Where the Huffington Post ignores real science…again

This week, the Huffington Post, one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, continues to confirm our suspicions about the quality of their science journalism.  HuffPo supports the anti-vaccination lunacy, have editors who claim homeopathy works, and that a bug on the lens of a camera is an alien spacecraft.  It’s not clear why anyone with a stitch of science background would read that thing, but sometimes their junk science wanders over into bad journalism of the highest sort.  HuffPo is the FoxNews of the left wing, a poorly written and edited mouthpiece for the uncritical left.  

A few days ago, forty-nine ex-NASA “scientists” (yes, scare quotes are necessary) penned a letter to the current Administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden, denying the scientific theory that man, through the excessive release of CO2, is the cause of climate change, also called anthropomorphic global warming (AGW).  In their letter, they state:

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites. We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.

OK, 49 “scientists” sounds like a big number.  Of course, compared to the tens of thousands of climate scientists who accept the theory based on the evidence, or that 97-98% of published climate scientists do not dispute AGW, 49 is a remarkably low number.  But the criticism can go deeper:

  • As discussed before, science is not a democracy.  Science does not “vote” on a new theories, they are developed through the scientific method.  Observation, hypothesis, research, analysis, and publication are the core principles of modern science.  Included with that are repeatability and prediction.  Science is not developed by rhetorical press releases, it is done through research and experimentation.  
  • Most of these so-called “scientists” are not scientists.  Not that the definition of scientist is clear cut, but it is generally individuals who are involved in primary scientific studies using the scientific method, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and developing new ideas over time.  They also usually don’t argue their point in the public press, many of whom have no clue about the nuances of science-speak (which is probably a big problem for science, and will get worse if states keep wanting children to learn creationism).  Nevertheless, these letter-writers are mostly engineers, and, if I read their titles right, highly compensated spaceship repair guys.  Engineers are consider applied scientists, who apply scientific knowledge into a physical environment.  Applied science is critical to technology.  Computers, manufacturing systems, and, yes, space flight require engineering skill which depend upon well-trained and very intelligent minds.  But, as much as we do not want a biochemist designing a new space shuttle, how can we trust a space shuttle engineer in the basic sciences of climate change?  

This is where HuffPo enters the story.  They published an article entitled “NASA Global Warming Stance Blasted By 49 Astronauts, Scientists Who Once Worked At Agency,” which discussed the letter.  But they didn’t do any research to find what real scientists to say, they didn’t check the credentials of the “scientists” (read engineers), and they didn’t provide information from the massive number of scientists who support the consensus on AGW.  Like Science, one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.  Like the United State National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences urges strong action to cut greenhouse gases (from the Los Angeles Times, a real newspaper with respected editorials on science).

Instead, HuffPo does the lazy thing.  They quote the Environmental Protection Agency:

The EPA website says that “Increasing levels of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times are well-documented and understood.” It goes on to say that “The atmospheric buildup of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is largely the result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.”

So HuffPo makes out to be some bureaucratic argument, rather than the incredibly well-research science that it is.  Couldn’t they have read Is there a scientific consensus on global warming?, which lists all the academies of science, research teams, climate science consensus, or other data that support AGW, as opposed the 49 “scientists” who don’t work at NASA any more?

HuffPo tries to make amends by adding to their article (after being blasted in comments from readers):

Editor’s note: We believe it’s newsworthy when 49 former NASA scientists and astronauts pen a letter to the agency — or to anyone — about climate change. But what really raised temperatures is when we asked our readers to weigh in. We’ve removed the question because HuffPost is not agnostic on the matter. Along with the overwhelming majority of the scientific community (including 98% of working climate scientists), we recognize that climate change is real and agree with the agencies and experts who are concerned about the role of carbon dioxide.

Good for them.  Except their lousy scientific journalism discredits anything they state in that note.  If they agree with the agencies and experts, then link to them, quote them.  And is it newsworthy to publish the letter from the 49 “scientists?”  Yes, but only if it’s balanced with the real science.

One more thing.  NASA ought to sue these “scientists” for their anti-science beliefs and require that they never mention NASA ever again.  Of course, NASA’s political appointees have, in the past, pushed creationism.  

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!