Guest post by Canman (aka Mike Dombroski)
Am I the only one outraged?
Every once in a while, I go through Michael Mann’s tweets in an incognito window. Most recently, I just hit a few minutes behind him crowing about being elected, inducted, or something, into the National Academy of Sciences. This looked like a bombshell to me—a real scoop. I made sure to shoot off a few fiery tweets, like this one:
Then I had to get some fresh air. I went and got a few groceries and stomped and muttered around the parking lot for a while. When I came back to start wading through the thermonuclear fallout, I was surprised to find their was hardly any. Well, you never know what will and won’t make a splash. Mark Steyn was worried that his lawsuit battle with Mann might not get much attention, and had to brace himself for a flood of amicus briefs supporting Mann.
I suppose most people aren’t all that attuned to the goings on of the National Academy of Sciences. I know I’m not, except for when they are going to include someone like Mann. I’m actually rather attuned to someone they didn’t include, Carl Sagan. Though I didn’t agree with a lot of his politics, I was a big fan of Carl Sagan. His books always seemed to have stuff that was fresh and new. When a couple of biographies of him came out, at about the turn of the millennium, I rushed to the library to check them out. One of the more interesting sagas, was when he was rejected for inclusion into the NAS. His first wife, Lynn Margules, a renowned biologist, was a member. Back then, being an acclaimed science popularizer and a celebrity was considered perhaps, uncouth. Of course some of it undoubtedly had to do with big egos, who were not acclaimed, popular celebrities.
Now days we seem to be living in the age of the science communicator. Search for “Michael Mann” at the NCSE site, and you get 6 pages of hits with lots of awards, such as:
… the 2018 Public Engagement with Science Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in recognition of his “tireless efforts to communicate the science of climate change to the media, public[,] and policymakers.
… the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication for 2017.
… the James Shea Award for 2017. Presented by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the award honors “exceptional contributions in the form of writing and/or editing of Earth science materials (broadly construed) that are of interest to the general public and/or teachers of Earth science.”
… the 2018 Climate Communication Prize from the American Geological Union.
… the Louis J. Battan Author’s Award (K-12) for 2020 for their book The Tantrum that Saved the World
Mann is a communicator? The only thing I find notable about his writing is that it’s whiny and ranty. Otherwise, it’s mostly bland talking points. It’s certainly not not like reading Richard Feynman or Stephen Jay Gould! The only challenging thing I’ve read of his, other than MBH’98 (Uncle!), is his comparison of his short modern centered PCA to Gould’s analysis, in his book, The Mismeasure of Man. Gould was no longer alive to provide clarification or extrication.
Well, if he’s not an impressive communicator, maybe it’s “what” he’s communicating. Other than the same old talking points, all the other activist/scientists have, he does have this unique narrative. He’s a nerdy scientist, who discovers this rising temperature graph and then gets attacked by right wing politicians and the fossil fuel industry. His unimpressive communication skills actually help with this narrative, along with the fact that he’s short, fat and bald. The actual supposed science behind the hockey stick is so bad, extensive and arcane, that these charges seems implausible to the casual observer (they did to me). He looks like a scapegoat being made into a cardboard villain, when in fact, on closer examination, he really is a cardboard villain! Add to that, he’s a ridiculous intellectual narcissist and very vindictive towards critics.
Do honors, like being in the NAS, really matter? They didn’t to Richard Feynman in his great YouTube video:
Feynman actually resigned from the NAS. He describes physicists sticking together to block a chemist. He exclaims, “The whole thing was rotten!” For better or worse, we do give awards for achievement and put our best and brightest in prestigious organizations. We do push back when questionable people get lauded as such. This should be one of those times.