Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 27, 2015

What if Professor Harold Hill came to Montana ?

While recently living near Kalispell, Montana, I was a participant in the local arguments concerning the subject of climate change that appeared in the local newspaper called the Daily Inter Lake.  During that period, another frequent contributor was a recent transplant from California named Dr. Ed Berry who I came to regard as a classic Denier of man’s effect on climate.  While he did not know even the basic elements of climate science, it appeared to me that he was able to convince many locals including the newspaper’s Editor that he was an experienced and accomplished expert on the subject. After numerous op ed give and takes with Dr. Berry, I came to believe that there was no point in continuing them any longer in that specific newspaper and instead sent a version of the following letter to its Editor, Frank Miele.  Since I have been informed by Mr. Miele that he will not be running my letter in his newspaper, I thought that I would at least share it with the readers of my blog.  The remainder of this post shows that letter slightly modified for this format.  

Do credentials matter at the Daily Inter Lake?

Whenever I manage to get a Letter published at the Daily Inter Lake concerning the problem of global warming,  I can expect to see it promptly followed by another from the Dr. Ed Berry of Bigfork in which he does his best to negate the effects of mine. Therefore, I was not surprised to see such a letter recently (on March 22) run again right after mine (on March 17).  All of this is fair, of course, if one accepts the notion that any person’s view on a given subject merits as much exposure as another. So now I suppose I could take the option of pointing out in scientific detail in yet another letter, why Dr. Berry’s comments are scientifically out-of-bounds and downright silly.  In that process, however,  I suspect that the general public might not know the science well enough to clearly see which one of us is full of it and might simply come away with the impression that the science of man-caused global warming is, indeed, still not settled.  This, of course, is the goal of the deniers of man-caused global warming and I decided not to play that game in this instance.

Then upon watching the 1962 classic “The Music Man” with my grandchildren last weekend, a more appropriate response occurred to me.  In that movie, Professor Harold Hill is shown doing his thing – selling musical instruments along with uniforms and promised instructions for River City’s new “boy’s band”.  Professor Hill  is, indeed, a thoroughly likeable and superb salesman – even though he also a total fraud who knows next to nothing about how to play musical instruments.  Nevertheless, his message is in resonance with the dreams of the good folks of River City and they fall for it. The locals made one obvious mistake, however. They certainly should have checked out Dr. Hill’s credentials.

The Professor claimed that he was a graduate of the distinguished Gold Medal Class of ’05 of the Gary Conservatory, Gary Indiana. Turns out, the town of Gary, Indiana, did not even exist until 1906, but only Marian, the librarian, figured that out and by then, she had fallen in love with the Professor.

So what does this have to do with Dr. Edward X. Berry’s presence in Kalispell, MT?  The movie suggests that instead of just taking a newcomer’s word that he is an accomplished climate change physicist, why not check out his credentials. Is this person really what he claims to be or is he just trying to sell “good news” concerning a grave threat to mankind.  For that purpose, I have looked for a professional resume of Dr. Berry’s that would list his contributions to the science of climate change and came up with zip. If one does professional level research in any area of science, the job is not done until all the paperwork is in and in inspecting the trail Dr. Berry claims to have been on, I have found no such paperwork – only what I perceive to be scientific nonsense – such as that displayed on his personal website at

Dr. Berry’s path through science can be seen in the Bio section of his website.  In it you will see that he attended two graduate programs in physics, one at Dartmouth and another at the U of Nevada, Reno in the early 1960’s. Both of these programs were in their infancies at that time with limited offerings and no established reputations. Coming from one of our country’s most prestigious universities, Cal Tech, where he suggests that he was taught by likes of two-time Noble Prize winner, Linus Pauling, one might have expected such a Cal Tech graduate to have been placed in one of the top, instead of the bottom, graduate programs of the  USA.  It would appear, therefore, that this Cal Tech graduate was not well regarded by the faculty of  Cal Tech – to be accepted into good graduate programs, an applicant needs to have received good grades and good recommendations.

It is also possible, of course, that a scientist could be a late bloomer and spring to life after his undergraduate and graduate studies. When that happens, however, the accomplishments of that person would still be evidenced by a string of peer-reviewed papers describing his work during that productive period.  Look again at Dr. Berry’s Bio referred to above.  There is no such record of professional activity and accomplishment even after the year 2001, when Dr. Berry states that he began to focus entirely on the specific issue of climate change. If I have missed something of relevance in Dr. Berry’s resume, I would be pleased to be informed of it by any interested party.

Enough said – perhaps you can see why the “The Music Man” reminds me of the considerable influence Dr. Edwin X. Berry has apparently had on the media of that relatively isolated region of Montana known as the Flathead.  Even Dr. Berry’s method of instruction reminds me of Professor Hill’s whose “think system” consisted of humming  Beethoven’s Minuet in G. By this method, the Professor said, “you don’t have to bother with the notes“.  And by that method, “you can talk, you can talk, you can talk, talk, talk – you can bicker, bicker, bicker, talk, talk, talk, – all without having to know the territory!”

So how will this story eventually end, I wonder. Will Dr. Berry’s limited background be appropriately exposed so that he retreats back to Sacramento where he would be forced to watch the sea level rise in his own front yard or, as in the movie, will he be saved by a respected local official who has fallen in love with him. While I don’t know of any librarians in the Flathead who are likely to play that role, I do know of a local newspaper Editor who might continue to try. It would be quite a setback to Editor Miele, I suspect, if he lost the spiritual leader of the local Denier’s Band.

Eric Grimsrud,  Liberty Lake, WA,  April 26, 2015.

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