I could not resist commenting on the brouhaha around the stolen Heartland Institute documents in my column at Forbes. The key one that is the “smoking gun” now appears to be fake. I wrote in part:
One reason I am fairly certain the document is fake is this line from the supposed skeptic strategy document:
His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.
For those of us at least somewhat inside the tent of the skeptic community, particularly the science-based ones Heartland has supported in the past, the goal of “dissuading teachers from teaching science” is a total disconnect. I have never had any skeptic in even the most private of conversations even hint at such a goal. The skeptic view is that science education vis a vis climate and other environmental matters tends to be shallow, or one-sided, or politicized — in other words broken in some way and needing repair. In this way, most every prominent skeptic that works even a bit in the science/data end of things believes him or herself to be supporting, helping, and fixing science. In fact, many skeptics believe that the continued positive reception of catastrophic global warming theory is a function of the general scientific illiteracy of Americans and points to a need for more and better science education (see here for an overview of the climate debate that does not once use the ad hominem words “myth”, “scam” or “lie”).
The only people who believe skeptics are anti-science per se, and therefore might believe skeptics would scheme to dissuade teachers from teaching science, are the more political alarmists (a good example was posted today right here at Forbes, which you might want to contrast withthis). For years, I presume partially in an effort to avoid debate, certain alarmists have taken the ad hominem position that skeptics are anti-science. And many probably well-meaning alarmists believe this about skeptics (since they may have not actually met any skeptics to know differently). The person who wrote this fake memo almost had to be an alarmist, and probably was of the middling, more junior sort, the type of person who does not craft the talking points but is a recipient of them and true believer.
At the end I make a sort of bet
If the strategy memo turns out to be fake as I believe it to be, I am starting the countdown now for the Dan-Rather-esque “fake but accurate” defense of the memo — ie, “Well, sure, the actual document was faked but we all know it represents what these deniers are really thinking.” This has become a mainstay of post-modern debate, where facts matter less than having the politically correct position.
But in the first update I note the winner may already be delcared
Is Revkin himself seeking to win my fake-but-accurate race? When presented with the fact that he may have published a fake memo, Revkin wrote:
looking back, it could well be something that was created as a way to assemble the core points in the batch of related docs.
It sounds like he is saying that while the memo is faked, it may have been someones attempt to summarize real Heartland documents. Fake but accurate! By the way, I don’t think he has any basis for this supposition, as no other documents have come to light with stuff like “we need to stop teachers from teaching science.”