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Monday, February 7, 2011

Richard Littlemore: New Scientist weazels out of apology (or how Fred Pearce made stuff up about Gavin Schmidt and how New Scientist has sunk so low that it publishes about climate denier fests paid for by fossil fuel interests)

New Scientist weazels out of apology

by Richard Littlemore, desmogblog, February 7, 2011

New Scientist, a publication that is generally owed high regard, is apparently trying to weasel out of apologizing to NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt for an egregious misquote by the fallen science journalist Fred Pearce.

Pearce bungled the quote in his coverage of "post normal science" workshop in Lisbon, Portugal -- really a denier fest dressed up as a reconciliation attempt. As Pearce reported in his original story, "The meeting was the brainchild of University of Oxford science philosopher Jerry Ravetz, an 81-year-old Greenpeace member who fears Al Gore may have done as much damage to environmentalism as Joseph Stalin did to socialism."
If you haven't already got a sense of the organizers' bias, consider a guest list that includes "heroes of the sceptics such as statistician Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick, plus writers and bloggers such as Steve Mosher, the man who broke the Climategate story, and 'heretical' scientists such as Georgia Tech's Judy Curry and Peter Webster." (By "heretical' scientist, I'm assuming Pearce was trying to find a description for outliers like Curry who have decided to abandon actual scientific discourse in favour of playing patticake with the WattsUpWithThat crowd.)
The conceitof this event was that Ravetz would try to put these people into a room with some actual climate scientists and get them all to agree on "middle ground" -- which is to say, the climate scientists would concede, by their mere presence, that there is a legitimate scientific disagreement. Game, set and match to the denier side.
Of course, no smart scientist would agree to play. With a host of others, Gavin Schmidt declined, saying, "No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position."
This sharp riposte was too clear for Pearce, who made up this response, instead: "But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA's Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there is nothing to discuss."
When Schmidt objected to this invention, New Scientist went quiet, and conspiracists and intermediaries, such as the secretive "science" blogger TallBloke offered a host of explanations (but no apologies) for Pearce's lack of professionalism. For full examinations of this story, you can head over to Deltoid or, for an even-more detailed dissertation, DeepClimate.
What you CAN'T do is read a clear admission that Pearce made up (or misreported) Schmidt's position and that he and New Scientist regret the error. Apparently -- worryingly -- they don't.

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