Date: Sun, 9 May 2010
From: Mitch Golden
Subject: Letter to the editor
If I were to write a letter saying that that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Aug 9, 1945, is it PAW's policy to run it without correction or an editor's note?
PAW did essentally this when it followed "Temperatures Rising" (an article marred by credulous reporting of misinformation) with two letters from alumni containing further serious mistakes.
Consider just one example among many, some virtually libelous: Charles Lugar '58 claims that "30 years of more accurate satellite data" disagrees with earth-based assessments of global warming.
This is a straightforward matter, akin to the date of Pearl Harbor attack: either the satellite data show very different global warming from the ground measurements or they don't. A very nice graph showing the incorrectness of Mr Lugar's assertion can be found on wikipedia, in the "Satellite temperature measurements" article. Obviously, this would not have been hard for PAW to find.
(This canard is not new. In fact, it is very difficult to measure low-atmosphere temperature with satellites. Other than the satellites seeming to give a result denialists preferred, there is no a priori reason to suppose that satellites are better than terrestrial thermometers. Until 2005, satellite and ground data did disagree. The discrepancy was mostly resolved when it was found that the satellite orbits weren't quite where the researchers thought. Contrary to standard denialist lore, the satellite data sets have come into closer and closer agreement with the ground measurements, with another fix having been made as recently as March.)
PAW does a disservice when it misinforms its readers, reporting uncorrected falsehoods uttered by professors or alumni. That they aren't PAW's falsehoods is a lame justification, as it is the publisher's job, not the readers', to understand the subjects being covered. Everyone is entitled his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Mitchell Golden '81