Saturday, August 20, 2011

Open letter to President Sullivan of the University of Virginia, regarding the Political Witch Hunt of Dr. Michael Mann

The following is a response to the situation going at the University of Virginia as described at my previous post Reporting from the War On Science frontlines: Ask U.VA to Protect Its Scientists from the Political Witch Hunt

This is my open letter to President Sullivan of the University of Virginia
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Teresa A. Sullivan, President
University of Virginia
Madison Hall

Honorable President Sullivan,

I’m just a little guy watching this cynical attack on academia that has been playing out between AG Cuccinelli and now the American Tradition Institute vs. the University of Virginia from the sidelines. 

You certainly know the facts better than I do so I won’t presume to add anything to that.  Still considering these sorts of attacks on science are happening with greater frequency I feel compelled to share some frank personal observations regarding the important precedent you will be setting as you move forward.

Have you given due consideration to the type, that is motivation, of the desired search being attempted?  
What about Americans, including scientists, historic respect for personal freedom and privacy?  
Isn’t that worth defending with vigor?

Academics are thinkers, most are also gregarious, that is, with those who are intellectually compatible.  Personal discussions and musing... tossing out wild conjectures… investigating problems from every angle… playing devil’s advocate… sharing information and mistakes… chewing on and digesting every scrap of information they come across.  Then they go to work following established protocols in their scientific field and publications.

Like most motivated self-aware individuals they do their best work possible.  Their goals are accuracy in their observations, leading to an educated realistic understanding, striving to continue filling in missing details and building upon their current knowledge. 

Moreover there are many of them, always looking over each others shoulders, checking and cross checking, looking for and following new leads, or gaps, or perceived mistakes in others work.  Given the global community of competing scientists there are many checks and balances at work that despite all the blogosphere/media trash-talk simply have not been shown to be broken.

It is telling that the Cuccinelli, ATI, et al. have presented no actual indication of actual fraud. They simply have faith that if they dig deep enough they will find something… anything, to help them “nail” Mann.  What’s right about that?

May I ask: Why are personal emails and working notes suddenly important for discovery regarding the voracity of the published global temperature records?  Specially considering the many varied independent studies that support Mann et al’s basic temperature reconstruction with a high degree of consistency. 

It’s this flaw in ATI/Cuccinelli’s logic that they should be pressed on.  What are they trying to find that is relevant to the scientific debate?  They have produced nothing, instead resembling bullies who resent the scientists work thus resort to witch-hunts for information that has no bearing on science, but might offer some useful dirt anyways. 

Why would you consent to such an unwarranted intrusion at your university?

You represent the University of Virginia, I like to imagine a proud university, a bastion of thought, intellectual freedom, and unfettered learning, yet sounds like you are getting ready to allow obviously politically dedicated folks… mind you, folks with a passionate sense of mission for stopping any Global Warming awareness, into the closets and dresser drawers of anyone whom they have a grudge against?  What’s up with that?

Where is the defense of scientific integrity in that?


Peter Miesler

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