John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Utah House is in session; get popcorn


It is a shame and a loss to the country that newspapers’ cost-cutting has sometimes included their statehouse bureau staffs, for it is in this great republic’s state governments that our native buffoonery comes into gorgeous flower.

I offer this specimen: The House of Representatives in Utah has adopted a resolution that current science about climate change represents “a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome.”

The word conspiracy was removed by amendment from the resolution, presumably by members hoping to retain some shred of reputation for their chamber, but I think you get the drift.

Yesterday on Diane Rehm’s show on National Public Radio, a representative of what I took to be a business-funded nonprofit said that concern about climate change and global warning had been grossly exaggerated by the “alarmist community.” He also talk about scientific “scandals” and used so many other loaded terms that I came to suspect that he might have ties to an alarmist community himself.  

Science over time is self-correcting, when left to scientists. Hypotheses get tested and mistaken ones identified, consensus on theory gives way to revised consensus, and frauds and misconduct ultimately come to light. The worthies of the Utah House might recollect from the Roman Catholic Church’s embarrassing experience with Galileo that it is ill-advised for non-scientists to decree what science says. 

On the other hand, a wealth of free entertainment is there to be had. I look forward to the exposure by the Beehive State’s lawmakers of the Darwinian conspiracy and the Copernican conspiracy, and others I cannot yet imagine. 






22 comments:

  1. Written by somebody who evidently believes that Al Gore is a scientist.

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  2. No, I believe that scientists are scientists. Did I not make that clear?

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  3. Apparently, you haven't been reading the e-mails leaked from the East Anglia research center in which the scientists debated why they can't show a rise in global warming for the last 15 years (a fact publicly confirmed by one of their scientists, Phil Jones, in the last few days).

    Nor have you seen the article that the claim in the IPCC report that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035 was unsubstantiated by the science.

    It's also easy to miss the report that NASA dropped 3,000 buoys into the ocean to measure warming that turned out not to be there. It was only reported on NPR. In 2008.

    The point, however, is not to harsh on your opinion. It's SOP among journalists. It's to point out that, once people applied some critical thinking skills to the reports and what data has managed to come out, the worse the case for global warming (oops, now it's called "climate change," as if up until this point, climate hasn't changed at all).

    In other words, the science is being "self-correcting" right before your eyes. You're just not seeing it yet.

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  4. Oh, John... you've asked us to keep a civil tongue, so I'll remain silent, because only dirty words come to my mind after reading the comments above. I'm afraid I should have gotten some popcorn before I read them.

    BTW... I also believe scientists are scientists, and YES, you did make it clear.

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  5. I loved Diane's last comment before signing off. She basically told her guest that his opinions were not shared by most scientists...and, by implication...that they were not shared by her. Gutsy lady. I fail to understand why there is so much defensiveness on the part of those who reject climate change information. It is as if they owned the climate regulation system and were being challenged personally. It has been my pleasure to be present when recognized scientists have acknowledged the facts of climate change...and of its direct relationship to human excess. What more do I need?

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  6. Science is self correcting, when left to scientists. But when politicians on either side try to start passing laws based on unproven and disputed science, when scientists try to muzzle other scientists, and when political organizations try to manipulate science, then it's open season.

    When Gore shuts up, the politicians in Utah will probably shut up.

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  7. Dear Mr. Peschel,

    You seem to be assuming that Mr. McIntyre's opinion is that global warming exists. That may or may not be true, but I do not see it stated, or even implied, in what he has said here. I believe the opinion he is sharing here is about non-scientists legislating based on what they proclaim to be scientifically true.

    You also seem to be accusing him of not seeing self-correction in science, which is odd, because I see that he has explicitly made the point that science is self-correcting (by its very nature/definition).

    Whether or not our atmosphere is heating up, I think Mr. McIntyre is very wise to avoid rushing to his own conclusion on the matter (before science has), as, unfortunately, the legislators in Utah have.

    Also, on an editing matter, your sentence starting "It's to point out..." seems to be incomplete. However, I don't know if it's possible to edit comments once they have been posted, and I think that your point came across anyway.

    I certainly hope our planet is not warming up, because I don't want my house to be under water.

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  8. For the record, the 2035 figure for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers was a simple typo--from 2350 to 2035 requires the merest transposition of a single digit--and the IPCC has already apologized for it.

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  9. Nothing like writing about crazee people to bring out the crazee people.

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  10. An exchange from Facebook:

    Gary Kirchherr: I too believe statehouses need newspapers' scrutiny, but not because the one it Utah has its doubts about global-warming "science." There are myriad scientists, not just nonscientists, who are skeptical about the self-serving conclusions of this science, , and comparing its critics to flat-earthers is beneath you, John.

    My reply: Well, Mr. Kirchherr, the Utah House resolution has no force in law and even less in science. Its foundation is an unsupported asstertion of the existence of a vast conspiracy. Your mention of skepticism among scientists acknowledges dispute at a scientific level that the Utah House is not competent to resolve. With respect, I don't think that it is beneath my dignity to identify demagogy when it is so manifestly apparent.

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  11. Readers of this post should not imagine that I believe looniness to be a monopoly of the right. (Well, it might be in Utah; I don't know the state well enough to say.) For balance, here's an article in which the Atlanta Progressive News states that it sacked a reporter because he believes in objective reality.

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  12. I think a lot of climate change skeptics miss the point, the environmentally friendly laws and changes being made should not only be about lowering carbon, but they should be about creating a more sustainable society. I think any scientist would be hard pressed to argue that the current consumption of humans can be sustained indefinitely. So by extension the climate change laws are at least heading in the right direction, reducing the impact that people have on the planet.

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  13. Ladies and gentlemen, my state legislature!

    The right in Utah may not have a monopoly on looniness, but they certainly have more than their fair share of it.

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  14. TV is absolutely right. Even if the climate is hunky-dory, we should be weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels for the simple fact that the well is literally about to run dry.

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  15. It's too bad Utah's so Mormon. I was hoping they'd refute all the smoking science so there would be someplace I could buy an affordable pack of cigarettes.

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  16. I don't know about you, but I'm sweating this warming thing.

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  17. Might you remind your readers that "listening to Rush" is not the same thing as "developing critical thinking skills"?

    Phil Jones didn't "publicly confirm" that there had been no global warming over the past 15 years. He said the trend wasn't significant at the 95% confidence level (though it was close). Read the interview at the BBC, rather than the distortions that began in the Daily Mail.

    That's the latest in a series of deliberate lies on this issue. Collect them all -- but don't take them seriously.

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  18. Wow. I think the last time your blog stirred up this much emotion was the time you suggested it was OK to split infinitives. Climate change and infinitives, two hot-button issues. Who knew?

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  19. At first I thought you were going to parse the phrasing of the Utah House's resolution. I will. So, if the temperature data are manipulated, the world heats up? Utah, parse thyself.

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  20. Since none of us is a scientist who has studied the planet long enough to form a conclusion, I think the rest of us should belt up on the subject. As for Diane Rehm, I can not bear the woman or her voice.

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  21. But soft, good Patricia. There might indeed be no climate scientists here, but there might be any number of people who know the difference between 'none' and 'nearly significant at p=.05'.

    With respect to the poster of the third comment above, that's an important difference between talking about science, which is one of the things a well-informed press is supposed to help the decision-making public with, and lying about science, which is the practice at the Murdoch properties.

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  22. It gets even better. According to The New Republic, the South Dakota House of Representatives just passed the following:

    "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty-fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following:

    (1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;
    (2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and
    (3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global warming phenomena"


    As TNR notes, there are apparently "astrological" and "thermological" factors. It makes you wonder whether some closet liberal legislative intern drafted this thing.

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