Bill Keller Doubles Down

It’s been over a month since a well-funded right-wing pressure group called the Heartland Institute directed their massive resources into very public ad hominem attacks on me in a effort to defend Harrison Schmitt’s absurd claim that Arctic sea ice has recovered, and to try to rescue his doomed nomination to a New Mexico cabinet position. Their assertion that Arctic sea ice has recovered has since been completely refuted, once and for all, by the very scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who made the measurements they quoted.  And Schmitt, who they so feverishly supported, was forced to withdraw his nomination because he was unwilling to accept the requirement for a routine background check.  Many of us who who serve in national security positions are subjected to much more intense scrutiny to maintain our jobs, including random drug tests, polygraphs, and investigators who ask our neighbors, friends, and family members about our private lives.  Schmitt’s refusal prompted many people to ask “what is he hiding?” and question his fitness for any job of public trust.

The Heartland Institute appears to have forgotten about me.  They lost this battle, and they apparently don’t consider me to be an obstacle to their next goal.   Being focused on the bigger picture they have moved on.   By contrast, Bill Keller–the author of the opinion piece that precipitated my response revealing Schmitt’s association with the discredited Heartland Institute– has not been able to let go.

I received a personal letter from Keller yesterday in which he ironically claimed to be the victim of an ad hominem attack be me!   There are multiple layers of irony in Keller’s charge.  First, I was responding to his direct attack on my colleagues, in which he put words in their mouths and mischaracterized their research.  Second, Keller engages in another attack on the same scientists later in his letter (see below) referring to them as “conspirators.”  Third, he ignores the fact that the Heartland Institute, an organization that has turned ad hominem attacks into an art form, is the source of most of the misinformation he parrots.    Fourth, he doesn’t seem to know the definition of the term ad hominem, which means “to the man,” that is directing criticism at a person rather than an idea or behavior.

Nowhere in my opinion piece did I attack Keller, the man.  I don’t do that.  My criticism was directed at his behavior and his diversionary tactics.   He demonstrably made stuff up to make his case, and he smeared three honest scientists:  Micheal Mann, Kevin Trenberth, and Phil Jones; distorting their words and their research to make them appear to be dishonest.

I responded to Keller’s letter with a short postcard directing him to this blog and inviting him to post his concerns in the comments section.   I reproduce his letter  here, in full, for further discussion in a later post.

Undated letter from William E. Keller to Mark Boslough, received on March 18, 2011

Sir:

Because of the limitations imposed on writers of OP-Eds and letters, etc., but the New Mexican my computer-pen must be silent for 60 days.  My only recourse is to reply directly to your screed of 1/25/11.

Where to start?

1. Your ad hominem remarks about me making stuff up to make my case are totally without merit.  I do not make things up; I do not smear honest scientists.  I can back up every statement I make.  I was trained by a leading proponent of the “scientific method” – “An Introduction to Scientific Research”, E. Bright Wilson, Jr. of Harvard – and throughout my nearly 65 years of scientific research and administrative career, I have scrupulously adhered to those tenets.

2. You accuse me of writing my own opinions not based on objective scientific evidence.  What rot!  Nowhere in your piece do you do anything but cant at my statements – you present NO evidence either by word or reference to scientific data -except to rebut Dr. Schmitt’s sea ice statement – and M. Mann’s denial (see below).  I personally said nothing about sea ice, but the enclosed graph demonstrates that the sea ice is recovering during the past few years.  I do fear what you call “scientifically informed policy responses” when that science is prostituted.  -also see below.

3. Re: Clmategate.  There have been two investigations that I am aware of – one at Penn State and one at the Royal Society.  Both did indeed merely give the conspirators a slap on the wrist – but what was the line-up at those panels, but individuals with deep monetary and self-interests in the game.  It is inescapable from the emails that perversion of the peer-review process had taken place and that data had been fudged to reach the pre-desired results.

4. I have no dog in the hunt over the Heartland Institute which you label ‘right wing’ as a pejorative – but that it “actively engages in attacks on objective scientific findings…..censures, criticizes, and demonizes scientists whose research supports those findings.”  I aver that those words are wrong and probably libelous.

5. Concerning Mann, he is ascribed by the London Mail, 5 December 2010, to say: “…earlier this year he made an extraordinary admission: that as his critics have always claimed, there has indeed been a ‘medieval warm period’ around 1000AD, when the world may well have been hotter that it is now.”

6. Without any definitive information, I have to assume that your bible on climate change is IPCC, AR4.  I have learned of the many shortcomings of these model calculations, and the fact that the NASA, NOAA, and CRU temperature data do not support those calculations – sure Trenberth laments this and the fact that he still believes in CO2 being the source for warming, but doesn’t have the measurements to show why.  This is a real damning of the calculations.  But even more damning are several admissions made by IPCC officials at Cancun:

IPCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres admitted that international agreements on “global climate disruptions” have little to do with science or the environment but are about “equitable distribution.”

Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chari, Working Group III: “…the goal of climate policy is redistributing the world’s wealth and natural resources.”

LESSONS YOU SHOULD LEARN

1. If those last two statements don’t jar your preserves and shake your faith in Al Gore and his followers, then you are beyond reach and are lacking in scientific honor and integrity – elements you ascribe to me as not having, at which I take great umbrage; and

2. Be careful at whom you cast nasty aspersions and false charges – I am unaware of your scientific qualifications, but you say your field is computer modeling; you should appreciate what a dangerous sport that is – ask Freeman Dyson. (if you have to ask who he is, I give up).

Bill Keller

The letter included an attachment with a 2009 graph from IARC-JAXA showing that the summer Arctic Sea Ice record minimum was in 2007, followed by 2008, and 2009, respectively.  Presumably this is the basis for Keller’s assertion that sea ice is “recovering during the past few years,” but his choice to omit the most recent data point reveals a lack of scientific objectivity.  The summer sea ice minimum dropped in 2010 (see below).

Arctic sea ice data (NSIDC)

Bill Keller's claim that "sea ice is recovering during the past few years" is wrong.

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3 Responses to Bill Keller Doubles Down

  1. M. Johnson says:

    And I thought Heartland was messed up! Essentially everything Keller says is twisted. He presents no real research (except for the summer arctic ice data which he mishandled, leaving out key data, and he totally ignored the trend line, which was counter to his claim in any event.

    Keller says he uses the “Scientific Method.” Is this something he thinks other scientists do not use? He says many things, among them accusations that Boslough “presents NO evidence…” In fact, if the only evidence that Keller predicts is wrong and his interpretation misleading when he had the correct data available, then I believe he is at best incompetent. At worst he is cherry picking the data which is NOT following the scientific method.

    Keller is so easy to attack that it is nearly impossible to do so and have any time left in the rest of the day for useful things. It is much easier to simply pick out a few things, and point out that the old boy apparently is missing a bit in the reasoning ability. He certainly doesn’t follow the scientific method. I guess that really isn’t ad hominem, is it? It is a simple observation with data to back it up. But I don’t see that Keller really understands what ad hominem means, as a friend of mine said a while ago.

    Oh well, let him live in his world and the rest of us scientists can live in ours. (As an illustration, Mr. Keller – that was an ad hominem. I simply had to give you a real example of what you thought you were talking about. Boslough didn’t drop any ad hominems on you that I could detect. Now maybe you will know what to really look for.)

  2. Harry Murphy says:

    Mr. Keller says, “I was trained by a leading proponent of the “scientific method” – “An Introduction to Scientific Research”, E. Bright Wilson, Jr. of Harvard – and throughout my nearly 65 years of scientific research and administrative career, I have scrupulously adhered to those tenets.

    Keller sounds as if he is claiming to have been personally trained by Wilson while Keller was at Harvard. However, his citation of Wilson’s book, “An Introduction to Scientific
    Research”, suggests only that he has Wilson’s book on his bookshelf.

    I have had a copy of Wilson’s Introduction since 1967 and have found it valuable,
    but a bit dated. It was copyrighted in 1952, well before the advent of modern computers.

    Chapter 3 is titled “Elementary Scientific Method”. In it, Wilson says, “Science begins with the observations of selected parts of nature. Although the scientist uses his mind to imagine ways in which the world might be constructed, he knows that only by looking at reality can he find out whether any of these ways correspond with reality. He rejects authority as an ultimate basis for truth.” Later he says, “The collective judgment of scientists, in so far as there is substantial agreement, constitutes the body of science. The fact that there are very large areas of agreement, in spite of the individualistic, antiauthoritarian nature of science is partial evidence for the validity of scientific methods.”

    Clearly, in the case of Climate Change, there is substantial agreement that earth’s climate is changing and that the change is at least partially due to human activity.

  3. Helen Bang says:

    If by the “London Mail” Mr Keller means the tabloid rag “The Daily Mail” it’s hardly a great source to quote.

    Here’s a very funny sketch about all the things the Daily Mail claims cause cancer:

    All true – the Mail has run scare stories on all of these.

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