Political Science | Chemical & Engineering News
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Volume 86 Issue 31 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: August 4, 2008

Political Science

Department: Letters

Arthur B. and Noah H. Robinson present a defense of their point of view that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause a catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate” (C&EN, June 23, page 3). They circulated a petition to thousands of persons and got “more than 31,000” to sign it.

I was one who took the time to evaluate closely the extremely thorough and well-researched paper on which they based their position. I believe that I found a flaw in their work. As I wrote directly to them, their assertion “that the temperature changes over the last 100 years are directly related to variations in solar activity” is contradicted by their own recent data, say from 1970 on, which show a significant and escalating increase in Arctic, U.S., Northern Hemisphere, and global temperatures versus their Figure 13, which shows a very recent decrease in that variable. I added that “the authors fail to take into account the enormity of the recent and rapid increase in CO2 emissions from human activity—unprecedented in history over the last thousands, if not millions, of years.”

I agree with the Robinsons that their work should be evaluated based upon the scientific evidence. I would assert that such an evaluation will show that they are in error and that human activities, in particular the emission of CO2, are causing an increase in global average temperatures, which will lead to unprecedented human and ecological costs unless promptly reversed.

Richard S. Greeley
St. Davids, Pa.

It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that the present Administration has politicized science and technology, choosing senior staff for their politics, not their professional competence; has censored or rewritten reports to agree with preconceived positions; and has supported policies by selective citations from the literature, by misrepresenting published reports, and by inventing facts. It is the obligation of ACS, and indeed of all scientific and technological societies, to make this known. Not doing so—for fear that doing so will be labeled “politics”—would be an abnegation of its responsibility.

Stephen R. Cohen
Bronx, N.Y.

I read with some dismay the usual crop of letters criticizing Baum’s editorials, although it was nice to see one published in support of his positions. It concerns me that there is no editorial in this same issue and I hope that C&EN is not responding to this cacophony by eliminating the editorial page.

I firmly disagree with the idea that the editor’s opinions have no place in C&EN, or that somehow ACS fails to represent its members’ interests by allowing them to be expressed. Baum writes well-reasoned opinions on a variety of topics and cites references without going exhaustively into data analysis, as is appropriate for an editorial page.

Readers who disagree with his conclusions are free to examine the data themselves and write a rebuttal if they so choose. It speaks volumes, however, that the letters are mostly complaining that Baum is being given a soapbox for liberal ideas rather than putting forth any substantive disagreement or references to data that support a different conclusion.

Kelly Smith
Alachua, Fla.

Congratulations, Rudy Baum, on telling it like it is. You’re right—there is a right-wing movement to discredit science, be it evolution or global warming or whatever. I’m surprised gravity hasn’t been attacked by them. Keep up the good work!

Lloyd Parker
Oxford, Ga.

Baum’s editorial “Defending Science” is ironically named. He arrogantly presents evolution and human-induced climate change as theories beyond reproach, missing only a few “gaps in knowledge.” Competing theories and their proponents are dismissed as “antiscience.”

If Baum had lived in Vienna in the late 1840s, he probably would have joined the scientific establishment of the day in condemning Ignaz Semmelweis for his proposition that surgeons’ unwashed hands were responsible for the 30% mortality rate among women delivering babies. Semmelweis was vindicated only after his death, when Louis Pasteur formulated the germ theory of disease, which is universally accepted today. Many widely accepted theories have been superseded or dismissed over the centuries. Baum would be wise not to be so arrogant in proclaiming the superiority of these theories, known more for their political correctness than their scientific robustness. I suspect that neither will stand the test of time.

David Stanley
Lake Jackson, Texas

Several writers have attacked Baum’s editorials, including his piece on “Bush and the Environment” (C&EN, May 26, page 3). I assure the writers that theirs is a minority opinion. Most members of the scientific community agree with Baum’s criticisms and would state further that the current Administration shows unprecedented hostility to science and to intellect generally.

Consider that when asked to comment on evolution, President George W. Bush replied, “The jury is still out.” Consider that Vice President Dick Cheney, in January of 2001, observed, “Conservation may be a good sign of personal merit, but it’s not a basis for public policy.” Consider, too, the documented cases in which candidates for appointment to federal science advisory boards were asked if they had voted for the President, as if that were a criterion for scientific competence!

Gilbert J. Sloan
Wilmington, Del.

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