2012-03-14 10:51:56Hello again and may I run an idea past y'all?


Greetings SKS crew. It's been quite a while since I've been present at SkS; some ups and downs with health issues here (all under control) and business preoccupations have kept me away from here and elsewhere in the wider argumentosphere for some time.

One quick inquiry before I get on with it: has anybody here yet done a blog post about the Climate Science Defense Fund? I solicited some answers on this outfit from Scott Mandia, am way overdue doing an article  on it. I'd like to update my information and talk about that here. A quick search doesn't reveal coverage on SkS but if I've missed it I'd like to know. 

As to the main question,  Peter Gleick has obviously created "a bit of a stir" to say the least. Despite a lot of attention and discussion, it's my belief that the really interesting questions regarding Gleick and his transgression have gone largely unexplored; deprecations have been naive from the perspective of ethics and morality and with a complete, mile-wide miss by AGU as they've expressed themselves in their hastily written (and primarily fear-driven, I believe) press release and President's statements. 

Meanwhile, once again Professor Richard Lindzen has come up once more as a topic at RealClimate, thanks to his having once more delivered an underhanded accusation of scientific miscondut to climate modelers as well as delivering what might charitably be described as continuing to deliver slanted and truncated descriptions of climate science to yet another audience. 

To me, an interesting way of approaching this is to take integrate the two cases into an overarching examination from the perspective of a more sophisticated treatment, not focusing on the personalities and instead looking at their relative moral positions. 

There's a terrific book on the topic of when and how we may or may not lie, by an expert, Sissela Bok. "Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life" explains that sometimes we may arguably be be morally compelled to lie, that doing otherwise is less "right" than the transgression of lying itself. How do Gleick and Lindzen fall on the scale of evaluation?

Putting this into practical applicaton, AGU thoughtlessly demanded that its members adhere to "excellence and integrity" in all their activities having to do with the public and science communication, yet is not to be found censuring Richard Lindzen for his very long history of misleading the lay public on climate science. This is rather strange; Gleick's activity was peripherally connected with AGU and was not about science communications whereas Lindzen's bad work with the public is precisely in the domain described by AGU. 

AGU has but a sole ethicist among the thirteen members of its "ethics task force" panel. If evidence (and some close second-hand experience) is any guide, this person is probably in place for form's sake; certainly AGU statements concerning Gleick reflect no ethical or moral nuance of the kind we'd expect from an expert. 

So, would anybody object highly if I tackled this as a blog post here on SkS? I think I can do it at Planet3.0 but loyalty steers me in this direction and I believe SkS readers would benefit from a less superficial treatment of the topic of scientists acting in the public square than we've seen elsewhere.