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Willie Soon, Denier-for-hire
July 14, 2011 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Willie Soon Ph.D. is a member of the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences (SSP) group at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is also the go to guy for cloaking climate denial in "science". A regular blogger at conservative web sites, he can be counted on to provide anti-global warming talking points such as here and here. He has also been linked to conservative funding sources and recently spoke at Heartland Institute's "denial fest". His scientific work has been the target of some dispute. Recently, RealClimate was able to access his publically accessible website where he has posted papers, emails, calculations and reviews going back to 2003. There seems to be evidence that Soon has been playing a little loose with the data
posted by Michael_H (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is important because climate change deniers have proven time and again that they are VERY INTERESTED in what the actual facts are.
posted by Legomancer at 12:51 PM on July 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


This would be amazing news, if the deniers in question understood or cared about the integrity of the data or its analysis to begin with. They deny man made climate change because they don't want it to be true, or because denial harmonizes with their other batshit insane conspiracy theories. Actual science is secondary, and people like Soon are useful as pedigrees to hold up. Not for the quality of their work.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:52 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Willie Soon? What's his middle name, Makeshitup?
posted by box at 1:05 PM on July 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's not the deniers who this is addressed to. It's the American media who are caught up in the false equivalence game. If we can present evidence that Chris Matthews or Chris Wallace can easily understand, showing that deniers' interpretations are bogus, this gives them cover to treat the deniers with the roughness they deserve.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:17 PM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics? Isn't that the same place that has the Chandra X-ray Observatory? I think I know a person who probably knows this person!

That makes me famous.
posted by DU at 1:25 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a special place in hell for "scientists" who willingly falsify data and knowingly promote erroneous conclusions.
posted by Aquaman at 1:35 PM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's about PR, not science. They just make shit up. Which ironically is the very thing they accuse legitimate scientists of doing, assuming a premise and then making the data fit. That's what Climategate was about. A bit off topic, there is a rumor that News Corp hacking may be behind the Climategate email leak, but nothing solid yet.
posted by stbalbach at 1:59 PM on July 14, 2011


Hmm, yup associated with the George C. Marshall Institute. The "think tank" that was formed to deny smoking was bad for you, acid rain didn't exist, and plenty of other wonders of corporate misdirection.
posted by oshburghor at 2:03 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Willie Soon? What's his middle name, Makeshitup?

Admidbingrong?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:59 PM on July 14, 2011


This would be amazing news, if the deniers in question understood or cared about the integrity of the data or its analysis to begin with.

The deniers are strangely uninterested in 'auditing' scientists who challenge AGW, but devote inordinate amounts of time to criticising high profile work which supports the idea of man-made climate change. This kind of selective behavior ought to be instructive to anyone paying attention to the 'debate'.

This need to be said time and again: there is no genuine scientific debate on the fundamentals of climate change. There is only a political debate dressed up as a scientific debate.
posted by daveje at 3:14 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. I was the webmaster at the publisher of Climate Research when that shit hit the fan. That was a fun day.
posted by chillmost at 3:33 PM on July 14, 2011


> The deniers are strangely uninterested in 'auditing' scientists who challenge AGW, but
> devote inordinate amounts of time to criticising high profile work which supports the idea of
> man-made climate change. This kind of selective behavior ought to be instructive to anyone
> paying attention to the 'debate'.

Instructive in what way? It's adversarial (to say the least) in both directions, and folks like Richard Lindsen and Roy Spencer get all the scrutiny anyone could ask from pro-AGW scientists (together, of course, with stuff like being compared to Holocaust deniers by the attack dogs of the pro-AGW camp.)
posted by jfuller at 6:01 PM on July 14, 2011


"Instructive" in a way that the MSM could use to show how climate change denial works, and why some right-wing organizations want to spend large sums of money to get their version of reality into the heads of the voting public. I don't know how well the adversarial part plays in the press - my sense is that people like Lindzen and Spencer are ahead in the game just because they stick to their guns, no matter how many times people demonstrate how wrong they are.
posted by sneebler at 6:27 PM on July 14, 2011


The "instructive" that daveje was referring to is the deniers making a big stink out of finding transposed digits in a section of old IPCC report and claiming that is another nail in the AGW coffin, yet conveniently ignoring when someone who agrees with them puts dots and lines on a graph for no valid scientific or statistical basis. Why haven't the deniers criticized work that is clearly either almost inconceivably incompetent or blatantly dishonest?
posted by plastic_animals at 6:45 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know, but I was trying to put a positive spin on the adversarial nature of this kind of argument. I too would like to see the main stream media call them out and ask for an explanation on this basis, but I'm afraid that the MSM is scared of being caught on the wrong side of a political issue they don't understand. (or what daveje said originally...)

Unfortunately, I don't think the deniers are susceptible to instruction: they've taken some kind of mental (intellectual? moral?) leap to arrive at their positions, and they're specifically unable to see the hypocrisy of their "scientific" claims in this context. Plus they're getting financial support from the Koch Bros. and the admiration of the masses for fighting back against "fraud", big government and the UN. Why should they change their positions?

It's worth reading Anthony Watt's blog for a while, just to appreciate how silly this becomes. There are people there who will point out how little consideration is given to pro-AGW arguments, but those few voices are lost in the frenzy of condemnation of anything Watts or his circle hold up for review. That's the process.

One is not allowed to use the word "denial" under any circumstances, while at the same time words like "Nazi" and "Eco-fascist" are used to characterize what I would read as legitimate science writing. Given that this hypocrisy is absolutely normal, it should be no surprise that actual skepticism or science-based criticism of denialist sources or canon is never* done.

(*I've never seen it, and reading the endless drivel on denialist sites makes me depressed.)
posted by sneebler at 8:49 PM on July 14, 2011


> Why haven't the deniers criticized work that is clearly either almost inconceivably
> incompetent or blatantly dishonest?

OK, I see. So really all you have to do to make your point is to link to places where pro-AGW sources spotted inaccuracies in IPCC reports and the like and called them out critically, and then say "My side does this all the time, why doesn't the anti-AGW crowd do it?"
posted by jfuller at 7:29 AM on July 15, 2011


jfuller, that's about the size of it.

Please find one example in the mainstream press where the anti-AGW community has admitted an error or changed their beliefs.

People have known about Willie Soon for years. But he's still uncritically quoted as a reliable source by climate change deniers.

For a better example, how about "Lord" Monckton? His MO is to endlessly belabor his points, no matter how disingenuous, and no matter how many times people have clearly demonstrated that he's misleading the public.

In spite of his continued attempts to smear his critics rather than admit that he's wrong or engage in constructive debate, he continues to be the darling of the anti-AGW community-- he's the Flagship Denialist. Why has the press continued to repeat his claims without substantial criticism?
posted by sneebler at 8:12 AM on July 15, 2011


So really all you have to do to make your point is to link to places where pro-AGW sources spotted inaccuracies in IPCC reports and the like and called them out critically, and then say "My side does this all the time, why doesn't the anti-AGW crowd do it?"

To some extent RealClimate has critically assessed the IPCC here, and here, and here, and here, to name just a few instances.

In addition all reviewer comments, which point out errors before the final draft is published, for IPCC Working Group I are hosted by Harvard here. In those comments you will find lots of scientists who accept the reality of anthropogenic global warming correcting errors in the draft and working to make the final report as reliable as possible.

But this is a distraction to the FPP, in which Willie Soon, is shown to be cherry-picking data so his anti-AGW point-of-view won't be falsified. Why hasn't self-styled climate auditor Steve McIntyre, who crowed so loudly when he found a minor error in the NASA GISS temperature dataset (which immediately corrected the error) a few years ago, severely criticized Soon for his egregious errors?
posted by plastic_animals at 9:09 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This week in global-warming denial: Why is a questionable study from a controversial researcher overshadowing actual science?
posted by homunculus at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2011


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