Friday, January 19, 2007

Weather or Not

Dr. Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel has caused a firestorm, as I’m sure most of you are already aware. She has argued for a severe career penalty not for those who deny global warming, but for those who accept global warming but are as yet unconvinced that man’s role has been scientifically demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt. She wrote, about meteorologists who dare to suggest that the human race's contribution is still an open question:

I'd like to take that suggestion a step further. If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming. (One good resource if you don't have a lot of time is the Pew Center's Climate Change 101.)

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather.

What a boneheaded position to take. What an absolutely idiotic article to write. Why, taking her suggestion yet another step farther, I would argue that anyone who seriously suggests that a person should lose a certification for holding to a (minority?) scientific view should have her Ph.D. revoked. After all, scientists who challenge the majority position are a proud part of the scientific process. Should Hoyle have been decertified for questioning the big bang? Even if the deniers (that man-made global warming has been conclusively demonstrated) are "wrong" they are playing a valued and highly uncontroversial role in the scientific process. Cullen, on the other hand, wants to enforce a dogma—this is unquestionably anti-science. She has, in my mind, forfeited the right to be called a scientist. The most amazing thing is that she has the chutzpah to accuse her less dogmatic colleagues of politicizing the issue.

If it is a majority—remember we are not talking about the actuality of global warming, but, given global warming whether there is incontrovertible data proving that man’s industrial activity is a substantive contributor.

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