t match what exists in the academy or in mainstream science, as is clear from Powerline’s attempt to debunk global warming:
Global temperatures fell during the 1970s, and many scientists (including some who are now leading global warming advocates) worried that the next ice age was on the way. There was even a proposal to paint the ice caps black so the earth could soak up more sunlight and avert catastrophic cooling. No doubt the editors of Science know this.
Stop and think for a moment–is there any logical way in which this statement undermines the notion that humans are causing global warming now? None that I can think of, unless you fallaciously believe that if there’s CO2, temperatures must rise, and if they don’t, the whole global warming thing must be hokum.
But of course, we know that there are many factors that can counter the effect of CO2, like sulfate aerosols (generally viewed as the explanation for the mid-century cooling cited above). It follows that the people at Powerline haven’t debunked anything. But what’s so disturbing is that they obviously think they have–and how cavalier they are in their dismissal not just of global warming, but of the scientific publication process itself.