Fighting the war on science
This post is about the war on science and how some are fighting it. The scientist at the center of this trial is Michael Mann. The Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at University of Pennsylvania gained prominence for helping make one of the most accessible, consequential graphs in the history of climate science. First published in the late 1990s, the graph shows thousands of years of relatively stable global temperatures. Then, when humans start burning lots of coal and oil, it shows a spike upward. Mann’s graph looks like a hockey stick lying on its side, with the blade sticking straight up.
The original northern hemisphere hockey stick graph of Mann, Bradley & Hughes 1999, smoothed curve shown in blue with its uncertainty range in light blue, overlaid with green dots showing the 30-year global average of the PAGES 2k Consortium 2013 reconstruction. The red curve shows measured global mean temperature, according to HadCRUT4 data from 1850 to 2013.
About the defamation trial
The trial in D.C. Superior Court involves posts from right wing author Mark Steyn and policy analyst Rand Simberg. In an online post, Simberg compared Mann to former Penn State Football coach Jerry Sandusky, a convicted child sex abuser. Simberg wrote that Mann was the “Sandusky of climate science” writing that Mann “molested and tortured data.” Steyn called Mann’s research fraudulent.
After this Mann sued the two men for defamation. Therefore in court, Mann has argued he lost funding and research opportunities because of their attacks.
Now many scientists are under attack
Mann isn’t the only climate scientist facing attacks, says Lauren Kurtz, executive director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. “We help more scientists every year than the year before,” Kurtz says, “We actually broke a record in 2023. We helped over 50 researchers.”
Dozens of climate scientists from the federal government have contacted her group in recent years, many alleging they were censored under the Trump administration. During his presidency Donald Trump denied the science of climate change and pulled the U.S. out of the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement addressing global warming.
But while climate researchers were early targets of people rejecting peer-reviewed science, now those attacks have spread to biomedical scientists, supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kurtz says while they primarily provide legal defense for climate researchers.
Attacks on Biomedical science are now common
Why we are posting this, since the 1990’s there are more attacks on researchers in the Biomedical science areas. Our future health depends on advancement in immunology, physiology and drug development. They’ve recently heard from COVID-19 researchers, too. Hotez worries about the ramifications for the future of science and medicine. He says: “Young people, looking at future careers, looking at how scientists are attacked now, are going to say, ‘Well, why do I want to go into this profession?'”
Solutions for attacks on scientists – maybe
Hotez says he’s glad Mann is fighting back in court. But he doesn’t think a bunch of lawsuits is a sustainable solution. And he says he wants to keep working in the lab.
Most scientist would rather be in the labs working. We don’t want to be in court wasting time for years dealing with hockey puck punks. Per, my other articles on science communication, being in court this is not desired. However, scientist have fought wars before in history and won.