Review of A Disgrace to the Profession: The World’s Scientists—In Their Own Words—On Michael Mann, His Hockey Stick, and Their Damage to Science, compiled and edited by Mark Steyn (Stockade Books, 2015), 320 pp., ISBN-10: 0986398330, ISBN-13: 978-0986398339; $19.95.
A Disgrace to the Profession shows numerous serious scientists are outraged by the deception Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann has perpetrated on climatology.
Mann sued author and talk show host Mark Steyn for describing Mann as a fraud in 2012. The suit alleges Steyn is guilty of defamation for attacking Mann’s questionable and infamous scientific findings. Steyn is enjoying defending himself with the truth, and in this book he has assembled more than 100 scientists to support his position.
The book, perfectly titled, is a wonderfully easy read. Steyn separates the scientists’ comments into a dozen sections based on the focus of their critiques, such as tree rings, history, fraud, etc., and he opens each section with an essay of his own.
The book focuses on Mann’s use of statistical manipulation to hide scientific realities by writing out of the geologic record natural climate variability. In Mann’s rewritten climate history, basically nothing happened to Earth’s climate before the 20th century, when carbon dioxide and temperature suddenly shot up like the blade of a hockey stick lying on a flat floor.
Much of the material Steyn assembled to critique Mann comes from scientists who share Mann’s view humans are warming the globe by producing unnatural levels of carbon dioxide emissions. They just don’t condone fraudulent presentations to support their beliefs.
Politics of Climate Science
The flawed nature of Mann’s hockey stick reconstruction was obvious from the beginning to anyone who looked at the research objectively. That, of course, did not include the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who found in Mann’s dramatic hockey stick graph the stark visual presentation it needed to defeat economic freedom and keep people in developing countries impoverished. For the IPCC, if you lack evidence to make your case, use a startling picture.
In his book, Steyn quotes physicist Ivar Giaever, winner of the Nobel Prize, who said of Mann’s theory, “[I]n pseudoscience you begin with a hypothesis which is very appealing to you, and then you only look for things which confirm the hypothesis.”
The U.S. National Research Council pointedly noted Mann’s statistical method “tends to bias the shape of the reconstruction.” The scientists who collected the tree ring data Mann misused insist the data primarily indicate the effect of carbon dioxide fertilization, not temperature, on trees.
Steyn leads off A Disgrace to the Profession with prominent Princeton University physics professor William Happer likening Mann’s work to the government’s rewriting of history in the novel 1984. Happer recalls studying science as a boy, learning about the Medieval Warm Period—when Greenland was green, hence it’s name—which was followed by the horrendous Little Ice Age. Both not-so-mysteriously absent from Mann’s hockey stick reconstruction.
Making Case for Skepticism
Concerning the lack of critical analyses of Mann’s seemingly groundbreaking findings before they were hyped around the world, Lars Kamel, professor in the University of Uppsala’s Department of Astronomy and Space Physics, said, “Common sense in science tells you to be a bit skeptical about any investigation which throws old truths away and gives a completely new picture.”
Steyn quotes professor Daryl Ince of the Open University Centre for Research in Computing, who discusses the importance of the scientific method, which Mann did not seem to follow when constructing his hockey stick analysis.
“One of the key features of science is deniability: [I]f you erect a theory and someone produces evidence that it is wrong, then it fails,” said Ince.
In climatology, Mann and many other alarmists refuse to share the data used to come to their conclusions, making it impossible to disprove their claims.
Concerning the seemingly blind fervor driving the widespread acclaim initially showered upon Mann’s work, Peter Chylek, a researcher in space and remote sensing sciences at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is quoted as saying, “There was a perceived need to prove that the current global average temperature is higher than it was at any other time. … It became more important than scientific integrity.”
Professor Marcel Leroux of the Laboratory of Climatology at Jean Moulin University in France says once the IPCC and failed presidential candidate Al Gore began to champion the hockey stick study, they departed from “the realm of science” and became an instrument of propaganda. The propaganda, Steyn notes, was “so effective that politicians, activists, and alas even school children were reluctant to abandon [it].”
Whereas most scientists dance around the errors in the flawed work produced by Mann and his colleagues, physicist Eugene Gordon, tackles it head on, as Steyn points out in his book.
“I don’t think they are scientifically inadequate or stupid,” said Gordon. “I think they are dishonest.”
It amazes me how easy it was for Steyn to assemble more than 100 scientists to strongly criticize Mann’s work, but perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to see the scientific method eventually win out over shoddy research.
Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, best describes the current scientific standing of Mann’s hockey stick: “The hockey stick concept of global climate change is now widely considered totally invalid and an embarrassment to the IPCC.”
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.