I didn't read Unscientific America, after someone I respect -- a prominent blogger you all know -- wrote me and said it was "a complete mess." I was not surprised, and decided not to waste any
time on it. Mooney's earlier book, Storm World, was way premature, and significantly wrong, and even his earlier book (The Republican War on Science) was completely blind to the left's problems with science, such as in the area of GM foods.
Mooney and his pal Matt Nesbitt have been busy these last few years telling scientists how they are are supposed to act -- as if they know. Mooney is an English major who couldn't convert Newtons to foot-pounds if his life depended on it. Yet he has the audacity to tell scientists how to act.
Look, despite anything Mooney or Nesbitt or Kirshenbaum has to say, scientists have one task, and one task only: to do science to the absolute best of their ability.
That is already difficult -- very difficult. It requires one's complete being, years of thought and even of isolation. It's not like you do science from 9-12 and then have the afternoon free to talk to the media and think about how you should "frame" your argument or give lectures on how the US Senate ought to regulate the EPA.
That's not was science is and it's not how scientists work. It is not the responsibility of scientists to "frame" their work into something that will convince the action to take action on climate change. The job of scientists is to frame their science as... science. That is already the most direct method of expressing knowledge ever invented, and maybe it doesn't play on "Good Morning America," but that's their problem, not that of scientist's.
There are plenty of people around to convert science into action -- writers, innumerable NGOs, and (now) four public information officers (PIOs, also know as propagandists) for every journalist in the country. This is their job.
This is not the only place we see such nonsense. Sharon Begley wrote in Newsweek (3/17/10):
Scientists are lousy communicators.BFD. A scientist's job is not to "communicate" -- his/her job is to do science. Period. If that does not satisfy mere journalists like Begley or Mooney (or me), tough shit.
Doing science requires everything a scientist has -- brain, heart, and soul. It requires a dedication and a skill set that rarely intersects with doing interviews with every English major that knocks on his door. PIOs or senior scientists who lead groups but do no science on their own can do that.
Let's stop blaming scientists because the world will not get off oil, and let's stop pretending that English majors have anything wise to say about how highly educated scientists are supposed to act.