Let James Hansen and FoE USA Know What You Think of Eco-Censorship

by | Apr 20, 2008

Don’t believe the rumours of well-funded climate change denialism. We at Climate Resistance lack the hi-tech equipment and web infrastructure to offer the kind of webform that Friends of the Earth USA has at its disposal. Maurizio Morabito suggests we use the FoE form to send an alternative message to the Publishers of American Government, offering support, rather than harassment. We think that’s a good idea. But we should also let Prof Hansen and FoE know what we think of their silly campaign.

We wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to expect you to agree with the following, but if you do, then please send it to the following email addresses by copying it into your mail application. Or write your own. Either way, let them know.

TO: James.E.Hansen@nasa.gov ; nberning@foe.org
CC: trade_publicity@hmco.com

Professor Hansen and FoE USA,

I am writing to urge you to immediately publish a corrective addendum to your recent efforts to encourage members of the public to be outraged by text in American Government, 11th edition, by Professors James Q. Wilson and John J. DiIulio, Jr, published by Houghton Mifflin. Your calls for pressure to be applied to the publishers to withdraw or amend the book to suit your own political biases are factually inaccurate and misleading, and undemocratic.

Wilson and DiIulio are correct to describe the scientific understanding of climate change as “enmeshed in scientific uncertainty”, especially with respect to the political response to climate change. Although the IPCC has provided projections from various scenarios to inform the political process, none of these projections have been offered as forecasts, but ‘what ifs’. The international political response to climate change science to date has been precautionary, not based on scientific certainty. The extent to which certainty is absent from climate science is epitomized by the contrast between Professor Hansen’s projections for sea-level rise, and the IPCC’s, which differ by an order of magnitude. Professor Hansen would have us believe that the IPCC is wrong, and has gone on public record to that effect. Why should others not be allowed to challenge mainstream scientific and political orthodoxy without attracting accusations of dishonesty?

The application of the precautionary principle in response to fears about ecological catastrophe is not the result of politically-neutral, objective calculation. In recent years, the political environmental movement has been successful in presenting the precautionary principle as a ‘scientific’ response to uncertainty, while greatly exaggerating the scientific plausibility of imaginary apocalyptic scenarios to elicit a response in their favor from a terrified public. In other words, the environmental movement has hidden its politics behind science. And unfortunately, some high-profile scientists have been content to go along with this deception – with the best of intentions, no doubt, but at the expense of democratic debate that draws on the best available scientific evidence.

Allowing alternative perspectives to enter the climate change debate would deprive the political environmental movement of its oxygen, and in turn undermine its political leverage and public profile. I suggest that your demands for statements of correction to American Government in the interests of “the facts” belie a desire for political censorship to silence your detractors and opponents.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.



  1. omniclimate

    Good idea too. I’ll elaborate my own version of your letter. Surely there is the opportunity to remind the Prof and the Friends that recent food riots could be interpreted as a direct cause of the application of the precautionary principle, in the form all the biofuels investments and subsidies to combat AGW

  2. Tony Edwards

    What I did at the foe site was to rewrite their letter to support the publishers. I hope that it got through unchanged.

  3. Adam

    Good call, Tony. I did the same. Here’s what I sent (with fingers crossed that it won’t be changed):

    I am writing to congratulate Houghton Mifflin and all the school districts currently using the textbook: American Government, 11th edition, by Professors James Q. Wilson and John J. DiIulio, Jr. I ask that Houghton Mifflin work to make all the revisions necessary to the next edition, to ensure that its coverage of actual climate science, as opposed to anthropogenic global warming junk science, remains current.

    The reason? Chapter 21 on Environmental Policy is a breath of fresh air. It is wonderful, in an age where radical socialist environmentalists spend millions to frighten our children in order to advance their collectivist goals, to find a high school textbook that addresses climate change in a balanced and realistic way. To address global warming as “enmeshed in scientific uncertainty” is to recognize the limitations of our understanding of climate science. To ask whether global warming was (as there has been no recognizable warming for the last 10 years) caused by humans or by natural processes, and to recognize that there are benefits to human beings in a warmer world, is to thoroughly undermine the agendas of man-hating environmentalists such as Friends Of The Earth, and their fellow travellers.

    We need our nation’s youth to be given all the information we have available so that they are able to make their own well-informed decisions. I am thrilled that Houghton Mifflin has chosen to do exactly that, by refusing to bow to environmentalist groups and poison our children’s minds with exaggerations, scare tactics and outright lies.

    I am copying my governor with this message to ensure that my state knows about this textbook!

  4. Paul LaClair

    Calling for correction of factual errors in a student textbook is not censorship. It is responsible education.

    The problem with the Wilson-DiIulio textbook is not just that it is biased, but that it is inaccurate. You cannot undo that reality by cherry-picking some comments and ignoring the whole.

    It is not for a government text to pontificate on scientific questions, but to convey accurate information on issues of government. This text completely omits the consensus opinion of numerous scientific organizations, as though they did not exist, and uses politically loaded terms like “activist scientists” to label the majority of scientists. Meanwhile, it levels no such criticism against the other side. That is not a balanced or accurate treatment of the issue from the standpoint of a textbook on government.

    You are free, of course, to disagree with the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists, as are the authors, but that is not the standard by which a government textbook should be measured. The authors’ job is to teach government, not take a side on the science if in fact the scientific community is split down the middle, which is what the text falsely suggests.

    That is not good education, but partisan indoctrination. On the issue of school prayer, the authors’ statement that students may not pray in public schools is simply false. The college board should demand more, and so should the publisher.

  5. Editors

    Paul LaClair (apparently Matthew LaClair’s father) clearly hasn’t read our posts on the subject, and throws some ambiguous – often bizarre – statements into the mix.

    We could argue about whether or not “Calling for correction of factual errors in a student textbook is censorship”, but the complaints made by FoE and James Hansen do not relate to matters of fact. Calling for the correction of non-errors because they offend the orthodoxy is censorship.

    Paul complains that “You cannot undo that reality by cherry-picking some comments and ignoring the whole”. What whole? What reality? Paul continues, “It is not for a government text to pontificate on scientific questions, but to convey accurate information on issues of government.” By “government text”, we assume Paul means ‘political science textbook’. If social and political scientists cannot “pontificate on scientific questions”, how can government ever respond to scientific evidence? At the beginning of the year, we pointed out that a great number of the IPCC’s so-called ‘thousands of the worlds top climate scientists’ in WGII and III were in fact social scientists. Paul seems to imagine that the political and scientific in this discussion are entirely separate. But he is mistaken. As we also point out, the political response to global warming alarmism generated by the environmental movement has not been based on scientific understanding, but precaution.

    Paul then complains about the term ‘activist scientists’. Yet this is an accurate description of the dominant parties in the debate. What are Hansen, Mann, Schmidt, Dessler, and so on, if not ‘activist scientists’? It was, after all, Hansen who admitted to placing ’emphasis on extreme scenarios’ to gain public attention for the climate change issue. Later publicly and loudly contradicting the IPCC estimate for sea-level rise to undermine the consensus position and to again emphasise the extreme scenario, he has close ties with the Democrats, and publicly endorsed Kerry’s presidential campaign. What is activism, if it is not the public endorsement of political parties and candidates? Paul may complain that it’s not for “government texts” to “pontificate on scientific questions”, yet he doesn’t appear to have a problem with scientists pontificating on political questions. So how does he know when a scientist is being political, or doing science? We suspect that he finds it hard to tell the difference. Indeed, that he mistakes political analysis with which he disagrees with misrepresentation of scientific facts is a sure sign that he is unable to distinguish the two.

    Is the term ‘activist scientist’ applied to ‘label the majority of scientists’? Or is Paul defending against the charge by making a numbers argument – the scientists in question are on the same side as the consensus, so to challenge any aspect of global warming science or politics is to make a statement about ‘the majority of scientists’ (many of whom are in fact social scientists)? And how dare people question scientists?!

    Paul then moans about it not being fair. “it levels no such criticism against the other side” which is “not a balanced or accurate treatment of the issue from the standpoint of a textbook on government”. Is Paul likely to suggest that all global warming propaganda on school curricula comes with a ‘balancing’ message from climate sceptics? It is perfectly legitimate to argue that that global warming has achieved such prominence not because of scientific certainty, but because of activism, and because of political environmentalism. As we have pointed out, it is the precautionary principle which drives international political efforts to mitigate climate change. The precautionary principle, and environmentalism have thrived in an era of risk management, risk avoidance, and nervousness about the future. To try to understand contemporary politics – and the role of contemporary science – without having a perspective on the cultural context of the post-cold-war world is like trying to understand mid-late 20th century politics without any knowledge of World War 2.

    Paul trots out the familiar line “You are free, of course, to disagree with the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists”. Well, it’s clearly not true that there is the freedom to disagree with climate orthodoxy – as we point out in a previous post on this topic. And the ‘overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists’? What majority? How was it measured? Who says? What did they agree to? Who took the poll? When? Paul’s appeal for ‘facts’ appear to rest on a fiction. The irony will be lost on him, of course.

    “The authors’ job is to teach government, not take a side on the science”, says Paul. But the authors don’t take a side on the science. It is the not taking a side, but suggesting that there may be more than one side – and it is that which has upset FoE and Hansen. “That is not good education, but partisan indoctrination”, he continues. It’s fascinating that the objection to alternative perspectives is spun as a demand for objectivity and balance in the global warming debate so that, in fact, reporting two sides means to favour one. It was a pupil – apparently Paul’s own son – who raised the first objections to the textbook. Yet now he is making comments which appear to imply that students are too stupid to be able to interpret political science textbooks. What makes the LaClairs of the world think that everyone else is so stupid?

  6. Paul LaClair

    To the editors:

    I am indeed Matthew’s dad, and will try my best to address your points.

    It is very clear that Wilson and DiIulio have taken a side on this issue. Their section on global warming begins with the statement that not all environmental issues are equally deserving of support. “Take the case of global warming.” The entire section dismisses global warming as a politically motivated issue that does not merit support.

    Government officials, not authors of government textbooks, respond to scientific evidence by making public policy. One would like to think that this would be done free of partisanship, but of course there’s the real world. The point here is that the authors of a student government text need not take a position on the merits of the science, and there is little reason to see why they should. That is especially true when they take the minority side simply by accusing the majority of political activism, while leaving the minority untouched.

    If the scientific merits were appropriate subject matters for a government textbook, the authors would be obligated to discuss the science itself, but that would make this a science textbook. What they do instead is accuse the majority, but not the minority, of political motivation. That’s just rank partisanship on their part. It has no educational value.

    To bring it back to the realm of governmental studies, it’s appropriate to discuss the opposing sides, but that is not what these authors do. Where, for example, is the discussion of the automobile industry’s influence, or the oil industry’s influence, or labor’s influence on environmental policy? Read as a whole, the text is dismissive of the bulk of scientific opinion. That crosses the line from education into indoctrination.

    The point you address is the authors’ statement that the science on global warming is enmeshed in scientific uncertainty. There are contexts in which the statement would be true: what will happen to the polar ice caps, crop land, deserts, etc., as a result of global warming over time. All those questions are enmeshed in scientific uncertainty. The problem with that statement in this textbook is that these authors misuse it to argue that environmental policies based on concerns over global warming are not even worthy of support. They misrepresent where the uncertainty lies. To make matters worse, when you look at their endnotes, their sources on matters of science are not even from the scientific community. So in addition to misusing the textbook as a vehicle for indoctrination, they’re setting a horrendous example for research and citation.

    The reality to which I referred is the growing consensus among scientific organizations and international bodies that global warming is serious enough to merit attention. These are not hard to find with a little research. I’ll supply you with a list if you like. To have written an accurate summary of this subject matter, the authors would have had to account for this growing consensus. You and they can disagree, but most scientists say that this is a real concern. The least the authors could do is acknowledge the fact.

    Your point about activism would be well-taken if you and the text’s authors applied it to both sides. Our complaint is not that the term is used, but that it is used selectively. Advocates against environmental legislation and regulation, including their lobbyists, are also activists. In arguing that the “activists” are pitted against the “skeptics,” the authors are engaging in cheap political word play.

    Finally, you ask, “Is Paul likely to suggest that all global warming propaganda on school curricula comes with a ‘balancing’ message from climate sceptics?” No, I am not. Matthew raised specific concerns. CFI wrote its report about some of those concerns. Hansen and McCracken expressed their views. I invite people on the opposite side of the political fence to do the same. Instead of leveling sweeping charges of left-leaning or right-leaning bias in textbooks generally, raise specific concerns with specific textbooks. That is the only way this discussion can be productive.

    One tragic aspect of this is that politics has become so enmeshed in science that the education of our young people is at stake. You and we will not see eye-to-eye on many of these issues, but at least we can elevate the discussion by being specific.

  7. Editors

    Paul, it is a shame that you do not seem to have taken any trouble to read our previous posts on the issue. You claim that ‘Wilson and DiIulio have taken a side on this issue’ because ‘Their section on global warming begins with the statement that “not all environmental issues are equally deserving of support. Take the case of global warming.”’

    As we say in our letter to FoE/Hansen, and our more comprehensive discussion of his comments, we disagree that there are facts about this matter, such that you can be so confident that the authors have done American youth a great wrong. If you want to take issue with this, it is not reasonable simply to claim that ‘thousands of scientists agree’, unless you can demonstrate that the authors and the thousands of scientists meaningfully contradict each other. The book does not ‘deny’ either the fact that the world has warmed, nor that humans may have influenced it. Our point is that the political response to climate change does not flow from the scientific facts, as you seem to believe. The different responses outlined in the book represent different ways of dealing with doubt and uncertainty, not scientific fact. It appears that you feel able to make up what it is scientists say and mean to claim that the science means anything! If you want to bring matters of fact to this discussion, you’d have to be a lot more clear about what it is you think the authors have said, and how it is directly contradicted by those thousands of the world’s scientists. Neither yours, Hansen’s, FoE’s, nor CFI’s complaints are particularly coherent. You allude to “growing consensus among scientific organizations and international bodies that global warming is serious enough to merit attention”. But this is not sufficient to establish your claim that an injustice has been done. A “growing consensus” necessarily implies at least two perspectives on a matter.

    You continue: “Government officials, not authors of government textbooks, respond to scientific evidence by making public policy. One would like to think that this would be done free of partisanship, but of course there’s the real world.” Your appear to be arguing that politics and science are separate endeavours. Politicians respond to scientists, as though scientists fueled the political process with objective facts. But this is naive. We would end up in a situation where science lacked any direction – though no doubt was very interesting. The relationship between politics and science is two-way. It was a political effort which established the IPCC, and gave it the task of evaluating the science on global warming. The precautionary principle – more politics – has been applied in the absence of clear evidence emerging from that process. The prioritisation of the precautionary principle in environmental policy is ideological, not ‘objective’, although many like to pass it off as the latter. Recently it has become acceptable to apply the precautionary principle in politics because it appears to be pragmatic – as if by a disinterested manager, operating according to the science>politics framework you describe. But the truth is that it is only superficially scientific. The precautionary principle has enabled environmentalists to capture a variety of public agendas. As we say in our introduction “Science is increasingly expected to provide moral certainty in morally uncertain times” and “Environmental concerns are serving to provide direction for directionless politics.”

    Environmentalism has risen in prominence as a result of activism. That is a necessary fact. There is no other way for it to have happened. Yet you worry that “what they do instead is accuse the majority, but not the minority, of political motivation”. You say that it is unfair that only one side gets called ‘activists’. “Advocates against environmental legislation and regulation, including their lobbyists, are also activists… the authors are engaging in cheap political word play.” But it seems like you are the one who is more engaged in word play. The application of the word hardly seems like the strongest case of indoctrination in history. And in the context of a battle between ‘the establishment’, and less formal engagement with politics – such as has been the modus operandi of the environmental movement until recently – it seems reasonable to delineate the radicals from the establishment in this way. It is, after all, the environmental movement which seeks a radical reorganisation of our political, economic, and philosophical outlooks. The resistance felt by the environmental movement is more likely inertia than an easily identified political class or organisation. Do anti-environmental activists exist? It would appear that we do. Have they any influence? It seems highly unlikely, in spite of the myths advanced by the likes of Naomi Oreskes. The truth of the matter is that the public are uninterested in the environmental movement, and it is necessary for the environmental movement to explain its failures by such conspiracy theories.

    As an aside… You continue: “it’s appropriate to discuss the opposing sides, but that is not what these authors do. Where, for example, is the discussion of the automobile industry’s influence, or the oil industry’s influence, or labor’s influence on environmental policy?” We counted the alleged contribution to the global warming debate from Exxon, against Greenpeace. We discovered that Greenpeace – just one player – had had more money at its disposal than Exxon’s recipients by several orders of magnitude. The nefarious influence of the automobile and oil industries has become the mythology of the environmental movement. But it’s made up – it barely exists. What’s more, we’ve all heard it – that kind of rumour and innuendo doesn’t need to be in a textbook. What about corporations who stand and stood to gain from environmental policies? Would the perfect textbook on political science mention them? Would it show how many companies donated to NGOs so that they lobbied for CO2 policies, because they stood to make millions out of them?

    You claim “They misrepresent where the uncertainty lies.” But what does this complaint mean? Where do they say it lies? And where do you honestly believe it lies? You seem to agree that the consequences of climate change are unknown, so what certainty remains? You say that this uncertainty is used “to argue that environmental policies based on concerns over global warming are not even worthy of support”, but it seems to us that it is less the case that your objection is based on an argument made as much as the fact that they outlined a difference of opinion. As we say above, and in various posts on the precautionary principle, the two ‘sides’ you have identified represent just two different ways of responding to doubt and uncertainty. It is not dishonest to portray this as a genuine political debate.

    We mention in our post that there may be good reasons to challenge some of what is in this book – although that there is no reason why this challenge shouldn’t take place in the classroom – it is a book for college students, not six-year-olds, after all. The problem is that the complaints about other matters seem to be equally weak. For example, the complaint about a seemingly anti-gay rights perspective takes issue with the text which says that the cost of a Supreme Court’s overturning of a ban on same sex contact (marriage?) was to “create the possibility that the court, and not Congress or state legislatures, might decide whether same-sex marriages were legal.” But is it not preferable that such things are determined by polit

    s, rather than by undemocratic courtrooms, if by the state at all? Isn’t it more progressive to determine the future of society by politics, than by legal battles? Furthermore, the question about the relationship between legislature, executive, and judiciary is most certainly a key subject (separation of powers) in political science courses. The gay rights issue places the discussion of fundamental political question in a contemporary context. Similarly, and bearing in mind your concern that the word ‘activist’ is used pejoratively, your complaint relating to global warming appears to be that the authors are politically motivated. What emerges is the impression that you don’t want either laws or our response to climate to have anything to do with politics. This in turn reflects a growing liberal nervousness about politics, and the response has been to find other ways of dominating the political discussion, both in the classroom, and in a wider sense. The unfortunate consequence of this is that it has made conservative authoritarians out of liberals, and progressive radicals out of your conservative counterparts. We would venture further that what is really upsetting ‘liberals’ is their inability to confront conservatives on political matters. In other words, political exhaustion is most acute in ‘liberal’ philosophy. Hence, the need to hide censorious illiberalism behind ‘scientific consensus’. That’s not to distance us from liberal values, but that the liberal movement has lost any purchase on its values.

  8. Paul LaClair

    To the editors:

    I don’t know who you are, but obviously you’re intelligent, so I’d like to see if we can have a productive discussion. I will respond to your posts later, perhaps this evening. For now, I’ll start with this.

    Our main point is: how should authors of a textbook like this treat the subject of science and its interplay with politics, recognizing also that they have wide discretion in the matter. I appreciate your points about the interplay between science and politics, and about the inherent uncertainties in all science, not only the science of global warming. (Maybe I’m expanding your point a bit there.) On the other hand, some scientific questions are considered settled. Why call this one, in particular, into question? It’s interesting that this episode also points up the interplay between politics and education.

    On the one hand, many people believe that at least some of the scientific questions on global warming are settled. In fact, you have acknowledged that “It is not controversial in the scientific community that ‘global warming does exist’.” OK, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the Wilson-DiIulio textbook. You would be led to think the contrary. If global warming is an established fact, as you say, don’t you think they should acknowledge at least that much, especially if they’re going to argue that concerns about it are mainly or exclusively political? They go so far as to question whether the greenhouse effect exists at all. How do you justify that, and how can you see that as anything but an effort to advocate a political position contrary to the facts? And since you quoted that phrase, “if it exists at all,” why did you omit it from your defense of this sentence in the text?

    On the other hand, some people argue that there is no evidence of global warming since 1998, and that this “issue” is nothing but hysteria. You’re not quite saying that, but you’re saying part of it. So in the midst of this political controversy, students are reading this textbook, and our question is: how much license do the authors appropriately have?

    I have two questions for you.

    1. Have you actually read the entire section of the textbook we’re discussing? Or are you just relying on the snippets that were quoted?

    2. I notice you commented on the text’s treatment of a matter involving gay rights. I’ll address that later, but why didn’t you comment on the text’s blatant mis-statement of the law pertaining to school prayer? I would hope this is about more than just choosing sides – you’re either for the textbook or you’re against it. So why not at least acknowledge that on that issue especially the authors have made a statement that is completely indefensible?

  9. Paul LaClair

    Your rejoinder to our critique of the text’s treatment of Lawrence v. Texas misses our point. Here is the exact language we criticized:

    “The benefit was to strike down a law that was rarely enforced and if introduced today probably could not be passed. The cost was to create the possibility that the Court, and not Congress or the state legislatures, might decide whether same-sex marriages were legal.”

    The first and most obvious problem, which you ignore, is that the authors conveniently distort a position with which they disagree. People who believe the case was rightly decided might well argue that the benefits included the recognition of equal rights for homosexuals, a minority group historically abused and oppressed throughout our history. Lawrence overruled Bowers, which reached a contrary result. Why don’t the authors put it like that? Why do they insist on trivializing the benefits of the decision, not even giving lip service to what the decision’s supporters might think they are?

    On the opposite side of the coin (the cost side), you ask whether it is better for the legislatures to decide the question of same-sex marriages. Does this not invite the question in return: Aren’t there two sides to that argument, and if so, why is the text presenting this as a matter of fact without giving both sides their due?

    The first problem with your and the authors’ argument there is that Lawrence v. Texas does not pass on the question of same-sex marriage. The case involved an anti-sodomy law, which the Court struck down on due process grounds, one justice concurring on equal protection grounds. The authors are making a questionable and convoluted argument that because the Supreme Court has struck down an anti-sodomy statute, it is more likely to pass constitutional judgment on same-sex marriage. The argument is misleading at best. I doubt that few high school government teachers would understand it, let alone their students. If the authors are going to make that point, they should at least explain it, lest their simple declaratory statement of fact be misconstrued.

    Assuming the authors’ argument to be true, it suffers from another problem: in the presence of competing values, why do these authors completely ignore the values on one side of the argument? Some people believe the right to marry is a fundamental human right, which should be as available to homosexuals as to heterosexuals. Here we see the authors’ double standard. If they take such great care, supposedly, to present both sides of the issue on global warming (which they don’t, but that’s the claim), then why not here? What is the defense for presenting this complicated values question as an assumption, and coming down on one side of it as though there was no other side?

  10. Editors


    The ‘fact’ that there seems to be widespread agreement that ‘global warming does exist’ does not imply that there is widespread agreement about what the consequences are, nor what the response should be. We therefore don’t see it as a consequential point. The fact (actually it’s a factoid) that “global warming exists” is used to mean a variety of things in debates. But it lacks substance of its own. We could agree that there is thunder and lightening, but disagree about whether it represented the meeting of cool and warm air, or angry gods seeking vengeance. Why should climate change necessarily create catastrophe – of which there is much less agreement – let alone a political response to mitigate that catastrophe? As we observe throughout the site, climate is always a problem for humans – changing or not. What mediates the problem of climate is degrees of equality and solidarity and wealth etc. Meaningful arguments about equality have disappeared from contemporary political discourse – especially from the progressive and liberal movements. Instead, we hear about ‘ethics’, and ‘facts’, much of which are appeals to authority and emotion, rather than attempts to generate positive mass movements.

    “1. Have you actually read the entire section of the textbook we’re discussing? Or are you just relying on the snippets that were quoted?”

    We have read FoE, CFI, articles on the NYT, but we have not seen the full text. We found the CFI – the most exhaustive – particularly unmoving, and nauseatingly shrill.

    2. “why didn’t you comment on the text’s blatant mis-statement of the law pertaining to school prayer? “

    Because we didn’t think it was important. The hand-wringing about what goes on in classrooms is symptomatic enough of political exhaustion. The fury that gets whipped up about religion even more so. It’s actually a battle that the enlightenment won a long time ago. The fact that it appears to be back should cause you to be reflective, rather than generating conspiracy theories. We doubt that it is as significant as you maintain. We also think that our focus ought to be on climate politics.

    It was mentioned as an aside. one that it seems you are keen to continue. Regarding your second comment about gay rights… The “authors conveniently distort a position with which they disagree”. Unfortunately, it seems to be at least as much your distortion. The ‘benefits’ of the case from a political science point of view are not that homosexuals subsequently enjoy equal rights, just as much as the ‘costs’ are not that homosexuals enjoy equal rights. “Why don’t the authors put it like that?” Precisely because to make the claim that equal rights in this case was a benefit or a cost would be to stray from political science, into making statements ofopinion , or ethics. You don’t learn what’s right and wrong in political science classes. On the courts vs politics question, “Does this not invite the question in return: Aren’t there two sides to that argument”. Well, the point was that the separation of powers is a fundamental question in political science. There are any number of sides to the question “how best to arrange the executive, legislature, and judiciary” – and it’s been going on for a long time. What is particularly interesting is that you appear to think that it is a good thing when liberal values are achieved through the court process, rather than through the democratic process. We would argue that is a departure from progressive liberal ideas. Even more interesting that it appears to be the conservative authors of the book who seem more keen on the democratic process too. What are we to make of the division betweenliberals and conservatives, if we can characterise one as undemocratic, and the other as homophobic by omission? In terms of the greater wrong, Paul, you’re not looking good. At least homophobia can be challenged in a democracy. You’re keener on shutting debates down, it seems, in spite of your protest to the contrary.

    You ask “in the presence of competing values, why do these authors completely ignore the values on one side of the argument?”

    Your complaints about this book are consistently imprecise. It’s hard to fathom what you believe it should actually contain. Rather than anything specific, it seems the complaint is that it was written by two conservatives, rather than it presents the values you’d prefer it to contain, regardless of whether those values are pertinent to a political science course. It’s not necessary – and it’s certainly not political science – to remind students that ‘equal rights for gay people’ are a good thing, just as it’s not necessary, and it’s not political science, to remind students constantly that “global warming is a fact”. The point is how different perspectives are negotiated in society through processes, institutions and organisational structures, not the difference between right and wrong values. You appear to be seeing the evil hand of conservatism where it is not.

  11. Paul LaClair

    By your own admission, you’re mounting a vigorous defense of something you haven’t read. In all fairness, how can you know whether this section of the textbook is biased or misleading if you haven’t read it?

    You keep making assumptions about what we want. With all due respect, we know our motives, you do not. It’s not up to us to tell the authors how to write their book, unless of course they ask us. We simply pointed out statements that we believe are inappropriate.

    You seem to assume that we endorse everything FoE wrote exactly as they wrote it. I am quite certain that you cannot cite anything Matthew or I has written that would shut down any debates.

    You’re also setting up quite a few straw men. For example, you are correct to note that the fact of global warming is only the first step toward public policy analysis, but it is a necessary first step. The authors don’t even acknowledge that it’s happening – just the opposite – and that’s very significant.

    On the school prayer issue, nothing you’ve written or could write can justify a blatant mis-statement of fact in this or any other textbook. I think it’s a very important point, with a powerful dominionist movement hard at work to create an American theocracy and some of our best minds virtually disqualified from public office because they are not Christian. Don’t you think you’d be more credible if you would concede this point, especially since you think it such a small one?

    Finally, I reject your categorical characterization of liberals and conservatives. I really think dichotomous thinking like that makes sound analysis or any real discussion next to impossible.

    I understand you strongly oppose FoE’s goals and methods, but that doesn’t mean that everything they support is evil. Don’t you think your history with them might have colored your judgment?

  12. Anonymous

    Pual – you’re dealing here with people who apparently believe environmentalism to be a misanthropic death-cult. I wouldn’t expect to make much headway with balanced, reasoned argument.

  13. john a. bailo

    We are living in a McCarthy Era of science thanks to the irresponsibility of Al Gore and his lust to achieve fame and wealth at any price to society.

    There is not much that can be done, except to keep pointing out their fallacies and wait for their stupidity to run its course…

  14. Editors

    Paul, it is true that we have not read the book. What we have read is the statements by the CFI – which quoted the book sufficient for us to evaluate their claims, and the claims made by FoE, and Hansen. We wrote posts about their objections. They – like you – have struggled to make the case that the authors have taken liberties with the facts. It should be easy. You should be able to quote a passage from the book, and contrast it with something more reasonable. What has ensued is rather more tortured. It turns out that you don’t know what you’re objecting to, much less what your objection is. You complain that we “keep making assumptions about what [you] want”, yet it is plain that you don’t even know. Your presence here invites speculation about what it is you’re trying to achieve.

    And you’re holding people who disagree with you to different standards. Would you expect people to support your claim, or take it seriously, or respond positively to the FoE’s, or CFI’s campaign without having read the book, cover to cover? And have you read it to that depth yourself? You could do with a refresher on political science.

    You claim that “The authors don’t even acknowledge that [global warming is] happening – just the opposite”. It is hard to understand what sense this is supposed to make, let alone what the significance is. Are you suggesting that they “acknowledge that global warming isn’t happening”? Because that’s not true. The text says “Most scientists agree that the earth has gotten a bit warmer over the past century. But from there on profound disagreements exist” – a fact you appear to agree with. It goes on to characterise the arguments made by ‘sceptics’ and ‘activists’ – the problem with which is that you don’t like the term ‘activists’, rather than any point of substance. It then says “Science doesn’t know whether we are experiencing a dangerous level of global warming or how bad the greenhouse effect is, if it exists at all.” which is perfectly defendable. The statement is compatible with what the IPCC say- “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”. There is no evidence that a ‘dangerous’ level of global warming has happened – the world is still turning, which suggests rather a lot of evidence that it hasn’t. Why should the authors ‘acknowledge’ that global warming is happening anyway? Their job is to outline the political issues, and you make a big issue out of the fact that their job is to analyse the politics, not to evaluate the science.

    You say “Don’t you think you’d be more credible if you would concede this point, especially since you think it such a small one?”. No. We believe that the nervousness about the apparent ascendancy of the religious right owes more to the decline of the liberal left than to anything new about christianity, or conservatism.

    You “understand [that we] strongly oppose FoE’s goals and methods, but that doesn’t mean that everything they support is evil”. Who said anything about evil? We just think they’re wrong.


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