10 May 2010

Peter Gleick Fires Back

[UPDATE: In an interesting comment and discussion, Lucia continues her conversation with Peter Gleick here.]

In the comments Peter Gleick, lead author of the sign-on letter in Science takes aim at Randy Olson and me for our criticisms of the use of the photoshopped polar bear image that Science magazine originally used to accompany the letter. Presumably the following comment is directed at Randy Olson:
Oh, and what do you know? Science has replaced the photoshopped image of the polar bear on an ice floe, with what? A real picture of a polar bear on an ice floe.


So NOW, I guess since the photo is right, the science must be right?

You say this is why image matters? This is why the ART does NOT matter.
He has some strong words for me in another comment:
Roger, sometimes you offer good, thoughtful pieces here. Not this time -- this one is outrageously off the mark: indeed, a cheap and misdirected shot. Of course scientist must try to get the facts as right as possible, and be willing to acknowledge and admit mistakes. And of course the photoshopped photo is a metaphor for the problem.

But you (and many in the denial community -- a perfectly proper term, despite their complaining about it) are conflating my dismissal of the selection of bad ART, with my dismissal of those who would rather talk about ART as metaphor than science as fact.

And we (the scientists) didn't "fudge the facts" -- how dare you? That's precisely the subterfuge and misdirection used by climate deniers. We had NO role in selection of the photo, and frankly, its a triviality anyway. A fine metaphor and opportunity for a cheap shot, but a triviality.

You say I shouldn't shoot the messenger? That's what you're doing to the signers of the letter. How about posting something on the SUBSTANCE of the letter?
In response, I think Gleick protests too much. I never accused him or his collaborators of "fudging the facts." Here is what I wrote in context:
The general lesson here should be that no matter the virtues of the "cause" it does not justify cutting corners or fudging the facts. When errors are found, the proper response is not to shoot the messenger or ask people to ignore mistakes in the context of larger truths, but rather, to just get things right.
It was clearly Science that "fudged the facts" and I said as much, which is why it is a "general lesson." And I did post something on the substance of the letter (to which Gleick responded) well before the polar bear flap erupted.

Sorry Peter, Randy Olson is right when he writes,
. . . it matters if you publish a letter of outrage, complaining about being smeared as dishonest, and yet your article is accompanied by a photograph that is tainted by the word “Photoshop” which virtually EVERYONE in today’s society knows symbolizes one big thing — WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH.
Remember, you are protesting that "the ART does NOT matter" to someone whose peer reviewed research has been ignored, downplayed and misrepresented by the mainstream climate science community, presumably in service to the greater good. Where were you when that happened? Getting things right matters, especially in Science, but really everywhere. You'll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.