I started this blog because I believe the state of Utah is being run by some people who have tried to manipulate science to fit their extreme political views. Am I overreacting? Just how bad could it become?
A couple weeks ago the Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, launched an investigation of Michael Mann, the paleoclimatologist who first produced the famous “Hockey Stick” graph of the temperature record for the last 1000 years or so. Of course, Mann’s work has been investigated multiple times, and nobody has found any wrongdoing. Cuccinelli has no evidence of wrongdoing, so he is going on a fishing expedition at the University of Virginia, where Mann used to work. Even climate skeptics who question Mann’s work are calling it a “witch hunt”. Get all the details from this article in Slate.
Is Utah on a road that leads to witch hunting scientists for political purposes? Consider what happened when Mike Noel had climate skeptic and scientist Roy Spencer come to town. The Salt Lake Tribune asked Utah State University climate scientist Robert Davies how Spencer’s scientific views are viewed in the climate science community. Here’s how the Tribune reported Davies’s comments:
Spencer’s computer models have been discredited in the scientific community and his analysis deemed “completely fringe,” Davies said. None of the established scientific societies has echoed the Alabama scientist’s findings.
“The only conclusion I can discern,” Davies said, “is that they [lawmakers] are looking for cover to make decisions that go against what the scientific community has recommended.”
When Mike Noel heard that, he was ticked. So what did Noel do? Did he call up Davies and complain? Did he complain to the media? No, he called up Davies’s boss, USU president Stan Albrecht, to complain. Noel swore up and down that he never called for Davies to be fired, but how is anyone supposed to take it when a state legislator calls up the president of a state-supported institution to complain about an individual faculty member? And yes, Noel did admit mentioning during the conversation that he was “disappointed” that a faculty member at a “state-supported” institution would launch such a “personal attack” against Roy Spencer. The implied threat was clear. (And I should add that Davies’s comments were a completely factual rendition of the standing Roy Spencer’s views have in the climate science community. Viewpoints that are far from the mainstream are “fringe” by definition, and Davies never said anything “personal” about Spencer.)
Paul Rolly wrote a column after this incident in which he listed a number of incidents where Republicans in the Utah Legislature have used more or less veiled threats to get their way. If we keep electing political extremists to a large majority of the seats in the Legislature, we can expect more political bullying and, I expect, political witch hunts against scientists at state-supported institutions.
Shades of Pol Pot.