|The Week That Was
January 11-17, 1999
Topping everyone's list of news items last week was the firing of Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. Lundberg was canned by AMA Executive Vice President E. Ratcliffe Anderson on January 15th after it was learned that he rushed into print an 8-year-old Kinsey Institute survey of college students' opinions on whether oral sex constitutes real sex, timing the publication to coincide with the President's impeachment trial in the Senate.
According to the AMA press release: "Dr. Lundberg...threatened the historic tradition and integrity of the Journal of the American Medical Association by inappropriately and inexcusably interjecting JAMA into a major political debate that has nothing to do with science or medicine. This is unacceptable."
Anderson said the decision was the "culmination of seven months of observation" during which numerous events caused him to lose confidence in Lundberg. Dr. Marcia Angell, editor of JAMA's rival, the New England Journal of Medicine, thought firing Lundberg was a bit extreme, but nevertheless expressed dismay that he published the survey. "It's trivial," she said. "Who cares what a bunch of college students say..."
Actually, we thought the AMA's action was rather refreshing, given the blatant politicking going on at other scientific journals. In fact, we haven't seen such a firm stand against political correctness since Floyd Bloom, then editor of Science, forced the magazine's book review editor Katherine Livingston into retirement in the fall of 1997 for orchestrating a particularly nasty review of The Flight from Science and Reason, a book that examined the anti-science trend among post-modern academics. Livingston commissioned Paul Foreman, the nation's leading post-modern academic to write the review. Not surprisingly, it was less a review than an attack on science itself, prompting a barrage of angry letters and telephone calls from scientists all over the country.
In this go-round, although Lundberg's firing prompted considerable whining and posturing about "academic freedom" from the usual suspects, the public saw it differently. Ratcliffe Anderson said his office has been deluged with calls of support. We suggest e-mail. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and mark it to Dr. Anderson's attention.
Interesting goings on on the global warming front. Both the BBC and the Independent Television Network reported on January 12 that a large chunk of Britain's famous White Cliffs had broken off and fallen into the sea. Reporters said it was because of increased storms from global warming. The ITN reporter said it was "clear evidence that global warming is a reality."
Well...no. But the news reports could be clear evidence that British television journalists never graduated from high school. As a UK scientist colleague pointed out, the cliffs are "cliffs" because they've been falling into the sea for centuries. And the cliffs are "white" because the limestone falls into the sea too often for it to get covered with vegetation. What do reporters think formed the White Cliffs anyway?
A research paper we reported on more than a year ago has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters and is getting some press. The paper, by Harry Lins and James Slack of the U.S. Geological Survey, examined flood patterns in the United States over most of this century and concluded that, despite increases in flood damage claims, there has been no increase in floods--just an increase in homes built on flood plains. The fallback position for activists last week was that global warming would cause more weeds. As we are fond of saying, that's a problem to be sure, but of a somewhat lower order.
University of Virginia climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels thinks global warming promoters are in a panic, and with reason. In a commentary piece distributed by the Cato Institute, Michaels predicted that by the end of the year 2007, the satellite temperature record will show a statistically significant global cooling trend. "If the Kyoto protocol doesn't pass in the heat of this particular moment," he says, "it never will."
One reason Michaels is so confident is the nosedive that satellite readings took at the end of 1998. Last year, the El Niņo pushed both surface and satellite-based temperature readings to record levels. By November, however, satellite readings had already dropped to levels typical of the 1979-1997 trend, i.e. a slight cooling.
Dr. William Gray, an atmospheric scientist and hurricane expert at Colorado State University, also thinks a change is underway. In a Knight-Ridder Newswire story last week, Gray said his studies show that the climate changes every 30 years or so, a change correlated to changes in salinity in the North Atlantic, which affects ocean circulation. "Climate change has always been with us," he said. "Whether humans are affecting it much, we don't know." He explained that, according to "conveyor belt" theory, the world's oceans churn from the cold bottom to the warmer surface at different rates in different decades. The slower the conveyor belt moves, the warmer the surface water. The warmer the surface water in the Pacific, the warmer the rest of the world. Gray said the conveyor belt had been slow for 30 years; four years ago it started speeding up again--a signal, perhaps, of a cooler future.
A few announcements: Despite the fact that women now receive about half of all medical degrees and nearly half of all doctorates in the biological science, surveys still show that women are more risk averse than men and more susceptible to every health and environmental scare foisted on the public. Women are more likely to be consumers of herbal cures and other "New Age" remedies, and more likely to claim vague symptoms from alleged multiple chemical sensitivities. They dominate animal rights groups and other radical environmental movements.
Next month the Independent Women's Forum will host a science conference in Washington, D.C., to specifically address women's response to health and environmental scares. The conference, to be held Wednesday, February 17, is called "Scared Sick: Unfounded Fear and Its Effect on Health and Science Policies." E-mail inquiries to email@example.com. For more on the Independent Women's Forum--a terrific group--check the IWF web site at www.iwf.org
Space scientist James Oberg is collecting a bibliography of published and unpublished research on deliberately interventionist approaches to biosphere modification. He's looking for everything from greenhouse effect modulation, stratospheric ozone engineering, and insolation modulation (alterations to albedo, atmospheric transparency, solar energy manipulation via large space mirrors, etc.) to geologic engineering, such as controlled continuous fault-line slippage (earthquake prevention). Those with research to pass along can contact Dr. Oberg by e-mail at JamesOberg@aol.com.
Editors at The Independent Institute, publisher of Dr. S. Fred Singer's latest book, tell us the first edition of Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate has completely sold out. A second edition is already in the works, but for those who can't wait, we have the last 60 copies of the first edition on hand at SEPP headquarters. See the Project's home page for information on how to order.
Finally, the Interior Department may be considering bulletproof vests for Mexican gray wolves--the four-footed kind. More on this next week...
TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall