Don't look now - it's another 'scientific consensus'!

Oh noes! Chris Mooney just used the phrase "scientific consensus on global warming" in a WaPo article on Climategate:

While the controversy has receded, it may have done lasting damage to science's reputation: Last month, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 40 percent of Americans distrust what scientists say about the environment, a considerable increase from April 2007. Meanwhile, public belief in the science of global warming is in decline.

The central lesson of Climategate is not that climate science is corrupt. The leaked e-mails do nothing to disprove the scientific consensus on global warming. Instead, the controversy highlights that in a world of blogs, cable news and talk radio, scientists are poorly equipped to communicate their knowledge and, especially, to respond when science comes under attack.

A few scientists answered the Climategate charges almost instantly. Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, whose e-mails were among those made public, made a number of television and radio appearances. A blog to which Mann contributes,, also launched a quick response showing that the e-mails had been taken out of context. But they were largely alone. "I haven't had all that many other scientists helping in that effort," Mann told me recently.

Italics added. Read the rest of the article here.

Ok, bear with me here: if I draw an elaborate Venn diagram encompassing "People Who Hated (But Did Not Read) Unscientific America," "Global Warming Skeptics," "People Who Object To The Term 'Scientific Consensus'," "People Who Reject Mainstream/Traditional Media," and "Righteous Climate Scientists," will anyone be left who agrees that this article actually makes some good points about public perceptions of science?

And more to the point, where the heck do we put the tentacle-armed stick figure on this Venn diagram?

Update: I love Mike the Mad Biologist's reply to Chris' piece.

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Perhaps Mooney will accept a Darwin for Journalism and go back to begging at airports.
His world really is ending... lol.

I find it interesting how unscientific Mooney himself is. He juxtaposes the so-called "Climategate" against a survey conducted two years ago and another one subsequently and directly implies that the poor showing is solely because of Climategate.

Mooney never seems to learn does he?

Mooney hasn't been listening to Sheril enough, I see.

By Katharine (not verified) on 02 Jan 2010 #permalink

You'll be needing one of these shortly...

His article is like he's in "tape loop mode"; it's the same old-same old from him.

He uses what you quote to lead up to:

Ironically, to increase support for the teaching of evolution, scientists must join forces with -- and show more understanding of -- religion. Scientists who are believers also need to be more vocal about how they reconcile science and faith.


[...] scientists must recognize that more than scientific matters are at stake, and either address the moral and ethical issues themselves, or pair with those who can (in the case of evolution, religious leaders and scientists such as Giberson and National Institutes of Health chief Francis Collins, who in 2006 wrote a book called "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief").

I wouldn't mind seeing Mooney show that the cause of these religious peoples' attitudes in the USA is a communication issue as opposed to, say, the general lack of high school teachers and teaching standards in the USA.

FWIW, wouldn't want he asks to be done be the responsibility of moderate religious leaders, not scientists? Would it be fair to say that they're the ones with the real vested interest in seeing this happen? Why are the moderate religious leaders so quiet? (Perhaps they don't really exist??!)

"The central lesson of Climategate is not that climate science is corrupt."

That depends on what the meaning of is, is. Apparently "trick" doesn't mean "trick", "hide" doesn't mean "hide" and it's OK to mix and match data to get the results you want. Wow, so that's real science. I wonder if an 8th grader could get away with this on a school science project?

Why are the moderate religious leaders so quiet? (Perhaps they don't really exist??!)

Or moderate religious leaders (and moderate religious people in general) get ignored because they don't fit easily into science-vs-religion stories.