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2006-08-26 - 6:18 p.m.

...stepping my foot directly in IT...

Today I had my first real, personal experience with the characters from the university's public email forum. A university prof posted something about a recently-published novel. Most people have heard of it - on the topic of how environmental activists, non-governmental agencies, and climate scientists have manipulated the public into a state of panic over global climate change. This popular author also published a famous book-turned-film about misuse of genetic research and one on cloning, entitled something akin to "Jurassic Lark."

Anyway, someone posted a comment on this authors most recent novel, lauding the author for his extensive knowledge of science. I have not read this book (as I refuse to purchase a book that supports either a publishing company or an author whose speeches are selective in their use of science). I know several scientists in my community who have read it, and they have written several very thorough and thoughtful critiques on the science (and selective use and/misinterpretation thereof) touted as truth in this book. (Incidentally, similar critiques have been written by the same authors, about the selective use of science in a recent film in which New York freezes over...)

Rather than repeat and rephrase an already well-worded commentary, I posted a link to the commentary, with the warning that this science fiction author was not a climate scientist, but was trained in medical research.

It took less than 24 hours for me to receive three verbal, public email lashings in the forum. Wow.

I was accused of "academic posturing" because the word "Dr" appears in my email address. Then I was accused of "ad hominem" - appealing to people's beliefs rather than their ability to think (I presume this was in response to my pointing out that this author was not an expert in the field, but that several experts had already commented on the scientific inaccuracies in his treatise). Then, I was accused of appealing to an "advocacy web site" rather than disputing the claims of the author myself, and that this was not the behavior of a scholar.

One of the postings did present some rather common questions (and misconceptions) about climate change that I could have easily answered. However, there were so many points to reply to (and they were already answered in the link I had posted). Furthermore the postings were so aggressive, insulting, and highly emotionally charged, that I know better than to go within one hundred feet of it! Fortunately, there were two responses posted rather quickly in my defense of all of these charges.

So next week I will remove my address from the forum list. I enjoy academic discussions, but I deplore this type of academic bullying. I was thankful for the replies in my defense, but even one of these replies was worded in a fashion that is so typical of puffed-up academics who are into debate for the sake of debate itself.

I have already been asked to speak publicly on my research topic for some local TV show, and this has burned me enough that I will decline. (I was planning to decline anyway - now I will certainly do so.) There is something about this topic that seems to bring out rage in people. But it is only science, and common sense.

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