Sunday, February 22, 2015

Denier Willie Soon Facing Investigation

It isn't often I get to pass on good news on the climate change front, but this is one of those times. Well-known professional denier Willie Soon is facing investigation for failure to report financial conflicts when submitting papers for publication.

Mr. Soon is normally advertised as an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, but is actually an aerospace engineer, not a physicist and certainly not a climate scientist.

Mr. Soon is well known in the denier community as a champion and is frequently cited as a 'scientist' that rejects AGW in an attempt to give credibility to claims AGW isn't real. One of his claims is that any climate change we may be experiencing is due to solar variability. His scientific claims are routinely debunked.

He is also well known in the scientific community as someone that has rejected science and is closely associated with the Heartland Institute. Heartland is funded by the fossil fuel industry and is engaged in the effort to "confuse" the issue on climate change, providing funds to individuals to undermine climate science. Anyone associated with Heartland is suspect and certainly anyone associated with them has sacrificed any scientific credibility they may have ever had. Soon is a shining example of that.

Mr. Soon was also part of a team that made a submission to the Global Warming Skeptic Challenge. I rejected their 'proof' on the basis that they only claimed they didn't like future forecasts of damage due to climate change. Somehow, they thought this proved AGW isn't real.

When asked about his funding sources, Mr. Soon has stated no amount of money would affect his research. Well, if that is the case, why has he been so reluctant to reveal his funding source? Now, we know why.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Greenpeace has obtained documents showing Mr. Soon has received at least $1.2 million in funding from the fossil fuel industry. In his documents, he has described his anti-climate science papers as 'deliverables.' This, it turns out, is an ethics violation. He, and anyone else, is free to obtain their funding from where ever they can get it, but they have to reveal that when there is a potential conflict of interest when submitting scientific papers. Mr. Soon failed to do that.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center has launched an investigation into Mr. Soon's actions.

This is just the latest example of how the deniers work. We have already heard this same story with Richard Lindzen, another scientist (this time with MIT) that denied ever receiving fossil fuel money, but was eventually caught lying about it.

Why do we see this pattern? If AGW isn't real, why do deniers have to align with organizations that are well-known for falsifying research? Why are they continually lying about their funding? Why are they always providing false arguments and false statements as 'evidence'? Why, if the science is valid, are they not providing valid science?

Maybe because there is no valid science to support their claims?


  1. What is it about engineers? Of all the professions, that is the one with an irrationally conservative bent.

  2. Engineers are not necessarily scientists. To me in general a scientist has a particular way of looking at the universe, I suspect this viewpoint is not compatible with Conservatism which seems to value ideology over reality.

  3. I would agree with that. Scientists work to understand things. Engineers work to put that knowledge to work. I have met many engineers that didn't really understand the material in the same way a scientist does but were very good at putting it to work anyway.

  4. I don't think engineers are scientists. My experience with them is as expert witnesses and, unlike the other professions, a heavy percentage of them are conservative.

  5. I recall a short story written by Isaac Asimov where a scientist is pitted against an engineer - the engineer wins, but at a cost. This discussion made me think of that short story, I will see if I can find it.

  6. "Not Final!"

    'The story illustrates a tension between the theoretical ("Scientific") attitude and the practical ("Technical") one, exemplified by the prominent scientist claiming that his theory shows the force-field technology to be impossible ("That's final! That's final!"), and mirrored by the technician's account of his methods, and by the story's title.'

  7. I had forgotten that story and had to dig in the library to find it. Thanks for reminding me of it. It is a good example of how the scientist and the engineer think differently. It's also a good lesson about hubris.