Mostly, don’t do both in the same posting!
Let me consider the insensitivity part. Apparently my lack of regard for parenthood itself (a very good thing when done right, but a bad thing, sometimes a very bad thing, otherwise), never mind large families (an anachronism in my opinion) is not just moderately off topic. It is insensitive. I suppose lots of people are parents or children of large families and would be likely to take offense.
I don’t like how Mrs Simac wielded her motherhood, but I didn’t handle it well.
Both the topic of family size and its semiotics seem to me a legitimate topic of conversation on a sustainability blog, but it’s too emotionally laden for a snarky side reference. I am thick, but I guess I see that. Apologies to anyone whose feelings I hurt. I will avoid this topic in future and recommend that anyone else taking it on take note of how it might affect certain people. A legitimate issue, but not one that should be treated lightly.
On the other hand, it got me some attention. And then I blew it with an offhand comment.
And as for “If my career had been based on investigating something and I was so certain of my data, why would I not want to defend it?”, this is obviously trickery. Science is not data. We are not collecting fingerprints. We are describing what is actually happening. The data are of course a consistency check, but this isn’t a question of data at all.
“Science is not data”. OK. I stand by that. Data is part of science, but science is more than data. “It’s not a question of data at all” is wrong and silly, though. What I should have said is that “it is a fundamental mistake about the whole issue to believe that observational data are decisive in the absence of scientific understanding”. Of course, data are crucial. What I meant to say was they aren’t enough.
And here is where the real point I was trying to bring up comes in. The whole core of denialism is “my graphs vs your graphs” as if the graphs themselves were the science. But they just aren’t.
Which graph is important, and why, what it means, where it fits in, these are matters for expert judgment. The legitimate question is the expertise of the whole field, but that can only be addressed by people who are experts in other, related fields. Yet we see a claim on Lucia’s site (#31847) claiming that the skill set of climate science is “not difficult to acquire” and less than that of “a good chef”. Now, of course, that is a slippery claim, since we are comparing art and science, and possibly as insulting to the chef as to the scientist in that regard, but if we are comparing the technical skills of a chef with those of a climate scientist, the comparison is so far out of line as to be mind-boggling.
Where does this foolishness come from? It comes from some very elementary ideas of what science is. “I can read a graph of a quantity vs. time,” they say, and since that is all they see, that is all they think there is to it. And our PR and journalist advisers warn us never to present an equation, never mind a theoretical deduction. What would you expect them to think if they never see anything else?
Anyway, there’s much to think about in the peculiar and revealing responses to this article, which aside from its flaws made an important point, a point which we see is met with fierce and somewhat clueless resistance.
But there were some immediate and obvious lessons as well:
So the first lesson is, you never know when Morano will pounce. You have to watch everything you say, because you never know when somebody will take note of something you say violating the norms of some audience you don’t understand, leap to call their attentions to it, and use it to discredit you.
The second lesson is, you never know when Morano will pounce, and you can’t understand everybody on earth in advance. So just say what you say and take your lumps. There’s always a side benefit of an expanded audience.
The third lesson is, don’t screw up your text. Edit. Don’t hit “publish” at 2:40 AM (which I did in this case). Because you may have casually said something stupid. You can correct it in the morning if the posting doesn’t get more than the usual attention. But if it hits the limelight, and there’s a factually stupid statement as well as a bit of inadvertent Morano bait, you don’t get to edit it.
The most daunting part of all of this is that writing for the web as a hobby has consequences. You think you’re chatting but actually you’re doing politics. You can’t just say what you think, because somebody may think ill of something else you say. You never know what chain of decisions may hinge on it. Politics is the sort of thing that turns people into politicians.
Sorry, y’all. Like most of us, I’m imperfect.
(Therefore, Not the IPCC, right? :- )
Update: Calling this article a sort-of-apology, Morano sort-of-graciously links here.
Here’s my actual apology, on Kim Simac’s blog, an apology which she entirely graciously accepted; don’t miss that.
For a tea party lady, Kim Simac is a real charmer. Understand I’m not a supporter by any means, but this isn’t the time for me to criticize. In truth, some corner of me finds her all-in-it-together team spirit endearing. I’ll definitely take her over Mrs. Palin! Mrs. Simac actually seems to be the genuine article, an honest, down-to-earth goodhearted populist patriot.