The letter of resignation from the American Physical Society by Ivar Giaever, which we posted two days ago, aroused quite a bit of controversy. So today we throw fuel on the flames by reproducing parts of another letter of resignation from that once august body. This one, by Professor of Physics Harold (“Hal”) Lewis, was sent in October 2010 to Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the APS. It can be found in full here, at Watts Up With That – a website we recommend to all who are interested in climate change questions.
The importance of this letter is that it attacks not only the APS for betraying science, but also the proposition of man-made global warming itself, which the author calls a scam, and “the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist“.
When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood …
Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence … The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. …
How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. … I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:
1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate.
2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. …
3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act … and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. …
5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. … There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. … The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council. …
APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?
I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. … I think it is the money … There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. … Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.
I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.
Reference is made to this letter, and Giaever’s, in an article that appeared yesterday in PajamasMedia by a pseudonymous blogger. His purpose is to defend Rick Perry from accusations that he is “anti-science”, because he said there is a “substantial number of scientists who have manipulated [global warming] data”, and that “weekly or daily” scientists are “coming forward and questioning AGW” – statements that are verifiably true.
The article proceeds:
As for that vaunted “consensus” of climate scientists that supposedly proves the truth of AGW, Giaever summed it up this way:
“Global warming has become a new religion. We frequently hear about the number of scientists who support it. But the number is not important: only whether they are correct is important.”
Our approval of Perry is strengthened by his statements on climate change. We object to his religious beliefs, but observe that for a religious man he is remarkably defensive of true science.
Perry also made a remark about global warming and Galileo that evoked similar ridicule from the press and the left side of the blogosphere. A particularly prominent example was the Atlantic’s James Fallows, who called Perry’s statement, made during the most recent Republican debate, “flat-out moronic.”
Here’s what Perry actually said:
“[T]he science is…not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at … jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense ….[J]ust because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell. … Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.”
Surely excellent advice.
We find what comes next – although somewhat off-topic – too interesting to omit:
Fallows further mocks Perry by comparing him to a person who says, “Hey, I’ll mention Galileo! Unfortunately in mentioning him, I’ll show that I don’t know the first thing about that case….” But although Fallows may think that he’s the one who really knows the first thing about Galileo, he may not know the second and the third thing — including what the Church’s main beef with Galileo was, and the position of Galileo’s scientific contemporaries on the subject of heliocentrism. The latter is especially important to Perry’s analogy, since he was talking about disagreements among scientists, both in Galileo’s time and now.
The Church had initially become upset with Galileo for two main reasons, neither of them the conventional “church vs. science” objection of legend. His first offense was committing theological overreach in their eyes when he stated that heliocentrism did not contradict the Bible because scripture should not be interpreted literally. The second was a kind of scientific hubris: Galileo’s assertion that heliocentrism had been proven (incontrovertibly, as it were) rather than being a tentative working theory. In addition, many of Galileo’s fellow scientists, although split on the matter, were more against Galileo than with him, just as Rick Perry said. The reason for their skepticism was not theology, it was that Galileo’s model was inconsistent with the best empirical observations of the time — although of course, in retrospect, his theory turned out to be correct.
The most important problem with Galileo’s heliocentric theory, and one that was widely recognized by his scientific contemporaries, was the lack of “observable parallax shifts in the stars’ positions as the earth moved in its orbit around the sun.” It was only much later that instruments were designed that were sensitive enough to detect the shifts. Therefore, Galileo lacked scientific evidence to prove his theory, and many leading astronomers of the day rejected it. The renowned Tycho Brahe was one of them; he had his own competing theory, which was a Geo-Heliocentric hybrid in which the sun revolved around the earth but the other planets revolved around the sun, a system that conformed better than Galileo’s with the lack of observed stellar parallax and which remained in scientific favor for a long time.
I have written that Galileo’s theory turned out to be correct, but that is actually an over-simplication. Galileo was indeed correct in stating that the planets revolve around the sun. But he also believed that the sun is the fixed and unmoving center of the universe, which we now know to be incorrect.
This error does not contradict the fact that Galileo was a scientific giant. But the story is a reminder that even the brilliant make mistakes, and that science does not advance by simple progression from ignorance to perfect knowledge, nor is it proven by consensus. It moves in fits and starts, sometimes with small wavering steps and meanderings, sometimes with great leaps. Sometimes it lingers for a while in blind alleyways. But it is always incomplete, and must continually be tested and questioned.