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Oct 17 2011

Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?

A group of scientists have done the right thing: they authored an environmental report, and are now publicizing the changes the Texas state administration tried to impose on it. This is going to backfire on the politicians: rather than hiding away the science that conflicts with their ideology, the censorship is highlighting the corruption and denialism.

Officials in Rick Perry’s home state of Texas have set off a scientists’ revolt after purging mentions of climate change and sea-level rise from what was supposed to be a landmark environmental report. The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state’s environmental agency.

By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document. “None of us can be party to scientific censorship so we would all have our names removed,” said Jim Lester, a co-author of the report and vice-president of the Houston Advanced Research Centre.

Mother Jones has gone through the report line by line. Rick Perry’s mindless zombies didn’t just prune out contentious interpretations of the evidence — they cut out statements of confirmed, measurable fact, like measaurements of sea level rise in Galveston Bay. When reality conflicts with your delusions, what do you do? Rethink your delusions, or try to edit the facts?

We know what choice Perry would make.

(Also on Sb)

68 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    The evolutionists creationists censoring yet again.

    They’re probably a bunch of “censorious Darwinists” anyway, so, of course, it’s just fine in this case.

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    Robotocracy

    Once again, the right displays its blatant disregard for reality.

  3. 3
    Ing

    Perrytron 1: “Wait a minute…before we edit we should think. What if we’re wrong? What if we’re wrong about Global Warming?

    Perrytron 2: “We give up money and poor people die”

    Perrytrong 1: “Ok just so long as we agree there are no negative consequences”

  4. 4
    d cwilson

    And Perry was the guy who claimed that climate scientists were the ones committing fraud.

  5. 5
    raven

    When reality conflicts with your delusions, what do you do? Rethink your delusions, or try to edit the facts?

    We know what choice Perry would make.

    False dichotomy. Rethink your delusions or try to edit the facts.

    If no one is looking, you fire, threaten, persecute, or kill the messengers.

    There have been several witch hunts directed against climate scientists. There will be more. Climatologists and ecologists are the witches of the 21st century.

    A scientist who is an ecologist wrote a paper recently on human impacts. He’s been getting hate mail and death threats from fundie xians ever since.

  6. 6
    raven

    Xians discovered a long time ago that there is no reason to persecute someone when you can simply fire or kill them.

    FWIW, during the Texas textbook wars, at least one evolution supporter, an official of the Texas Educational Association was fired. Chris Comer’s crime was believing that evolution should be taught in kid’s public school science classes. Which was her job as state science curriculum director.

    Texas Science Curriculum Director Canned for Mentioning Evolution …w ww.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/12/texas-science-

    Dec 3, 2007 – A Texas science education official forced to resign in October wasn’t — as … last week that science curriculum director Chris Comer’s ouster followed her … officials mentioned Reynolds’ e-mail in their decision to fire Comer. …

  7. 7
    peterh

    One more sign of a (quite possible) New Dark Age.

  8. 8
    Francis Kellawawy

    Oh man that is ridiculous!

    Surely they HAD to expect them to do that if they tampered so much with the report?

    Maybe the scientists should go along to their nearest #Occupy and protest!

  9. 9
    Gregory Greenwood

    This systemic suppression of ‘incovenient’ data is yet more evidence that Perry is at war with reality itself.

    I shudder to think what will happen if this joker becomes president.

    Raven @ 5;

    There have been several witch hunts directed against climate scientists. There will be more. Climatologists and ecologists are the witches of the 21st century.

    I fear that your list of 21st century witch analogues is incomplete. At the very least you could add feminists, homosexuals, abortion doctors, evolutionary biologists, and atheists and sceptical rationalists in general.

    Burning at the stake may be considered gauche these days, but the idea that violence or threats of violence are an acceptable means of silencing dissent is alive and well.

  10. 10
    magistramarla

    I read an article in our local California paper this weekend that scientists are very concerned about migrating monarch butterflies who will soon be migrating to Mexico. The article said that the poor butterflies will be crossing a thousand miles of hell as they cross dry, parched, fire-damaged Texas. That sounds like a pretty good description to Texas to me.
    I wonder if Texas papers covered this report? Somehow, I think that the Texas state government will also deny this to the Texas public.

  11. 11
    Pierce R. Butler

    raven @ # 5: … an ecologist wrote a paper recently on human impacts. He’s been getting hate mail and death threats from fundie xians ever since.

    Do you have a reason for not naming a name?

  12. 12
    raven

    Do you have a reason for not naming a name?

    Sure. This poor guy just wants it to die down and move on.

    It was an academic paper that the fundies managed to get some third grader to read to them. He didn’t expect death threats to come over the wall over it.

    The same thing has happened to Eric Pianka, a noted ecologist at U. of Texas.

  13. 13
    raven

    google captures:

    Australian climate scientists receive death threats | Environment …w ww.guardian.co.uk/…/jun/…/australia-climate-scientists-death-threat…Cached
    Jun 6, 2011 – Climate scientists have recently received death threats, universities say. … There has been renewed focus on the science of climate change since … US climate scientists receive hate mail barrage in wake of UEA scandal …

    US climate scientists receive hate mail barrage in wake of UEA …www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/05/hate-mail-climategateCached – Similar
    Jul 5, 2010 – Hacked email climate scientists receive death threats …

    Hate mail and death threats are common and predictable. A lot of scientists get them.

  14. 14
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Magistramarla, it’s true that it’ll be a problem for the meta-population of the butterflies the migrates from and to Northern Mexico via Texas. They’ll need somewhere and something upon which to alight. They’ll also need food. The Monarchs that do go from Mexico to the Great Lakes Region don’t do it all in one go, they stop and breed along the way; they’re not long lived, so no individual ever completes the entire migration.

    Texas is an important stop over along the migratory path of the butterflies, but I don’t know what percentage of the entire Monarch population actually goes through Texas, so I can’t speak to the effect on the species as a whole. Still, one can imagine that, based on the migratory paths and the overwintering destinations that it’s at least 30% of the population if not more.

    Poor butterflies! I’ve been watching them leave Toronto. I suspect that the ones leaving here now will go through Texas. It will be telling when population estimates after their return are done. We’ll know then what impact desolate Texas has had on the Monarchs.

    We’ll know, anyhow, even if Texan politicians don’t want to talk about it in their state. And that’s the strange thing about this; Perry must see himself and his state as very important, despite the fact that there is an entire world outside of a comparatively tiny Texas that will say the things Perry wants to censor for his ideology. Such arrogance is pathetic.

  15. 15
    rob

    we know that enviromental report are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in “surreality”. and surreality has a well-known conservative bias …

  16. 16
    DaveG

    Well, at least the deniers (and unfortunately, we) will get the Flood they always wanted…

  17. 17
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Oh, correction. I do know what percentage of the population leaves the Great Lakes Region for Northern Mexico through Texas. It’s as much as 95% of the population. I guess the other migratory paths and the population West of the Rockies that winter in California represent a very small portion of the total population.

  18. 18
    SallyStrange

    Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?

    To gain a thin veneer of credibility. That’s all.

  19. 19
    jeebus

    The most damning part of that MoJo article:

    Which is of course why no one should ever pull their punches but lay it out warts and all. Obama has tried (well, so his supporters claim; others would say “colluded”) to please Republicans only to be called a Socialist and Hitler etc. Facts don’t matter to the 23%-ers who are robot authoritarians, so the facts need to be repeated over and over so that the non-crazies can get the signal over the noise.

  20. 20
    Brain Hertz

    Wow. That’s pretty incredible; if you haven’t already looked at the actual redline version of the report in the linked article, go take a look.

    The censors have literally gone through and blue-pencilled all of the facts that are inconvenient for them, including deleting a chart showing data from tide gauges (on page 7). What I find particularly scary here is the pure brazenness. Did they think nobody would notice?

  21. 21
    Ing

    @Brain Hertz

    No. They KNOW no one will care.

  22. 22
    electrabotanical

    magistramarla @ 11 “I read an article in our local California paper this weekend that scientists are very concerned about migrating monarch butterflies who will soon be migrating to Mexico. The article said that the poor butterflies will be crossing a thousand miles of hell as they cross dry, parched, fire-damaged Texas. That sounds like a pretty good description to Texas to me.
    I wonder if Texas papers covered this report? Somehow, I think that the Texas state government will also deny this to the Texas public.”

    I hadn’t even considered the plight of the monarchs. I always plant milkweed and nectar flowers for them but had not considered their path to mexico. I have seen a lot of them on the zinnias the last two weeks, seemingly not making any move to fly south. I wonder if they can overwinter sheltered here, or if they’re doomed to be sacrificial beauties.

  23. 23
    Psych-Oh

    That is beyond unethical. Glad the scientists are taking a stand by removing themselves. And publicizing it.

  24. 24
    Glodson

    Ah, Rick Perry, you did me proud once again. I knew if anyone could out dick a field of dicks, it was you. I love that he, and his administration, is so anti-science. That’s great, because it helps paint the GOP as insane and irrational.

    Here’s hoping that the scientists make even more noise. We need to be really fucking loud when the data is ignored. This one event won’t do it, but with all the times they have ignored reality, reality will catch up with them. And, I hope, crush that anti-science movement in politics. The sooner the better.

  25. 25
    cervantes

    Yeah well I notice that report is in a British newspaper. How many people in the U.S., let alone Texas, are hearing about this?

  26. 26
    otrame

    The scientists are heroes. They’ll be harassed and possibly lose jobs, and I am quite sure they knew that.

    I’m going to put this on Facebook. It will only go to my family and friends, but most of them live in Texas.

  27. 27
    Russell

    This is not a project Perry could have executed on his own:

    http://tinypic.com/r/2crsu8k/7

  28. 28
    Highly Sammable

    I don’t know much about Perry, but I just don’t understand this in general. How can you actively and consciously temper with explicit and unequivocal evidence to maintain a belief? If a politician actually presented some intellectual honesty and admitted it when they turn out to be wrong, I’d be far more likely to vote for them.

  29. 29
    Marcus Ranum

    d cwilson writes:

    And Perry was the guy who claimed that climate scientists were the ones committing fraud.

    Finishing move!

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    How can you actively and consciously temper with explicit and unequivocal evidence to maintain a belief?

    You can’t!!! In order to do that you have to, first of all, admit you’re wrong. Because if you were sure you were right, all the evidence would be pointing your way.

    What would scare me would be if someone was pointing at the melting ice caps and saying “See!?! PROOF that global warming is wrong!” That’d be pure delusion. What we see from Perry and company is just venality and opportunism. He can’t be seen to doubt his paymasters.

  31. 31
    tushcloots

    Isn’t shite like this grounds for a lawsuit? Taking someone’s published words and completely changing their meaning but still attributing them to the original author(s)?

    How about a state wide one page ad in the newspapers calling Perry out. I mean, this is the type of blatant crap the Democrats should be all over.

  32. 32
    unbound

    “Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?”

    Because you know that Faux News will be reporting that the report is from the scientists and is true, fair and balanced.

    Of course, they will not mention that their actual contributions were cut from the report…

  33. 33
    'Tis Himself

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” ―Philip K. Dick

  34. 34
    Rich Stage

    Climate Change, again on trial
    because Dick is still in denial.
    Scientists pull their names
    because they have brains.
    And Dick’s is a steaming pile.

  35. 35
    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis

    Yeah, the Democrats should be all over this with two page spreads in Newspapers. But, as someone else has already noticed, they are not very much able (or not machiavellian enough… really???) to really use language to their advantage (the example I am thinking of was about the naming of bills, with many of the “republican” bills very cynically though effectively named, like patriot act). If Perry were Democrat, the Republicans would probably use language like “Fraud: Report forged by Perry administration”, whereas the democrats will now complain about it having been slightly modified in such a fashion that its meaning might be somewhat changed to the connaiseur, maybe.

  36. 36
    xhcl

    Every time I read some news about Perry or hear a soundbite the only thing that goes through my mind is: “Save a pretzel for the gas jets!”. The Internet has made Perry at least 88% funnier to watch on TV to me.

  37. 37
    shaggyj

    I am SO afraid of Perry. What if he gets the gop nomination…? Talk about divisive. I can’t believe this guy.

  38. 38
    edjz

    Well… there is this science thing that muggles seem to believe in. Hasn’t helped me much in my life, so I don’t take much stock in it.

  39. 39
    Ichthyic

    I shudder to think what will happen if this joker becomes president.

    the same thing that happened when W was president.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/climate-change.html

    Now, before anyone starts claiming the dems haven’t done the same thing, the big difference between the dems and the republicans historically on issues where the science disagrees with their interests is:

    The dems go about it by letting the reports get published as is, but either ignore the results, or talk about doing something about it, but typically expect their efforts to be tabled in committee, where nobody notices.

    The republicans simply change the results to fit their talking points, which risks exactly the kind of publicity you see here, and with Bush.

    What I want to stress here though, is looking at the last 20 years… HOW MUCH PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE WITH EITHER PARTY ON THIS ISSUE?

    yeah.

  40. 40
    feralboy12

    What if he gets the gop nomination…?

    The last poll I saw, a CBS poll from about a week ago, showed Perry having slipped from 23% support for the nomination at the beginning of October, down to about 12%. He now trails both Romney and Cain. This means he lost nearly half his support among Republicans in about two weeks. Evidently he’s not coming off well in debates.
    Remember, conservatives see everything in political terms, even clearly demonstrated facts. To them, climate change isn’t a scientific question, it’s a political one. Reality, it would seem, is up for debate and is subject to manipulation through the scoring of rhetorical points.
    It’s a very strange way to look at the world.

  41. 41
    Ichthyic

    Isn’t shite like this grounds for a lawsuit? Taking someone’s published words and completely changing their meaning but still attributing them to the original author(s)?

    nope.

    I’d like to see scientists employed in the public sector start employing copyright law more effectively, but really, I think as a government contractor it doesn’t apply.

    would be an easy change to push though, IMO.

    btw, for anyone who has an interest in how government affects the integrity of scientific study, The Union of Concerned Scientists is a useful resource, though not always up to the minute.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/

    rather than just reporting on the issues, they do tend to try to act to make things better:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/

    probably a good place to plug in if anyone feels they might want to contribute some effort. Everyone is welcome, IIRC, not just scientists.

  42. 42
    Ichthyic

    I wonder if they can overwinter sheltered here, or if they’re doomed to be sacrificial beauties.

    the sad thing is, even if they could overwinter in CA, they won’t.

    migration for them is inevitable.

    http://news.discovery.com/animals/monarch-butterflies-decline-110405.html

    hopefully, there are at least a few populations that can avoid the worst of it.

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    Perry must see himself and his state as very important

    Perry has come a long way from his beginnings in Texas…

    In 1984, Perry was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat from district 64

    yeah, that’s right, Perry started off as a Democrat.

    …and more…

    Perry supported Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries and chaired the Gore campaign in Texas.

    and immediately switched sides in 1989…

    interesting.

  44. 44
    truthspeaker

    unbound says:
    17 October 2011 at 7:30 pm

    “Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?”

    Because you know that Faux News will be reporting that the report is from the scientists and is true, fair and balanced.

    Of course, they will not mention that their actual contributions were cut from the report…

    Now those scientists know how American intelligence agents felt in 2002 and 2003.

  45. 45
    DaveDodo007

    When Romney is your best ‘reality candidate’ then it’s time to start preparing for the ‘New Dark Ages.’ and don’t mention the democrats, what a spineless waste of space they are.

  46. 46
    DaveDodo007

    Why even bother consulting the scientists at all?

    Well on the off chance that they agree with you. The ‘right’ will quote, support and endorse anything that agrees with it. Disagree however and you should be burnt at the stake.

  47. 47
    Dan L.

    Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas was bought largely with oil money, and his corporate benefactors must be gratified to see the fruits of their largesse in this latest outrage against science.

    Climate scientists have been taking more than their share of shit from the wingnuts since CO2 emissions became recognized as a threat to the gentle Holocene climate in which human civilization has grown. The facts uncovered by climate scientists and those in related fields directly threaten the interests of the most powerful corporations and plutocrats in the world. The pressure scientists receive in return is in proportion to the power they disturb, and it is ramping up.

    What’s next? The Koch brothers and Exxon are far too coy to ever take out a contract against the lives of James Hansen or Michael Mann, but they have no scruples at all against stirring up the right wing lunatic fringe. We have already seen homicidal cat’s paws used in the war over abortion rights; will we see something similar happen in the struggle over the truth about climate change?

  48. 48
    Dan L.

    …and BTW, isn’t it about time a Libertarian showed up here to blame the scientists?

  49. 49
    Chris Phillips

    Any self respecting science based organisation ought to move out of Texas and suggest that the state leaves the Union so that it can attain it’s rightful place amongst the dictatorships and theocracies of the third world. This would also help the US by never having the option of having to vote for a f@@@wit Texan ever again.

  50. 50
    uncle frogy

    Dan said “We have already seen homicidal cat’s paws used in the war over abortion rights; will we see something similar happen in the struggle over the truth about climate change?”

    and in the end it wont make a bit of difference whether they like the results of the research or not nor win the dam debate they will all die anyway and their empires of power will not fade into irrelevance.
    Their own grand children will live in the results of their obstinacy and greed.
    how sad.

    the conceit of the conservative anti-science anti-reality I do not know what word to use to name them. I can’t call people like Perry religious cause I do not think he really believes in anything. Their world is so small and cramped as are their minds.

    To see how the forces of nature work how the effects of the change in the percent make up of the gasses in the atmosphere can change the whole climate and how it is all in constant flux moving and mixing in the water and air. To realize that even the land is moving and that there is nothing that is unchanged and that nothing is permanent.
    the camellia bud swells and opens to delicate pink and yellow in a day or two falls to the earth a brown sodden mess.

    sorry i am in kind of a mode I watched “the Road” on TV the other day and it is still with me

    uncle frogy

  51. 51
    Ichthyic

    Their own grand children will live in the results of their obstinacy and greed.
    how sad.

    they already are.

    The future, is now.

  52. 52
    Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor

    Santa Cruz, CA is home to a stop on the monarch butterfly migration route, and we have a good group over-wintering here. The species does a multi-generation migration, as was noted above, so that means not all of them are going south this year, and while it can’t be good for the population overall to miss a year, they can recover from it. If future years are better.

  53. 53
    tushcloots

    Ichthyic says:

    Isn’t shite like this grounds for a lawsuit? Taking someone’s published words and completely changing their meaning but still attributing them to the original author(s)?

    nope.
    I’d like to see scientists employed in the public sector start employing copyright law more effectively, but really, I think as a government contractor it doesn’t apply.

    I can see your point. The politicos might as well just get the researchers to sign a blank report to save money on the actual research, and just fill it out they way they want

    I’m being snarky, but sadly it’s actually within the realm of possibility.

  54. 54
    Ichthyic

    not all of them are going south this year

    that should help some in the short term.

    long term prognosis still doesn’t look great though.

    :(

  55. 55
    Air

    Here’s a link to an easier to read version of the hatchet job.

    Chapter-5-Rewrite-Final-9-20-11

    Air

  56. 56
    Hershele Ostropoler

    Sammable, 29:

    If a politician actually presented some intellectual honesty and admitted it when they turn out to be wrong, I’d be far more likely to vote for them.

    In politics, that’s labeled “flip-flopping” and “untrustworthiness” (which really just means unpredictability). The opposition ads go “Sandy Candidate said X on Tuesday and not-X on Thursday, what are we supposed to believe?” No one will notice or remember that the facts were clarified on Wednesday.

  57. 57
    GvlGeologist, FCD

    Once upon a time, conservatives claimed to be hard-headed realists. Now, they are exactly like what they claimed liberals were – emotion-based, fuzzy-headed, wishful thinkers.

    Not for nothing did Colbert say that reality has a liberal bias.

  58. 58
    pedantik

    It’s astounding that they can monkey with the data like this. There’s always room for different interpretations of data, allowing one to draw various conclusions. But if I, as a scientist, altered the DATA, I would be fired, and potentially prosecuted. How is it that these shameless bastards risk no such consequences for doing exactly the same thing? The Republican War on Science continues.

  59. 59
    GvlGeologist, FCD

    @airbowline:
    I just read the link you provided. I can’t begin to express my outrage at the barefaced censorship of the politically “inconvienient truth” in that report. How can these bastards live with themselves?

    They truly have their heads buried in the sand. Maybe if they don’t look at this, it’ll all go away. They’re like little children.

  60. 60
    Ichthyic

    In politics, that’s labeled “flip-flopping” and “untrustworthiness”

    Did I mention that Perry started his political career as a liberal democrat, and even ran Al Gore’s campaign in Texas in 1988?

    that’s right, Texas, Perry is the ULTIMATE FLIP FLOPPER.

    and yet you re-elected him…

    makes me wonder about how important this flip-flop meme is.

    or just how ignorant Texans are about the people they vote for.

  61. 61
    jj

    @Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor

    Santa Cruz, CA is home to a stop on the monarch butterfly migration route, and we have a good group over-wintering here

    /delurking – Another Santa Cruzian Pharyngulite?

  62. 62
    Celeste

    I just have to share this for the giggles: My husband posted a link to this blog entry on Google and a Mormon friend of ours responded to the title alone with the words “Appeal to Authority”.

    Facepalm and headdesk.

  63. 63
    Ichthyic

    Another Santa Cruzian Pharyngulite?

    FWIW, I lived there for 9 years.

    used to work on shark behavior and organizing non profit research groups.

  64. 64
    Watchman

    Did I mention that Perry started his political career as a liberal democrat, and even ran Al Gore’s campaign in Texas in 1988?

    Similarly, when Mitt Romney ran for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat here in Massachusetts way back in ’94, he ran a moderate Republican who supported Roe v. Wade as well as gay rights. I also recall someone saying that Romney even tried to “out-liberal” Kennedy by stating or implying that Kennedy wasn’t liberal enough on a particular issue, but I now question that assertion for lack of evidence and have no specific recollection of Romney doing so. Still, given how Romney’s positions tend to evolve due to high mutability and conservative selective pressures, the assertion doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

  65. 65
    kermit.

    Icthyic “I’d like to see scientists employed in the public sector start employing copyright law more effectively, but really, I think as a government contractor it doesn’t apply”

    Most likely, if this issue were raised, they would decide (by passing a law if necessary) that whatever a scientist on the government payroll wrote would belong to the government. And if he or she tried to write a corrected (i.e. unedited) version to release to the public, he had better not use any sentences or charts used in the paper that belongs to the employer!

  66. 66
    wee wee

    oh please
    repubes and conservatives don’t even believe in air.

  67. 67
    Ichthyic

    if this issue were raised, they would decide (by passing a law if necessary) that whatever a scientist on the government payroll wrote would belong to the government

    my guess is it already has happened pretty much as you write there.

    I just don’t know for sure.

    this guy might though:

    http://skepticallawyer.wordpress.com/

  68. 68
    kevin

    updated article i saw today.

    Saenz denied the claims of scientific censorship.

    “Using a word like censorship is very powerful,” he said. “It isn’t censorship to accurately report in our document what we believe. That’s being responsible. That’s being accurate.”

    you dont need scientific studies to write what you believe…
    I am amazed at the audacity and ignorance!

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