To the editor:
Daniel Murphy certainly doesn't need me or anyone else to answer the letter to the editor written by Penn State professor Michael Mann and published in the Nov. 27 edition of The Eagle-Tribune.
But that letter must not pass without comment by those who support free inquiry.
Mann's research has been, as claimed, vetted by some outlets and organizations in "the scientific community." But there are many, if not more, scientists (Judith Curry and Craig Loehle, to name two who leap to mind), journals and organizations who dispute his arguments and conclusions about climate change.
The indispensable and courageous author Mark Steyn, whom Mann has sued for defamation, published the book "A Disgrace to the Profession," which compiles the words of the many scientists who disagree with, counter or debunk Mann's methods and research — specifically the hockey stick to which he refers.
Reading and discussing such a book and books or articles like it is in the tradition of free inquiry in "the scientific community."
Is Mann immune to scrutiny?
In his letter, Mann frequently employs the term "climate denier" to describe Murphy and other critics and skeptics, a rhetorical ploy that is cheap and obvious.
Who denies that the climate changes? How, when and why it changes are the questions and subjects of an ongoing scientific inquiry.
Mann would like, as would any scholar, for his research to be definitive. In this case, he would like for it to be essential in proving that climate change is overwhelmingly the result of human activity, and that it is settled fact.
But ambition is not fact. So it bears repeating that there is plenty of legitimate and respected research in "the scientific community" that not only brings Mann's assertions into question, but points out significant flaws regarding his methodology and conclusions.
Mann's insists authoritatively that readers who are "genuinely interested in the truth behind the science" go to his website or read his book.
Do so indeed. But keep in mind that his work has been demonstrated to be less than authoritative, nor has it settled anything. It is but one part of a scientific exploration.
Mann's signature states that he is a "distinguished professor" at Penn State. But his letter is distinguished only by a style and approach that might be best described as overheated.