David R. Henderson  

Bob Murphy on the Heartland Institute

Neuroscience and Ethics... Nordhaus's Global Warming Grap...

The ever-productive Bob Murphy, a regular at Econlib Feature Articles, has a good article today on "L'Affair[e] Heartland." In it, he reminds the reader to read Megan McArdle's excellent reporting on the issue. One excerpt:

Not only did McArdle keep up with each new development in the saga practically in real-time, but she herself was one of the active participants in unraveling the mystery of the initially anonymous leaker, who turned out to be climate scientist (and advocate of rapid government intervention) Peter Gleick.

Murphy points out how obvious the faked Heartland memo was. One sentence from the faked memo:
His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain-two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

This one flunks in a big way what co-blogger Bryan calls "the ideological Turing test." Why? I probably don't need to explain, but I will anyway. Global warming skeptics--and I am one--are not in favor of "dissuading teachers from teaching science." The essence of science is not to report polling data on what scientists think. The essence of science is making an argument using facts and theories. And when you use theories, you need to point out what your theory assumes.

Or, as Bob puts it in his own inimitable way:

Just think about that for a moment. In a mob movie, does the boss typically say to his underlings, "OK guys, tomorrow we are going to commit some serious violations of morality"? Of course not. Instead he'll say, "We'll make him an offer he can't refuse," or maybe, "Tomorrow we settle the score" or "We're going to protect our family once and for all."

Murphy also writes:
However, I do think this episode--and the reaction of the skeptic community during Climategate--are quite illustrative of the two camps' approaches to the actual science. Back when the Climategate emails were first spreading around the Internet, I distinctly remember many people in the comments at blogs such as ClimateAudit warning their peers by saying things like, "Guys, remember, we're skeptics. This is too good to be true. Let's not jump up and down on this, because it might be a trap to make us look gullible."

In contrast, the major players on the other side--when Heartland was "caught" saying things that were far more absurd than what the Climategate emails revealed--jumped with glee.

One question for Bob: I don't follow this as much as he does. Were there prominent people on the "climate non-skeptic" side who were warning that this looked like a set-up?

Near the end, Murphy writes:

Anyway, Romm [Joe Romm, the editor of "Climate Progress"] certainly doesn't throw Gleick under the bus. Instead, he writes an all's-fair-when-it-comes-to-saving-the-planet defense, and spends a lot of time talking about what a jerk he thinks Andrew Revkin is.

The last clause of this last sentence is totally accurate. The first clause gets the tone of Romm's statement right, but is not totally accurate. Romm did, after all write:
But Gleick is right that he committed a serious lapse of professional judgment and ethics. He is right to regret his actions and make a personal apology.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

There's an old saying, 'You can't cheat an honest man.'

John Fast writes:

As a progressive I'm very suspicious of this whole thing.

My intuition is that Peter Gleick is actually an AGW-denialer and this whole "affaire" is a hoax, a disinformation plot, an attempt to make us AGW-believers look gullible.

Unfortunately it worked.

Scott writes:

For what it's worth, Megan McArdle, who was one of the first to say it was faked, is herself on the "climate non-skeptic" side, as you call it. In her first blog post on the Heartland documents, she says:

"I should also probably note that I disagree pretty strenuously with Heartland's position on global warming. I not only believe that anthropogenic global warming is happening, but also support stiff carbon or source fuels taxes in order to combat it."

John T. Kennedy writes:

"Global warming skeptics--and I am one--are not in favor of "dissuading teachers from teaching science." The essence of science is not to report polling data on what scientists think."

The fictional person is not being portrayed as a skeptic, but rather as a lying scam-artist.

Bob Murphy writes:

Totally fair point about Romm, David. Of course I was trying to convey that it was the spirit of his point, with the hyphens and such, but you're right, I made it sound as if Romm literally saw nothing wrong in what Gleick had done, and my statement could have misled some readers into thinking Romm's article was worse than it really was.

As far as your question about the other blogs, I'm not sure. I'm asking people for examples at my blog right now. Next week I'll do a follow-up post on all this stuff.

One thing for sure: I misunderstand what Peter Gleick had confessed. Originally, when I wrote my MasterResource piece, I was under the impression that he said an insider had sent him *everything* (i.e. the strategy memo plus all the other, legit documents), and that he pretended to be a Heartland board member just to get confirmation that the stuff was legit. But in light of a critic at my blog (in the comments), I re-read Gleick's confession and now it seems clear that he says he only received the bogus strategy document, and then took it upon himself to obtain the other (legit) documents by pretending to be a board member.

So, I'm doubly glad now that I didn't actually accuse Gleick of writing the bogus memo; I just said he was the likely suspect. Now, I personally would reduce the likelihood, though the whole thing is still really weird, no matter what the theory.

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