Christopher Rowland, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Boston Globe, is not a child molester.
The Boston Globe has covered child molestation stories, suspiciously at times when Rowland was with the paper. Rowland has been spotted in the presence of underage girls. Some of Rowland’s detractors might claim that this establishes a connection.
This imaginary item demonstrates a stupid and discreditable journalistic trick employed by ideologically addled reporters ignorant of their subjects, in which it appears to the non-discerning and ill-educated that something important and true has been said, while in fact nothing occurs except a flattering of readers’ foolish biases.
This legerdemain, as obvious and annoying as a drunk asking you to pick a card, any card, in no way fools those of even modest intelligence. But as it is easier than the hard labor of learning difficult material, or honesty, it is often used.
How To Do It Wrong
Case study: Christopher Rowland and his infomercial “Researcher helps sow climate-change doubt: Industry-funded Cambridge astrophysicist adds to partisan divide“, a “portrait” of Willie Soon (my friend).
The title reveals the marked deck. Industry-funded. As in industry-funded reporter Christopher Rowland? Why is his industry funding purer than Soon’s? Is Rowland claiming that his (Rowland’s) own words can’t be trusted because he’s industry-funded?
Helps sow climate-change doubt. Nobody, not a soul, not anywhere, and certainly not Soon, doubts the climate has changed. Hence nobody wants to “sow doubt” in such an obvious proposition. Rowland never bothers to discover that “climate change” is notoriously ambiguous. It can mean trivial changes in long-term weather to spittle-flecked calls for government control of every aspect of the economy to “save” the planet.
Rowland says, “Never mind that Soon, an astrophysicist, is no specialist on global sea levels, and his most notable writing on the subject was an op-ed article in the conservative Washington Times last year.”
Never mind that Rowland is no specialist on global sea levels and couldn’t evaluate Soon’s work if his meager life depended on it (I’ve seen Willie’s work: it’s good: the statistics in the field are atrocious.) Never mind that Rowland’s most notable writing on the subject is a political hit piece in the far-left Boston Globe yesterday.
Math Is Hard
Rowland on Soon’s views: “Polar bears? Not threatened. Sea level? Exaggerated danger. Carbon dioxide? Great for trees. Warming planet? Caused by natural fluctuation in the sun’s energy.”
If Rowland had done his homework he would have discovered that it’s just as Soon has said. Polar bears aren’t threatened. Sea level rise is wildly exaggerated. Trees adore carbon dioxide. The sun is responsible for climatic fluctuations to a great extent. All this is well known and even grudgingly admitted by scientists.
Rowland: “The work of Soon, and a handful of like-minded scientists, is seen by a [sic] critics in Congress and elsewhere as a case study in how this deadlock has been engineered by energy companies and antiregulation conservatives.”
Rot. Balderdash. Rowland, who has never been linked to child molestation, just can’t help but to cast aspersions without ever making a direct claim. Child molesters often use this device. Rowland uses it so often that if you were to strip out every instance of the genetic fallacy, his piece would have shrunk to, “Some people don’t like Willie Soon and I’m not too fond of him myself.” It could have fit in a tweet.
Besides the genetic fallacy, Rowland cherishes the ideology of our age: what you say matters more than what you do. Government and activists say they are “for” “the people”, therefore whatever they pay for is pure, beneficent, moral. But civilians say they are for themselves, therefore whatever they pay for is impure, greed-drive, immoral. Never mind that it’s government responsible for creating most of the ills it claims to deride.
Again I ask: what effect does the money Rowland receive from a far-left group have on his work?
Rowland tracked down Soon and Baliunas’s 2003 paper which showed that it’s not worse than we thought. Not having the intellectual chops to understand the work, Rowland sought quotes from those who claimed they could. Like Michael “Whimpering” Mann, a fellow whose work is so poor that when other scientists hear he is coming suddenly discover appointments they just can’t miss.
But very well. Rowland is ignorant of statistics and is so forced to rely on experts. It’s natural he should ask for a space-filling, bias-confirming quote. So who did Rowland quote in support of Soon and Baliunas?
You wait here for an answer.
We At Harvard Never End Our Sentences In Prepositions
Rowland, who has never answered accusations of child molestation, scored a quote from Soon’s boss at Harvard, which makes Soon (and nobody else, so far as I know), put a disclaimer on his work saying Harvard had nothing to do with it. Harvard has long ago given up on its slogan in exchange for government funds. But never mind.
“As far as I can tell,” Soon’s boss Irwin Shapiro sniffed, “no one pays any attention to him.” Sure, Irwin, you keep saying that to yourself. Grip your pillow tonight and chant, “The public reads my papers.” So many no ones pay no attention to Willie that Rowland was forced to write this piece.
Politics, Politics, Politics
Rowland is pleased to tell us the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, “The scientific evidence is clear: Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” Our lackadaisical reporter couldn’t be troubled to learn that this was not an uncontroversial statement by AAAS leaders. It was considered by many of its members as blatant rent-seeking, as a means to cozy up to government and say, “We want some of the luscious grant money, too.” This same scenario played out at all major scientific organizations, greedy and fearful of being left out to a man.
It wasn’t all politics. Rowland cadged a quote from non-scientist Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island far-left Democrat, who said of folks like Soon, “They are merchants of doubt, not factual information.” Wait. I guess it was all politics.
Just how can Whitehouse (let’s hope his name is not an omen) can be so sure that Soon’s work is wrong without having any exposure to it we never learn.
We’re also left in the dark as to why Rowland’s is so certain the sky is falling. After all, he hasn’t the ability to properly evaluate Soon’s work. We’re left with the depressing conclusion that Rowland believes the world is going to hell, climatologically speaking, because that belief is consonant with Rowland’s political ideology of more, of ever more, government control.
At least Rowland leaves Soon with the last word, though he did so in what he mistakenly thought was an ironic way. “Stop politicizing science!” Soon said. “Just stop!”
Amen to that. And, oh, keep your kids away from Rowland. You never know.