The finalist list is out for the 2008 Weblog awards “Best Science Blog,” and two of the ten finalists are anti-scientific websites primarily devoted to spreading disinformation (and noninformation) on global warming– just like 2007.
The 2007 “competition” ended up being yet another classic exercise in the right wing perverting an otherwise reasonable web idea — online voting for the best science blog. As Desmogblog explained in a post titled, The “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” beating “Vast Left Wing” Voting for Best Science Weblog, the right wing voted en masse for Climate Audit and the rational people all voted for Discover magazine’s excellent Bad Astronomy Blog. In the end, the process was so controverisal that the Awards folk simply called it a tie — saying each blog ended up with exactly 20,000 votes.
The Weblog Awards should not be legitimizing anti-scientific denialism.
As a student of history, I try really hard to never use the word “unprecedented.” For example, those who think the partisan bickering we have today is somehow at a peak should go back to any American paper in 1855 and take a gander at the vitriol that flew back and forth.
But I must say I do find it difficult to find a good historical analog for this whole “anti-scientific” knock on climate skeptics. I can understand accusing others of being wrong on a topic in science. For example, it took decades for plate tectonics theory to catch on outside of small fringes of the geologic community, but I don’t remember folks accusing others of being anti-scientific.
This is particularly true in the case of the two blogs Mr. Romm mentions. Here are a couple of quick thoughts:
- Steve McIntyre, at Climate Audit, spends most of his time trying (in great, statistical depth) trying to replicate work by scientists such as Michael Mann and James Hansen, and critiques their work when he thinks he finds flaws. Mann and Hansen spend much of their time trying to stonewall Mr. McIntyre and prevent him from having access to their data (most of which was collected and analyzed at taxpayer expense, either directly or through government grants). Which of these parties seems closer to the spirit of science.
- Anthony Watt argued for years with the government operators of the surface temperature measurement network that their system had location biases that were not being taken into account, and that were much large than being acknowledged. When the operators of these systems were uninterested in pursuing the matter, Watt started a volunteer effort to survey and photograph these stations to the location biases, where they may exist, would be visible and available for anyone who wished to see.
- Only one side in this debate ever argues that the other should be banned from even speaking or being heard. I think you know which one that is. So which side is the one that is “anti-science” — the one that is happy to mix it up in open debate or the one that is trying to get its opposition silenced?
Again, Watt and McIntyre could be wrong, but their sites are often scientific. I could easily name 10 climate skeptic sites that, while I wouldn’t call them anti-science, are certainly a-scientific, focusing more on polemic than data. But I could do the exact same on the alarmist side. Certainly Watt and McIntyre’s sites are not in this category.
Here is the best analogy I can come up with (one which, not being religious myself, hopefully I can portray with a bit of detachment). During the reformation, the Catholic Church accused critics of the Church of being anti-Christian. But the religious skeptics were not anti-Christian per se, they merely contested the Church’s (and the Pope’s) ability to speak with absolute authority on religious matters. In this case, the priests of the Church were upset that their monopoly to speak for Church doctrine was being challenged. They challenged their opposition as being anti-religious, but what they were was actually against the established Church, doctrine, and priesthood.
And by the way, is any actual adult human being with more than a year experience blogging really surprised that voting on the Internet