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Aug 05 2013

When talking to a woman, be sure to add gratuitous insults

That seems to be the policy of Willis Eschenbach, who wrote An Open Letter to Dr. Marcia McNutt, new Editor-In-Chief, Science Magazine. He found a picture of her, too, which confirmed that she is indeed a woman, just as her name would suggest.

Eschenbach’s open letter is about the tragic decline of Science mag due to its move from science to advocacy, specifically on climate change. Nothing to do with the fact that McNutt is a woman, one would think, yet Eschenbach drags that in anyway, for the sake of gratuitously insulting and patronizing her, as if that really were written down in a real book of rules.

He patronizes her from the outset, patronizingly congratulating her and including the picture of her for no apparent reason. Then later he gets down to the real thing.

With a new Editor-In-Chief, I’ve been hoping that might all be in the past. Unfortunately, after taking over at the helm, you’ve chosen to reveal your … umm … well, let me describe it as your newness to the concept of “scientific journal editor” by following in the foolishly activist footsteps of your immediate predecessors. I’d hoped you might be smarter than they were, and indeed you might still show yourself to be. But to jump into the middle of the climate debate and stake out a position for Science magazine? Why? That’s suicide for the magazine. Science magazine should never have an editorial stance on the science it is discussing and overseeing. Leave that to Mother Jones magazine, or to National Geographic, or Popular Science. Your magazine taking a strong activist position on climate science is just evidence that you have abandoned all pretense of being concerned with climate science itself. When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders … and if the Editor-In-Chief of Science feels it’s necessary to defend some part of science, that simply proves that the “science” involved must be of the weakest.

And regarding you personally taking a position? Well, that’s interesting. The problem is that you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and while those are all good things, that’s a scary combination. One downside of that particular melange is that as a result, it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years. So some of what I have to say may be a surprise to you.

Persuasive? You be the judge.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    Howard Bannister

    I’m absolutely persuaded of something.

    I’m not sure it was the takeaway he was hoping for. Maybe he meant to come off like a sexist asshole.

  2. 2
    Donnie

    I hear that the science behind ‘Evolution’ and ‘Germ Theory’ are still up for debate. Please, do not get me started on the whole, ‘the Earth is round’ alarmists….that is still up for debate, you know.

  3. 3
    Stephanie Zvan

    I guess painting her as scary is one way to make himself feel brave. You know, like a hero.

  4. 4
    dshetty

    When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders
    Or you know, you could just read some History.

  5. 5
    david

    I love the quote from Dr McNutt on the AAAS website: “Thirty-five years ago, when I was a graduate student and my very first research paper was published in Science, I do not think I could ever have dreamed that one day I would have the honor of becoming Editor-in-Chief of this most distinguished journal…”

    I bet Eschenbach can’t touch that – her “very first research paper… published in Science” !!!! There are not many scientists who can claim that.

    She also happens to specialize in marine geophysics, so she probably knows more about climate science than Eschenbach ever will. What a moron.

  6. 6
    w00dview

    When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders

    So when Jenny McCarthy spreads bullshit about vaccines, actual medical experts shouldn’t have debunked her spurious claims and advocated that parents get their children vaccinated? After all the science behind vaccination is strong, it does not need defending! Why if we actually informed people of the importance of vaccination, then we are not doing science and the science must be weak and hey vaccines MIGHT cause autism!

    Also why do science organisations repeatedly insist creationism is not science and should not be taught in science class? After all the science behind evolution is very strong, it does not need defending! Why if we actually informed people on why evolution is science and creationism isn’t, then we are not doing science and the science must be weak and hey maybe goddidit!

    The reason scientific publications advocate for man made climate change is because like antivaxxers and creationists, there is a ideologically motivated movement to cast doubt on the science, suppress its findings, spin moronic conspiracy theories and to teach “both sides” in science class. This is because the findings are upsetting to the status quo. Mr Eschenbach, you and your ilk are not interested in a scientific debate. Climate change ‘sceptics’ like creationists and anti vaxxers are just annoyed that actual scientists think they are a bunch of cranks with a predetermined agenda and thus actively advocate that the science is strong and that they are full of bullshit. This tactic of “standing up for science means the science is weak” is just another silencing technique that deniers think will give them the upper hand. They have no evidence; smears, lies and bullying is all they have got. I hope Dr. Marcia McNutt will treat them as the irrelevant, pointless kooks that they are and continue advocating for actual science in her new position as editor.

  7. 7
    sezit

    “it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years.”

    Men in power who are reticent to speak up about their opinions around and at women…. is the experience of no woman, ever. That statement had me in an actual double-take.

  8. 8
    SallyStrange

    Science magazine should never have an editorial stance on the science it is discussing and overseeing.

    Fuck that pusillanimous equivocating waffling bullshit. Climate change is the most difficult, important problem humanity has ever had to solve, and it is beset at all sides by deniers, spinners, and outright liars. The only responsible thing for a science journal to do is take a strong position on the issue.

    Just the other day, a denier was on Lousy Canuck’s blog, denying not only climate change, but also the greenhouse gas effect itself!

  9. 9
    Pteryxx

    When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders

    Wow. Victim-blaming’s such a habit he’ll even victim-blame… reality.

  10. 10
    Acolyte of Sagan

    When the science is strong it doesn’t need defenders

    He just needs to learn the difference between defending the science and agreeing with it, the poor lamb.

  11. 11
    Pen

    it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years.

    And that ain’t gonna change today.

  12. 12
    Ysanne

    I wonder if idiots like Eschenbach think that by pointing out someone’s femaleness and using that as an insult, they are actually showing appreciation for a woman’s…. um… womanliness? Sexual attractivity? Relevance? Y’know, all that stuff that women really really want to be appreciated for!

  13. 13
    Pierce R. Butler

    … you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and while those are all good things, that’s a scary combination.

    Gotta wonder about somebody who’d consider a Lauren Bacall or Kate Hepburn cinemafest as horror movies…

  14. 14
    Rey Fox

    Science magazine should never have an editorial stance on the science it is discussing and overseeing.

    Unless, of course, you take my stance, in which case we’re cool.

  15. 15
    Corvus illustris

    Willis Eschenbach
    Credentials
    • California Massage Certificate, Aames School of Massage, Oakland, CA. (1974).
    • B.A., Psychology, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA. (1975).

    And we pay attention to him why? Because his opinions on climate science are smarter than those of the average masseur, or because those on women in science are as well informed as those of the unfortunate Lawrence Summers? In the math biz, thanks to Woody Dudley, we have the constitutionally protected term crank to describe these guys. It seems to have wider applicability, e.g., to dabblers in climate science.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwood_Dudley

  16. 16
    Al Dente

    Friendly word of advice, Eschenbach. If you’re trying to convince someone to change their opinion on a subject they consider important, it would help if you didn’t insult them in your letter.

  17. 17
    Silentbob

    from the link:

    Plus scuba divers get my support, and women divers who’ve done underwater explosives training with the SEALS get my unalloyed, albeit somewhat jealous, awe and respect.

    Am I being prejudiced, or do you think we can guess something about this guy’s politics from the combination of climate denialism, casual sexism, and love of explosives and Navy SEALs?

  18. 18
    Area Man

    Science magazine should never have an editorial stance on the science it is discussing and overseeing.

    How dare they take a stand on what’s true and what’s not. Who do they think they are, academics?

  19. 19
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Oh hell no.

    <very long pause goes here>

    I cant even

    No.

  20. 20
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Science doesn’t need defenders… unless it has attackers.

  21. 21
    rickdesper

    Wow that’s depressing.

    Also depressing that this webpage has an ad targeting me as a “men over 40″ featuring a blonde woman with prominent cleavage, telling me I should “watch this shocking video” which has “gone viral.”

    Any chance you can figure out a way to have non-sexist ads here? It kind of works against the content of the post.

    I know it’s not intentional. Apparently you’re getting ads from “adshuffle.com”

    Sorry, I got distracted. It’s a sad reality that sexism has been alive and well in science for quite a long time. But usually it’s a bit more self-aware than what Willis Eschenbach has written there.

  22. 22
    graham

    ” you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and… that’s a scary combination.”

    Perhaps revealing more about yourself than you intended? YOU evidently find it a scary combination. Please don’t generalise.

  23. 23
    phaictan

    Hey F [is for failure to emerge] – Do it. Please save me from having to do it myself. I’m itching to.

  24. 24
    cee

    from http://www.skepticalscience.com/peerreviewedskeptics.php?s=166

    “Peer-reviewed skeptic papers by Willis Eschenbach

    This page lists any peer-reviewed papers by Willis Eschenbach that take a negative or explicitly doubtful position on human-caused global warming.

    There are no peer-reviewed climate papers by Willis Eschenbach that meet this definition.”

    oh.

  25. 25
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    Talking about facts the kook doesn’t like = the inevitable decline and total ruination of a magazine? The end is nigh? Denial of reality? Sexism? That sounds familiar.

  26. 26
    JrzyGirl

    How condescending is this line? “Now, you claim to be a scientist, Dr. McNutt.”

    Well, Ms. McNutt used to be my boss, and I can tell you right now, she is one freakingly awesome scientist. She was not only the first female Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, she was THE science advisor to the Secretary of the Interior and testified before Congress on numerous topics concerning the earth sciences. And before that, she was the head of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. So, yeah, she’s a scientist.

    Oh, and if he’s such an unwilling subscriber, why doesn’t he save himself some $$ and cancel his subscription…

  27. 27
    Ophelia Benson

    Well said!

  28. 28
    HarryWiggs

    I sincerely hope that Watts and his Flying Monkeys are reading this and this is the beginning of the end of execrable cesspit in which Willis pours his uninformed, unscientific swill. The callous disrespect shown to Dr. McNutt, by Willis and the rest of the misogynistic and nasty Wattsians needs to called out, hard, loud, and FAST. They do damage to real scientists.

  29. 29
    John Barnes

    That’s the point, isn’t it. To do damage to real scientists. It’s surprising but he even mentions that he’s an amateur scientist in this so-called “Oen Letter”. It takes extreme hubris, in my view, to simultaneously admit that he’s an amateur all the while trashing Dr. McNutt’s contributions to climate science.

    I’m quite certain that Eschenbach’s real message is to his denialist brethren. See: Look at me! I need more approval from the denialist crowd. I’m smart, ain’t I!

  30. 30
    Poptech

    You may find this interesting,

    Who is Willis Eschenbach?

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/10/who-is-willis-eschenbach.html

    As of 2012 Mr. Eschenbach has been employed as a House Carpenter.

    He is not a “computer modeler”, he is not an “engineer” and he is certainly not a “scientist” (despite all ridiculous claims to the contrary).

    “A final question, one asked on Judith Curry’s blog a year ago by a real scientist, Willis Eschenbach…”

  31. 31
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  1. 32
    Prime snide kookrant » Pharyngula

    […] was surprised when I read the excerpt from the sneering letter to the editor-in-chief of Science magazine — it’s someone patronizingly chiding the little woman with the big job at a science […]

  2. 33
    An Open Letter to Dr. Marcia McNutt, new Editor-In-Chief, Science Magazine | Wott's Up With That?

    […] wait, it’s just an astoundingly condescending and sexist, as well as painfully long,”Open Letter” containing the usual Gish Gallop of denialist […]

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