The Heartland Institute Backs Willie Soon

Dr. Willie Soon, the climate scientist exposed as a publicity flack providing “deliverables” to the fossil fuel industry, released a statement in response to the exposés.

WC will parse Dr. Soon’s statement, but first, understand that Dr. Soon didn’t release his statement through his part-time employer, The Smithsonian, or the journal he misled, Nature. No, he issued his statement through his master, The Heartland Institute. You remember the Heartland Institute? They are the folks whose dispassionate objectivity led them to purchase this billboard on the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago:

Heartland Institute's Billboard, Eisenhower Expressway, Chicago, IL

Heartland Institute’s Billboard, Eisenhower Expressway, Chicago, IL

That’s right, the guys who equated climate change scientists with a sociopathic criminal. Dr. Soon’s statement is posted on The Heartland Institute’s web page. You may not need to read further to have a full grasp of Dr. Soon’s utter inability to recognize (or admit) to a conflict of interest. But for those with any lingering doubts, let’s analyze what he said.

In recent weeks I have been the target of attacks in the press by various radical environmental and politically motivated groups. This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming.

Translation: rather than address the substance of the issues, I will cloak myself in martyrdom.

I am saddened and appalled by this effort, not only because of the personal hurt it causes me and my family and friends, but also because of the damage it does to the integrity of the scientific process. I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is a shame that those who disagree with me resolutely decline all public debate and stoop instead to underhanded and unscientific ad hominem tactics.

Translation: I’m not willing to address my critics’ claims here, either. But I am willing to accuse folks who truthfully report my previously undisclosed fossil fuel industry financing of ad hominem attacks

Let me be clear. I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest. I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record. In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues.

Translation: I am motivated by financial gain to do bogus research and make nonsensical claims, not to write scientific papers. I never thought the sources of payment would come out in the open. Besides, no one else would fund my work.

If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply. I would ask only that other authors—on all sides of the debate—are also required to make similar disclosures. And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists.

Translation: Even though there’s no evidence the journal’s ethical standards have changed, or that I should not have disclosed my funding sources, what else can I do but claim they have changed. And since I have few ethical principles, I assume there’s none of the anthropogenic side, either.

I regret deeply that the attacks on me now appear to have spilled over onto other scientists who have dared to question the degree to which human activities might be causing dangerous global warming, a topic that ought rightly be the subject of rigorous open debate, not personal attack. I similarly regret the terrible message this pillorying sends young researchers about the costs of questioning widely accepted “truths.”

Translation: I’ll try martyrdom again.

Finally, I thank all my many colleagues and friends who have bravely objected to this smear campaign on my behalf and I challenge all parties involved to focus on real scientific issues for the betterment of humanity.

Translation: Don’t ask me to name anyone on “my side.” Except the Heartland Institute.

Note that despite the final plea for a “focus on real scientific issues” Dr. Soon never once mentions those real issues in his statement. The “statement” is entirely free of any scientific fact.

Note that Dr. Soon never denies that he violated the reporting requirements for professional journals. He implies he misunderstood them.

Plus, martyr.

Dr. Soon’s host and master, The Heartland Institute, was less restrained. It’s President, Joseph Bast, said:

He’s a brilliant and courageous scientist devoted entirely to pursuing scientific knowledge. His critics are all ethically challenged and mental midgets by comparison.

Martydom and ad hominem attacks in two short sentences. Impressive, but not exactly helpful to Dr. Soon. About as helpful as his lame statement.