John Tierney is the country’s worst science writer, not Gregg Easterbrook
Science blogger extraordinaire Tim Lambert (aka Deltoid) has called me out. I wrote:
Tierney is easily the worst science writer at any major media outlet in the country. Pretty much every energy or climate piece he writes is riddled with errors and far-right ideology, including this one.
Lambert writes that he “must, however, disagree with one of Romm’s points”:
I do realize that Tierney cites Easterbrook as a scientific authority, so his Easterbrook number is 1, but Easterbrooks’s Easterbrook number is zero.
I cannot argue with the assertion that Gregg Edmund Easterbrook (GEE) is one of the leading anti-scientific writers. And I must agree with Wonk Room, which recently documented “Brookings Science ‘Expert’ Doesn’t Understand Basic Science.”
But first, I am going to claim victory on a technicality. GEE is not a science writer at a major media outlet (see his Wikipedia bio here). He writes on a broad variety of subjects, including football, for a broad variety of outlets. GEE is easily the worst freelance science writer published by multiple major media outlets — but that’s as far as I can go.
Tierney not only has a real science column with the NYT where he says staggeringly anti-scientific things and quotes anti-scientific organizations like CEI, but he also states his anti-scientific philosophy right on the front page of his online column, TierneyLab:
John Tierney always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through … With your help, he’s using TierneyLab to check out new research and rethink conventional wisdom about science and society. The Lab’s work is guided by two founding principles:
- Just because an idea appeals to a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
- But that’s a good working theory.
Huh? These “founding principles” are the clearest anti-scientific statements you will ever find by anybody claiming to be covering science (if they are supposed to be partly humorous, then he should be writing a column for the Onion, or the NYT should file his posts under “humor” not “science”). Democracy appeals to a lot of people. So does freedom. They must be wrong. Oh, wait, this is a science column. OK. Gravity appeals to a lot of people. So do thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, the germ theory of disease …
Is Tierney covering science or just indulging in ideological, knee-jerk contrarian thinking. Couldn’t we just program a computer to write mindless pieces that attack conventional wisdom without any discrimination as to whether it is based on detailed scientific observations that support a well-developed theory?
And, I repeat, Tierney writes staggeringly anti-scientific things:
Dr. Holdren is certainly entitled to his views, but what concerns me is his tendency to conflate the science of climate change with prescriptions to cut greenhouse emissions. Even if most climate scientists agree on the anthropogenic causes of global warming, that doesn’t imply that the best way to deal with the problem is through drastic cuts in greenhouse emissions. There are other ways to cope, and there’s no “scientific consensus” on which path looks best.
In short, scientists should be seen and not heard.
As for other ways to “cope,” in the face of 5-7Â°C warming, 1 to 2 meters of sea-level rise plus 6 to 20 inches a decade warming by 2100, one-third the planet desertified, and a large hot, acidic dead zone where our oceans used to be — in the face of all that, we can always “cope” with prayer.
Though I’d recommend praying for science writers — and science advisers and science-based presidents — who understand the urgent need for “drastic cuts in greenhouse emissions.”
How can a science writer for a major newspaper trash Obama’s science adviser-pick for endorsing the only plausible solution to catastrophic warming — and never bother to offer his own alternative, while at the same time citing and linking to deniers, like CEI, who want to do nothing at all, or denier-eqs, like Pielke, who want to do the equivalent of nothing — a $5 a ton CO2 tax. So, no, GEE, can’t compete — Tierney is easily the worst science writer at any major media outlet in the country. I’ll go further:
As long as Tierney has a “science” column at the NYT, it cannot be considered a great newspaper.