Fake news: an open letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

Ø Yet again, the hard-Left Washington Post has libeled Dr Willie Soon, whom many of us know to be one of the most dedicated scientists in single-minded pursuit of the objective truth about global warming. If you agree with the following Letter to the Editor, please write your own letter and send it in to the Washpot.


The Post’s inaccurate and malicious personal attack on Dr. Willie Soon

Mr Thacker’s personal attack on Dr Willie Soon (Why we shouldn’t take peer review as the ‘gold standard’: August 1, 2019) was uncalled-for, inaccurate, and demonstrably malicious. The strapline at the head of the piece said it was “too easy for bad actors”, implicitly including Dr Soon, the only individual scientist named by Mr Thacker as having acted improperly, “to exploit the process” of peer review “and mislead the public”. Dr Soon is an award-winning solar astrophysicist, though Mr Thacker neglected to mention that his employer, the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory, had given him an award for the high quality of his research.

The body of the piece said “shoddy work”, implicitly including learned papers by Dr Soon, “often makes it past peer reviewers”, who “often fail to detect … conflicts of interest”, again implicitly referring inter alios to Dr. Soon. The article, so heavily promoted by the Post that a link to it remained prominently displayed on the newspaper’s homepage two days after its original publication, said “bad actors exploit the process” of peer review “for professional or financial gain, leveraging peer review to mislead decision-makers”. Again, these words were an implicit attack on Dr Soon.

The article went on to say that “… fossil fuel industry interests have tried to distort the public debate on climate change by sponsoring research and exploiting the prestige of peer review, undermining the overwhelming scientific consensus on the topic”. Mr Thacker neglected to admit that approximately 5000 times as much money is spent by governments, campaign groups and other vested interests promoting their own wildly exaggerated distortions of climate science as is spent by skeptical groups or coal, oil and gas interests, who, in a free country, are fully entitled to correct the numerous errors, inconsistencies, contradictions and inflations of the true scientific position perpetrated by these assorted profiteers of doom in the name of “official” climatology for reasons of political expediency, social convenience, scientific ignorance and financial profit – defects that were carefully omitted from Mr Thacker’s article and are, as far as I can detect, almost wholly absent from the pages of the Post, notwithstanding the pietistic cliché Democracy dies in darkness that is prominently and, in the circumstances, more than somewhat Pharisaically displayed on its website.

As it happens, Dr Soon and I were co-authors of a learned paper (Legates et al. 2015) which demonstrated that the authors of only 0.3% of scientific papers published after peer review in the learned journals of climate and related topics over the 21 years 1991-2011 were even prepared to go so far as to state their support for the proposition that recent global warming was chiefly manmade, or words to that effect. Yet that proposition is the official “consensus” proposition as defined in the documents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Since even that milquetoast proposition – for good scientific reasons – has almost no support in the peer-reviewed journals of climate science, a fortiori the notion that global warming is what Mr Obama’s Twitteratus once described as “real, manmade and dangerous” is almost entirely unsupported in the journals. Mr Thacker, however, culpably omitted these facts from his article.

Mr Thacker, having thus craftily set up and contextualized Dr Soon as a blackguard by his sedulously-fabricated foofaraw of flatulent whigmaleeries, wrote the following paragraph specifically naming Dr Soon. Mr Thacker either knew, at the time when he wrote the offending paragraph, that it was wholly or in substance false and misleading or was reckless as to whether it was false and misleading. I say “reckless” because at no time did Mr Thacker take the trouble to contact Dr Soon to obtain his account of events before he wrote it:

A few years ago, it emerged that Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had accepted $1.2 million from fossil fuel interests to publish studies, which he described as “deliverables,” in academic journals. (Much of his research has argued that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming and that humans have had little effect on climate change, a thesis rejected by the majority of experts.) Peer review did not uncover these vested relationships: The editor of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics told a reporter that it relied on authors to be truthful about conflicts of interest.

Mr Thacker’s statement that Dr Soon had “accepted $1.2 million from fossil fuel interests” is false, incomplete and materially misleading. The Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory had accepted various donations in respect of Dr Soon’s research and had itself negotiated the contracts with the donors. Mr Thacker culpably neglects to state that the money was paid not to Mr Soon but to the Observatory; that it was paid over a period of ten years; that the Observatory had deducted 30% for its “overhead”; that approximately a further 30% went on Dr Soon’s costs in conducting research; and that, therefore, Dr Soon personally received less income per year than a district manager at Burger King. The false impression that Dr Soon had been lavishly bought and paid for, calculated to convey a mendacious and damaging impression of Dr Soon. It was fake news of the shoddiest kind.

Mr Thacker’s statement that Dr Soon had described the studies that he proposed to publish as “deliverables” is false. Dr Soon himself had not used that word. The contracts in which the word “deliverables” appeared were negotiated by the Observatory qua Dr Soon’s employer in respect of his ground-breaking research.

Mr Thacker’s statement to the effect that “the majority of experts” reject Dr Soon’s conclusion to the effect that solar variability is a more significant cause of global warming than our sins of emission has no foundation in fact and is, again calculated unfairly and mendaciously to cast Dr Soon in an unfavourable light in the eyes of the Post’s readers. As already noted supra, there subsists no scientific consensus to the effect that global warming is chiefly anthropogenic, wherefore it necessarily follows that there is no scientific consensus to the effect that the Sun is not the principal cause of recent global warming. Indeed, had it not been for systematic tampering with the record of total solar irradiance by a handful of ill-intentioned scientists, it would be apparent to all that at least half of the warming of recent decades – if not all of it – is attributable to increased solar activity.

Had Mr Thacker bothered to contact Dr Soon before libelling him, Dr Soon would have been in a position to draw his attention to numerous peer-reviewed papers, such as Pinker 2005, demonstrating that most of the warming of recent decades was attributable to causes other than Man, such as the naturally-occurring reduction in cloud cover between 1984 and 2001, which exercised a radiative forcing that exceeded the entire net anthropogenic forcing over the period.

In any event, consensus has no place in science, and the notion that scientific results are reached or decided by the vote of “the majority of experts” is an unhappy and characteristically scientifically illiterate conflation on Mr Thacker’s part of the reputation and headcount fallacies (the argumentum ad verecundiam and the argumentum ad populum), which were justifiably excoriated by Aristotle almost two and a half millennia ago.

Mr Thacker’s description of Dr Soon’s funding as “vested relationships” is inaccurate and calculated to be unfairly damaging to Dr Soon. It was the Observatory, not Dr Soon, that had the negotiating and contractual relationship with Dr Soon’s funders, and it was the Observatory that had negotiated with some of those funders a contractual obligation upon Dr Soon not to disclose them as sources of the funding the Observatory had received for his research. Dr Soon, if he had disclosed the source of his funding, would have been acting unlawfully in breach of the contractual obligation of confidentiality – a common stipulation in commercial contracts – into which the Observatory had entered. As a member of the Observatory staff, Dr Soon was obliged by law to honour the terms of the contract that the Observatory had negotiated. If Mr Thacker were to criticize anyone for having failed to disclose Dr Soon’s imagined (and imaginary) conflict of interest, then his criticism should have been directed not at Dr Soon, who was manifestly blameless in these circumstances, but at the Observatory itself.

In this context, Mr Thacker’s quoting a journal editor as stating that he expected authors to be truthful in declaring their conflicts of interest was a false and baseless allegation that Dr Soon had been deliberately untruthful – an allegation calculated to cause further grave harm to Dr Soon’s reputation.

The only individual named in Mr Thacker’s article as having abused the peer review process was Dr Soon. It is arguable, therefore, that the entire article was a pretext for Mr Thacker’s deeply unpleasant, profoundly inaccurate, grossly misleading, manifestly unfair and deliberately malicious assault upon the personal reputation of Dr Soon, no doubt because those behind Mr Thacker, alarmed at the news that Dr Soon is shortly to publish a series of papers demonstrating beyond doubt and on multiple grounds that the notion of large and dangerous global warming arose from several elementary but significant scientific errors perpetrated by careless or prejudiced climatologists, are bent on doing all they can to tarnish his reputation in the hope of deterring learned journals from accepting any such papers with his name on them as an author.

Perhaps you would be kind enough to inform me of the steps the Post proposes to take to undo the damage caused by Mr Thacker’s lying article, and of whether it proposes to dispense with this liar’s services hereafter. I should like to be allowed to write an op-ed piece setting the record straight. Yours faithfully, – Monckton of Brenchley


By Christopher Monckton / of Brenchley
(Source: wattsupwiththat.com; August 5, 2019; https://tinyurl.com/y6z6tjml)
Back to INF

Loading please wait...