Last December, William E. Keller published an opinion piece in the Santa Fe New Mexican, in which he repeated several discredited denialist talking points, most egregiously, “global warming has stopped”. Worse, he engaged in an ad hominem attacks on three respected climate scientists–Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth–calling them “Climategate principals,” and claiming that “Climategate” was a scandal.
Anyone who follows the political controversy over global warming knows that “Climategate” turned out to be a phony scandal fabricated by activists with the goal of damaging the credibility of climate scientists and sabotaging talks at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference. Gullible and dedicated global warming deniers still refuse to acknowledge the fact that multiple independent and objective investigations have demonstrated that none of the scientists did anything wrong. To make his point, Keller had to make stuff up about these climate researchers, putting words in their mouths and suggesting that they were engaged in scientific misconduct.
Keller’s ad hominem attacks and misrepresentations (making stuff up) follows the preferred style of global warming deniers. This method has been elevated to an art form by the Heartland Institute, a right-wing anti-science pressure group funded by dirty coal industrialists (as an aside, “denier” and “denialist” are not slurs, they are descriptive terms that refer to someone who engages in denial, just as “scientist” refers to someone who engages in science).
When I defended the scientists and pointed out Keller’s falsehoods, I was immediately attacked by Heartland Institute’s paid spokesmen, who resorted to making up stuff about me and calling me names. Remarkably, Heartland even claimed that I don’t have a Ph.D., suggesting that I have lied about my academic credentials. Nevertheless, Keller still accuses me of engaging in ad hominem. This week, I received another message from him:
After 3 years of high-school Latin I am able to determine the meaning of “ad hominem,” but my dictionary gives one meaning as “attacking an opponent personally” and when you accuse me of “making things up” and “smearing honest scientists” you are attacking my personal ethics and morals.
I continue vigorously to maintain that I do not make things up and I do not smear honest scientists. You have glibly accused me of these sins both publicly and privately without providing any evidence of same. I ask – nay, insist – that you provide the words of my writings that back up these crude and insidious accusations.
Respectfully, Bill Keller
And here is my response:
I still think you are confusing the difference between criticizing the sin vs. the sinner. If I had labeled you as a “conspirator” or some other derogatory word that had identified you as a compulsive and unrepentant sinner, I would be guilty of ad hominem. I did not do that. I identified and criticized unacceptible behaviors you engaged in, with the hope that you will not engage in them again. Criticism of improper behavior is not ad hominem.
You did smear honest scientists. In your letter to me, you referred to them as “conspirators”. Labeling people and calling them names is ad hominem. You are guilty of the sin you accused me of.
With regard to making things up, you misrepresented Micheal Mann and what he has said about the Medieval Warm Period. Either you were making stuff up or you were uncritically repeating and reinforcing what someone else made up, which is just as bad.
Where has Prof. Mann ever denied that there was a “Medieval Warm Period”? He has written dozens of articles about it. He and his colleagues’ work simply shows that there is no evidence that it was of comparable warmth to that of recent decades, and every other peer-reviewed study of hemispheric/global temperature trends published in the peer-reviewed literature shows the same thing.
When you make a claim like that, you need to provide evidence. Please produce a quote Prof. Mann where he denied the existence of the MWP. You need to defend your assertion about what he said, or else you need to admit that you were wrong (either having made it up or repeating somebody else’s fabrication) and you need to correct the record.