Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Romm v Revkin

Andy "the horror, the horror" Revkin on Gleick:
Now, Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing.

Joe Romm and Andy Revkin often clash over this or that, with the more measured Revkin coming out on top in most cases, in my view. This one, though, goes to Romm by a knockout:

First off, if one act of this nature could ruin a reputation or destroy his credibility, then what precisely is Revkin doing routinely quoting and citing people who have been repeatedly debunked, the disinformers and confusionists.
 I think those of us on the pro-science side accept a little bit of a double standard, but not when it's taken to a ridiculous, hyperventilating extreme. A little trickery to expose Heartland's illegal war on science? That "leaves his reputation in ruins"? Why, if it didn't involve his scientific work? Are we under the impression that all scientists are impeccably honest and forthright in all their personal and public affairs? And if they've ever breathed a word that wasn't true, told a girl she looked pretty when she didn't, promised a parent to call and didn't, parked in a loading zone -- that's it. No more reputation for you!

C'mon. Am I the only one who thinks Revkin calls it "an act" because to actually describe it would make it abundantly clear that it is an "ethical lapse" in the same way driving five miles over the speed limit is a "criminal act"?

UPDATE: Revkin has walked back his "reputation in ruins" remark:
 I will acknowledge that certain phrases, written in haste, were overstated. Gleick’s reputation and credibility are seriously damaged, not necessarily in ruins or destroyed.
As I noted the last time I blogged on Revkin, he has an impressive ability to respond to new information, and his second and third looks are the best in the business.

I'd move towards Revkin on this one a little bit, too. I don't think Peter Gleick's  scientific credibility ought to be affected by his deception of the Heartland Institute. His credibility as an authority on ethics, however, might reasonably be expected to take a hit. Especially given that he, himself considers what he did a serious ethical lapse. I don't necessarily agree, but he's the expert.


  1. Me, I thought it was a lot like Mr. Collins's "condolences" to Elizabeth Bennet on the elopement of her sister Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.

    I'm with Joe most of the time.

  2. Forgive Eli if he is old, but didn't Revkin's paper publish the Pentagon Papers way back when??

  3. Seems like it did. And it seems like more than one reporter and more than one cop has stretched the truth to get the real story. It's less than saintly, no doubt, but who cares?

  4. Well the AGU for one, didn't enjoy the prospects of having Gleick as the face of mainstream science ethics. They erased his name sometime yesterday morning, without noting the reason.

    And the NCSE, they cared enough to give Gleick the brush. Broomed him quick in spite of Gleick being the entire climate department.

    Some have ethics. Or maybe it's just they don't want to be judged by their associations?

  5. I support your newly joined battle against the New York Times, and bid you best wishes for it's continuation and expansion.

    To Victory!

  6. > five miles over the speed limit

    make that ten

  7. "I support your newly joined battle against the New York Times,"

    Apparently the aptly named "papertiger" has mistaken us for persons sharing something akin to his own intolerant fundamentalism.

    Grown-ups can disagree with others without joining "battle" with them or launching a crusade . . . you also might want to learn the difference between one article by one journalist blogger and an entire media group comprised of thousands of individual views..

  8. I understand perfectly. What I was really probing was your sense of humor, which appears to be faulty.

    So you were serious about theft, wire fraud, falsifying documents being equivalent to a traffic infraction? See because that read like a joke to me.

  9. That's OK, PT. You read like a joke to me.

    Anyway, Revkin has partially walked back the tone troll after it became clear that it hadn't worked. Meh.

    There does seem to be some sort of cultural problem at the NYT. See Jay Rosen on that, and in particular his coverage of "truth vigilante"-gate.

    NYT journalists in general seem way too concerned with narrative over facts, notwithstanding the lessons of Judy Miller etc.

  10. Steve Bloom - I'm sure you are curious who wrote the fake document, slipped it under the door, and started Gleick down the path to crime. Right?

    In the meanwhile the San Francisco Chronicle has joined the ranks of those people who are "concerned with narrative over facts", giving Gleick the boot off of their blog City Brights.
    Time Magazine has weighed in saying "...[Gleick's] actions have hurt not just his own professional reputation but the cause of climate science as well."

    And not to be left out Gavin Schmidt (Josh, didn't you co-ordinate with Gavin before shooting off your mouth?)
    Gavin Schmidt says,
    "Gleick’s actions were completely irresponsible and while the information uncovered was interesting (if unsurprising), it in no way justified his actions. There is an integrity required to do science (and talk about it credibly), and he has unfortunately failed this test."

  11. A couple of things come to mind, papertiger

    Firstly, we are permitted to disagree with Gavin Schmidt.

    Secondly, there is scant evidence that Gleick forged the strategy memo, and in any case all the details were corroborated by the rest of the leaked documents.

    Thirdly, you seem to lack a sense of moral proportion that is shared by reasonable human beings. Let's compare the crimes:

    Gleick: decided to leak confidential Heartland materials to journalists after receiving them unsolicited from an unknown source. Used identity theft to corroborate the source's reliability.

    Heartland Institute: routinely rails against scientists with libel and slander (milking hacked emails, of all things), engaged in a campaign to deceive schoolchildren, pays people to obfuscate the public, falsely claims charitable status to evade taxes while actually functioning as an industry lobby group.

    Clearly, the big story is not about Heartland at all, but how Gleick is a big stupid meanie doo-doo head

  12. Alex, you speak for Halprin now? That's incredible.

    See I was half regretting not offering Josh congratulations for his bold unethical stance, breaking from orthodoxy, approving wire fraud in service of the noble cause.

    So now I find out Josh has just switched horses, having you be his spokesman instead of Gavin.
    Too bad. No originality points for Eli.

    Clearly, the big story is not about Heartland at all, but how Gleick is a big stupid meanie doo-doo head.

    Clearly. But I really think Peter was chafing under the weight of being the head honcho of so many ethics boards. Cut into his "me" time.

  13. Fellas, Andy is kicking your butts.

    Time to regroup and counter punch.

  14. Alex.
    You are a good friend, stepping forward to take the speeding ticket for Eli.
    Because Professor Halprin, you do not want to go to bat for Peter Gleick.

    Come on. Get serious. This is your professional reputation on the line.
    You know Romm is a nut. Don't chase him down that rabett hole.

  15. Have fun with your various fantasies, PT.

  16. Try not to spam the thread, paper kitty.

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