The Judith Curry Affair (my name, none others to blame) is starting to turn into a tennis match. Or maybe a fire fight would be a more accurate analogy. Jim Naureckas – author of the FAIR blog post criticizing Scientific American – has fired off a rebuttal to SciAm’s defense:
As the author of the FAIR Blog post that criticized Scientific American, let me clarify that my worry is not that the editorial staff there doesn’t believe that human activity is raising Earth’s temperature. Anyone who takes the science seriously believes that–anyone, in other words, who looks at the findings of climate scientists and doesn’t believe they are engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoax the public, or that the field’s scientific method is fatally flawed. My worry, rather, is that Scientific American is engaging in false balance–that is, pretending that there is a legitimate debate where they do not actually believe one exists. That is the implication when a science magazine polls its readers–whether “scientifically” or not–about “what is causing climate change.”
The message I get from Michael Lemonick’s article (11/10)–which is subheaded “Why Can’t We Have a Civil Conversation About Climate?”–is that scientists should treat the arguments of climate denialists as serious and constructive contributions to the scientific discussion: If denialists are all “lumped together as crackpots, no matter how worthy their arguments,” Lemonick writes, then they have “cause for grievance.” It’s hard to imagine Scientific American suggesting that similar respect be accorded to other pseudo-scientific movements: Why can’t we have a civil conversation about Bigfoot? Why can’t we have a civil conversation about Atlantis?
More to the point, why can’t we have a civil conversation–one that concedes that “both sides” have “worthy arguments”–about the link between tobacco and lung cancer? That’s an article that I trust we won’t soon see in Scientific American. But then, Scientific American doesn’t accept tobacco advertising–but it does take ads from oil companies like Shell, the sponsor of the pop-up poll that appeared on the magazine’s website. (An aside: News outlets ought to have ethical guidelines that prevent the ad-sales department from selling ads, like that one, that are designed to confuse readers into thinking they are editorial content.)