Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 30, 2013

Personal Attacks versus Science

In a previous post entitled, “James Hansen, the Jackie Robinson of Climate Change”, I described how we can expect to see increased personal attacks on the preeminent climate change scientist, James Hansen, now that he has retired from his day job as Head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and will now be devoting all of his time to “bridging the gap” of understanding that exists between the world of science and the general public.  These attacks are entirely expected and are in accordance with the ancient adage, “kill the messenger”.  In this case, the smearing and personal attacks will be made by those who have absolutely no scientifically valid responses to the message itself – as you will see in this post.

Thus, this “game” is presently in full stride with respect to the proposed construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline which Hansen has strongly opposed for scientific reasons. In this post I will provide a clear example of this provided by a recent post run at what is possibly the most viewed AGW Denier’s blog in the world called Watts Up With That. Before reading further here please have a look at this WUWT post at   Be sure to read the entire post and to view the entire Video provided there of an interview with James Hansen and then please come back.

OK, now if you have done as I asked above, let’s consider some questions concerning what you just read and saw.  The bulk of Dr. Hansen’s remarks concerned specific scientific points associated with the AGW issue, did they not?  His comment were literally chock full of physical details concerning this environmental problem, were they not?  At the same time essentially all of the comments made by both the editors at WUWT and those reported to have been made by the Canadian Officials were of a personal nature directed at the messenger, were they not.  They did little more that suggest that Hansen is an “exaggerator”, did they not?  without explaining in any scientific terms whatever why they thought Hansen’s view was flawed.

You will also note that towards the end of the interview, the moderator presses Hansen to imagine why the representatives of the Conservative Party now in power in Canada are so hostile to him and his message.  Hansen responds by saying he believes that the ruling Conservatives of Canada are essentially in the “hip pocket” of the fossil fuel industries and that they have adopted what he calls “neanderthal” views of the science of climate change – that is, views are exceedingly out of date.  One only has to consider the report from the USA Academy of Science that I provided on another recent posts here at, in order to understand why Hansen’s use of the word, neanderthal, is appropriate in this case.

So what is the headline of the WUWT post we have been studying here?  It is “Hansen unleashed: people he disagrees with are ‘neanderthals’.  That’s the best the Deniers can do in response to Hansen’s scientifically rich explanation of his position on the Keystone Pipeline – that is, make a big deal and headline out of one word Hansen used and furthermore to misrepresent even that tiny bit of the interview. What Hansen said in answer to the moderator’s question was that he considered the controlling Conservative government of Canada to have “neanderthal” views concerning the science of AGW and immediately added that he was not referring to the people of Canada, in general, or to anyone else.

What a waste of an opportunity.  Here we had a very focused discussion with someone who is generally considered to be the leading climate change scientist of the world, and what does the editor of WUWT come away with?  Hansen’s use of one word which effectively, if not politely, summarized a set of Canadians politician’s limited knowledge of the science associated with climate change.  The fact that the Canadian officials in question and the editors of WUWT did not even dare challenge Hansen’s characterization of their ignorance is telling.  As evidence for man-caused global warming continues to pile up, “Killing the messenger” appears to be the only game the Deniers know how to play.


  1. If you want to believe some one like Hansen that is your prerogative Eric ; but, DO NOT expect sensible, knowledgeable and rational people to believe him since he has doctored the books so many times and now he wants one to compare the atmosphere of Venus with earth, absurd.

    [[[Response by EPG to JDoug:

    So you think Hansen has “doctored the books” do you? To you, I’ll assume that means that many of his papers submitted to the best journals of science have passed peer review. Your comments provide an excellent example of the main point of my post – attacks on Hansen by the Deniers will be of the personal type and will be essentially void of credible science.

    And you also think that it is absurd to consider the climates of all planets in our solar system, including Venus, Mars, and all the others, as well as that of Earth, do you? Do you not think that the basic laws of physics apply throughout our solar system and one has much to learn about Earth by studying all of the planets?

    Please also note, JDoug, that I have not included the bulk of your comments here – which did not pertain to the subject of the main post. If you want to place major posts of your own on topics of your choosing, I suggest that you set up your own blog, as I did. I am generally pleased to include all Comments here on my blog that pertain directly to the subject of the main Post. ]]]

  2. Eric,,
    It is OK for scientists like Hansen to be wrong.

    While studying physics at Cambridge University (1958-1961) I was involved in passionate debates about the origin of the universe. There was the “Big Bang” theory vs Fred Hoyle with his “Continuous Creation”. Nucleosynthesis in stars was first postulated by Hoyle in 1946. It made perfect sense to me in 1960; it still does today.

    I supported Fred Hoyle as did at least 90% of my peers. We did not know much about physics but Fred was “Our Guy”. I now accept the “Big Bang” theory even though Fred resisted it until his death in 2001.

    History will show that Hoyle and Hansen were wrong. It will also note that the existence of abundant Carbon in our solar system was explained by Fred Hoyle.

    James Hansen will be remembered for writing scary fairy tales.

    • Peter, Your logic seems to be that Hansen will be proven wrong because Fred Hoyle was proven wrong. Sorry but that is a very weak argument – none at all actually. Concerning whether Hansen will be proved wrong or not, the “future” has already arrived and weighed in. Turns out Hansen is being shown to be right on the basics. Only the details are left to work out. Eric

      On Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 11:27 PM, ericgrimsrud

  3. Eric,
    The point I was trying to make is that even great scientists like Hoyle or Einstein can be wrong. I supported Hoyle because he contributed the amazing idea that elements with atomic numbers of 3 or higher were created during stellar explosions that we call “Supernovas”. Even though Fowler and Chandrasekhar got the Nobel prize (1983) everyone should know where the idea came from.

    Some people think of Hansen as a “Great Scientist”. Even if history confirms that assessment, his predictions concerning the effect of CO2 on the climate of Earth and Venus are nonsense.

    • Peter, Of course anyone can be wrong. Everyone knows that. It is not a point of significance and is not one that should be used to suggest that anyone is wrong on a position they are , taking at any time. Only ongoing study and observation will show whether one is right or wrong. Eric

      On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 7:27 PM, ericgrimsrud

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