Reality Bites: How the Reality Based Community Has Shifted Left

By Chris Mooney | June 14, 2011 10:05 am

I’m going to be focusing on my latest American Prospect piece and its implications–but the new URL is here. I guess it changed for web purposes.

I also got the cover image wrong so here is the right one.

Meanwhile I note that the central personage with whom I begin the article, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, recently had a great letter in the Boston Globe, debunking Jeff Jacoby, who had rewritten some skeptic talking points as a column. Here’s Emanuel:

Assessing and dealing with climate risk in an environment of highly uncertain science and expensive options is challenging enough without having to entertain the flippancy of your columnist. There is no scientific basis for his certainty that we have nothing to worry about.

It’s that old point about not being certain about uncertainty….unwarranted certainty is not a good thing on such a complex issue.

Comments (2)

  1. Bob Koss

    Jacoby points to Newsweek as promoting environmental fear-mongering. I agree what he quoted from Newsweek fits that description.

    Also as an example of fear-mongering about environmental disasters Jacoby quotes Al Gore saying in 1992 “… evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin; …’’. No one has provided such evidence in the 20 years since. Jacoby’s example is once again on the mark.

    Emanuel bizarrely tries to change Jacoby’s meaning by attempting to tie the recent run of disasters into Jacoby’s point re fear-mongering. Yet even Emanuel doesn’t claim the disasters are out of the range of natural variability, only that they are appalling. I don’t think anyone disagrees with that.

    Emanuel points out “Assessing and dealing with climate risk in an environment of highly uncertain science and expensive options is challenging …”

    If the science is highly uncertain any future outcome can be considered unknown. Why go for expensive mitigation options when those funds can be used with the certainty of quality of life improvements for those alive today?

    So, what did Emanuel debunk? Nothing that I see.

  2. You are very much pushing at an open door with me if you say that American conservatives have a very bad record vis a viz science, but the notion of advertising a “reality based community” with a magazine whose cover proclaims “the road to a Palestinian state” is an irony I have some time grappling with.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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