The Integrity of Science (journal)

By now, the tediously-iconic, but certainly-appealing ‘stranded-polar-bear’ image Science Magazine featured in its ‘letter’, is widely known and mocked at in the climate blogs and beyond. The letter itself, a breathtaking display of arrogance is available at the Guardian (link) for the interested to peruse.

(C) Jan Will Photography

What is at once interesting and disgusting, as many things in climate science are, is the reaction of the professional climate tops with their  dizzying spinning and sales-pitching, even in this dire hour, when paroxysms of utter self-loathing should incapacitate them instead.

I hope this takes you back to the Shakespearean* ‘Ah! the irony, it burns’ because now is the right moment for it. The above proceedings have transpired, let me remind you, in the context of a letter whose subject is the ‘integrity of science’.

Excuses, excuses

Andrew Revkin, who for some reason keeps tabs on how many of us are living on this planet, takes baby steps in the right direction in such arthritic fashion, that you forget where he is going. You can’t help but wonder whether he is moving at all or spinning in the same location.

You could say, well, it’s just a piece of art, not even a factual error. Nothing about the glitch undercuts the content of the letter,…

Revkin then steps in with his prescription:

The incident illustrates the importance of sweating the details if your goal is to build societal support for the grand challenge of [blah blah new age ‘energy’ nonsense]…

The prescription however comes not before Revkin identifies the true source of the problem in the whole situation

The problem,… is that imagery and appearance matter — particularly in an information landscape where passionate Web trollers questioning warming…

So Science magazine, megaphone for the Fabian hubris of the climate science community, should ‘sweat the details’ because some trolls (which is the entire skeptic blog set, if we go by Revkin) might trip it up in march towards the ‘grand challenge’? Not because inserting Photoshopped images for the purposes of emotional appeal and propaganda is wrong whatever the cause be, but because the trolls might catch you in the act.

In fact, given the ‘grand challenge’ at hand, one could very well say that Science rose to it, having found the perfect picture that goes with the content of the letter – it has indeed sweated the details.

It is dishonest in the extreme to characterize those who caught the fakery from Science as ‘trolls’ at this point. Until a while ago and even now, it was so that we all depended on the members of the fourth estate, in other words –  the professional ‘trolls’, to inform us of acts such as this. Since the news establishment has unscrewed its curiosity and kept it aside, we must look for the important details ourselves—sweat it out.

Peter H Gleick, the first and corresponding author of this letter, is probably the sole drafter of this letter.

In 2007, he testified to a Senate subcommittee by email, where amongst other things, he provided Congressmen with a handy list of ‘wrong arguments against science’. The main thread of his testimony is very, very similar to the present letter. Mr Gleick talks about the same blindingly cynical AGW=Galileo example in his testimony. The ‘earth is round’, ‘earth goes around the sun’, ‘tectonic plates move’, ‘everything started with the big bang’ and ‘we all evolved’  laundry-list of village-idiot syllogisms are invoked in both texts.

(c) Jan Will

It is notable that Gleick also got into a scrap with Pat Michaels at one point calling him a Flat Earther, which ended up with him coming under the threat of a lawsuit from Michaels. Mr Gleick then fought back the threat, by claiming protection under the First Amendment. He notched this up as a victory for a ‘Integrity of Science’ initiative of the Pacific Institute.

Jan Will, the photographer who shot the penguins and ice floes and presumably created the picture collages, has his penguin pictures website at www.penguinphotos.net. Interestingly enough, he contributed this cool picture for a Earth Day 2009 poster – of a polar bear slithering up a wind turbine tower floating on the exact same ice floe. It is to be noted that istockphoto.com profile clearly identifies the polar bear photo in Science as a Photoshop creation – the ‘detail’ that escaped the eagle eyes of the photo sourcing department, the letter editor, the chief editor and the authors of the letter itself.

When contacted by email about the polar bear image, Mr Will replied saying:

The image you are talking about is a design composed of several images. I made it not to deceive anyone but to create an image with a strong message, which sells. I realize there are strong arguments on both sides of the man made climate change debate and personally take a neutral position on the issue.

Peddling books

The popular science writer, Randy Olson, then makes his appearance in the comments section. If the spin by Revkin has not put you into a tizzy yet (polar bear picture – just a piece of art), Olson steps up to the plate:

From Al Gore to these guys with their well intended letter that they forgot to tell Science, “By the way, please don’t accompany it with any dishonest imagery,” the climate science community is truly the gang that couldn’t shoot straight when it comes to communication.I’ll have a lot more to say about this tomorrow morning on my website… It’s just all too predictable. Don’t be such scientists.

So Olson thinks that it is the scientists’ fault that Science used the fake polar bear. They should have guessed that the magazine might use their letter to creep up one more step, score one more point, rising to the ‘grand challenge’, and warned it not to do so. This is because they are all ‘such scientists’.

How come Randy Olson used an occasion where his climate consensus buddies have been caught faking propaganda pictures, into an opportunity to promote his new book? He even managed to weave in a reference to his comedy movie about global warming. How?

Where is the expression of even the mildest of regrets that a prestigious science journal has indulged in the basest form of ‘science communication’ – propaganda? Instead we have scientist-bashing from Olson, meaningful questions regarding which still stand unanswered.

So we have a science journal using a made-up picture of a polar bear in a letter. We then have a former journalist making excuses for this. Then we have an author using this as an opportunity to promote his book. Submitting to troll-review, the author/s finally admit that using the picture was a mistake.

All of this is supposed to be about the ‘integrity’ of science. Where is the sense of shame in climate science? Yes, this harsh question needs to be asked because the letter pontificated to the trolls-at-large saying,

All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts

*P.S: Shakespeare probably did not say ‘the irony, it burns’. No one knows who said that – although it sounds like a thing Shakespeare should have said. Enough reason to invoke his name – I am sure this much of a leeway is allowed, in this post.

Postscript

Roger Pielke Jr has a related post titled: Revkin, Gleick and Olson on the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight

Peter H Gleick is ‘in denial': Remarkable insight into the climate denial machine

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8 comments

  • Not because inserting Photoshopped images for the purposes of emotional appeal and propaganda is wrong whatever the cause be, but because the trolls might catch you in the act.

    You know, even if the editors of Science never understand that using fake emotionally evocative images to sell their case makes people wonder whether they understand the meaning of science, you’d think they would at least learn that getting caught really, really, really does cause many people not to trust them. How many times do they can they say, “Whoops! We didn’t mean to act like propagadists! Give us a do-over?”, and still have most people believe the weird polar bear pictures aren’t lame attempts at propaganda? This is supposed to be the staff at Science not the National Enquirer.

  • I know!

    Andy Revkin’s stand asking Science to ‘sweat the details’ is tantamount to saying – it is OK to put a polar bear picture in a letter like this, but at-least do some groundwork to not put a photoshopped one because….. because the trolls will catch you otherwise.

    Lost in all this is – why should Science use evocative global warming imagery in the context of this letter at all??

  • And remember…Olson might be not the only one trying to promote his book via this…

  • Unfortunately Science is now a tool of government propaganda.

    What a sad state of affairs!

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  • Callida Leftwich

    You know, even if the editors of Science never understand that using fake emotionally evocative images to sell their case makes people wonder whether they understand the meaning of science, you’d think they would at least learn that getting caught really, really, really does cause many people not to trust them. How many times do they can they say, “Whoops! We didn’t mean to act like propagadists! Give us a do-over?”, and still have most people believe the weird polar bear pictures aren’t lame attempts at propaganda? This is supposed to be the staff at Science not the National Enquirer.
    +1

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