I’d like to thank the Competitive Enterprise Institute for publishing such an unintentionally informative and amusing newsletter. Rarely has the anti-scientific nature of global warming denial been so well stated in a mere two sentences:
A scientist who says that the atmosphere is warming, and cites certain physical processes, is still a scientist. A scientist who argues that people must take certain acts to avoid disaster has become a priest.
In other words, “A doctor who diagnoses your diabetes using medical tests is still a doctor. A doctor who tells you to exercise, change your diet, monitor glucose levels, and/or take insulin to avoid acute complications has become a priest.”
What’s funny about this is that nonscientist deniers have no trouble whatsoever offering their absurd “scientific conclusions” that the climate isn’t changing, the earth isn’t warming, it’s all sunspots, blah, blah, blah, but then attack scientists for offering serious scientific and technological judgments about the solution to global warming. The amazing thing is that even non-deniers like Roger Pielke Jr. push this mantra.
But I digress. The author of this gem, “The New Environmental Priesthood,” is CEI’s Director of Projects and Analysis, Iain Murray. Murray is well known for his many over-the-top denier claims (see here and here), but he has probably never made a more inaccurate statement in his life than in his discussion of the infamous “Inhofe 400”:
Former Clinton administration appointee Joseph Romm characterized the study as “recyc[ling] unscientific attacks on global warming.” When New York Times environment correspondent Andrew Revkin, one of the few reporters to even-handedly cover the global warming debate, mentioned the Inhofe study on his blog, Romm slammed him for legitimizing it, calling Revkin’s coverage “amazing.” Romm went on to suggest that Freeman Dyson was not a serious scientist, which is a bit like saying Tiger Woods isn’t a good golfer.
Wow! First off, if I’m Andy Revkin, the last thing I want is for one the leading denialist "think" tanks to say I am “one of the few reporters to even-handedly cover the global warming debate.” Ouch! That’s like Fox News calling you fair and balanced.
Second, I wouldn’t call what Inhofe did a “study,” but a laughable and padded list. I did indeed call Revkin’s coverage of the list amazing, which it was, as you can judge for yourself (see “here“).
Third, I did not “suggest Freeman Dyson was not a serious scientist.” Quite the reverse. I wrote:
I’m not certain a dozen on the list would qualify as “prominent scientists,” and many of those, like Freeman Dyson — a theoretical physicist — have no expertise in climate science whatsoever. I have previously debunked his spurious and uninformed claims, although I’m not sure why one has to debunk someone who seriously pushed the idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs! Seriously.
Isn’t it fairly clear that the first sentence is saying the list doesn’t have even a dozen who qualify as “prominent scientists” but that the few who do qualify as prominent scientists, like Freeman Dyson, are not qualified to dismiss the research, observations, analysis, and conclusions of the thousands of leading climate scientists who are responsible for our current understanding of human-caused global warming? Now I can add that not only is Dyson unqualified to comment on climate science, he is equally uninformed on climate solutions (see “here“).
I would not, however, have bothered to respond to this pointless piece of denier disinformation were it not for the final sentence. Anybody who knows me knows I am the world’s biggest Tiger Woods fan and will be glued to the TV set this Father’s Day weekend to see Tiger win his third U.S. Open. Dyson does not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, paragraph, page, book, or universe as Woods.
Woods is almost certainly the greatest golfer of all time (sorry, Jack) and would be on many lists of the top 10 athletes of all time (see, for instance, here).
Dyson, on the other hand, is not among the top two physicists of all time. That would be Einstein or Newton. Dyson wouldn’t be on the list of top physicists or mathematicians. Dyson did not author or co-author any of the most cited papers (PDF) from Physical Review. Dyson did not make the “top 100 living geniuses,” though, in fairness, Dolly Parton did. Dyson did not make the “100 Scientists Who Shaped World History.” Dyson did not make the Top 100 weirdest amphibians list [though in all honesty, I didn’t actually check the list for Dyson’s name — it just seem pretty damned unlikely to me.]
If the entire scientific community (living and dead) were golfers, Dyson wouldn’t even be on the PGA Tour. Yes, Dyson is a somewhat famous scientist, but that’s mainly because he wrote a few popular books.
In any case, this was all before Dyson ventured into the most important scientific discussion in all of human history — climate change science. By taking the “it’s not a big deal” side — [actually ‘side’ is too generous, unless we are talking a 100-sided die] — Dyson has effectively destroyed his professional reputation, as will be obvious in a couple of decades assuming we listen to people like him.
Dyson is now, I’m afraid, little more than a scientific duffer.