Who said: “Continuous research by our best scientists is the key to American scientific leadership and true national security. This indispensable work may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumors, gossip, and vilification”?

If you want a hint, the very next sentence by this man known for his bluntness is, “Such an atmosphere is un-American.”

It was President Truman in his Address to the Centennial Anniversary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Today, unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions are among our gravest national security threats (see “NYT: Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security” and “Veterans Day, 2029“).  Yet scientists who are working to inform us of the threats to our national security are still under assault (see “Sen. Inhofe inquisition seeking ways to criminalize and prosecute 17 leading climate scientists“).

Here is a longer excerpt from Truman’s still-all-too-relevant remarks:

Continuous research by our best scientists is the key to American scientific leadership and true national security. This indispensable work may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumors, gossip, and vilification. Such an atmosphere is un-American….

Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all.

I saw an abbreviated version of the quote in the Guardian piece that accompanied the article by IPCC head Pachauri, “Rajendra Pachauri: Climate scientists face ‘new form of persecution’; IPCC chair accuses politicians and sceptics of portraying scientists as ‘criminals’ through attacks on their credibility.”  Pachauri wrote;

Even more unfortunate is the effort of some in positions of power and responsibility to indict dedicated scientists as ‘climate criminals’. I sincerely hope the world is not witnessing a new form of persecution of those who defy conventional ignorance and pay a terrible price for their scientifically valid beliefs.

The Guardian notes:

This appears to be a reference to James Inhofe, a US senator and long-standing climate sceptic, who last month called for a criminal investigation of climate scientists….

The report named 17 US and British climate experts as “key players” in the affair and highlighted their roles in preparing IPCC reports. The list included Phil Jones and Keith Briffa of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, and Peter Stott, a leading expert at the Met Office.

Michael Mann, a US scientist at Penn State University, who is on the list, said: “I think the following quote characterises the situation best: ‘Continuous research by our best scientists … may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumours, gossip, and vilification.’ The quote wasn’t made during the last few months. It was made by US president Harry S Truman in 1948, in response to politically motivated attacks against scientists associated with the dark era of McCarthyism.”

Mann added: “I fear that is precisely the sort of atmosphere that is being created, and sure, it impacts research. The more time scientists have to spend fending off these sorts of attacks and dealing with this sort of nonsense, the less time is available to them to actually do science, and to push the forefront of our knowledge forward. Perhaps that is the intent?”

Precisely.

Obviously, when you have people like Marc “The Swift Boat smearer” Morano saying, climate scientists “deserve to be publicly flogged” (see “The rise of anti-science cyber bullying“) and Glenn Beck, saying “There aren’t enough knives” for ‘dishonored’ climate scientists to kill themselves, the goal is foster intimidation and harassment and make it harder for climate scientists to do their research that is so vital to the nation’s security.

The more less things change….

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