Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times officially confirmed the paper is no longer running letters to the editor that deny the scientific conclusion that climate change is a reality and is caused mainly by human activities.
Prior to this, the magazine Popular Science went even further and completely turned off the comments section for its entire website, stating quite eloquently that, “Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to 'debate' on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”
The L.A. Times editor stated the paper's reasoning as, “Letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there's no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.”
The Sydney Morning Herald has subsequently announced it also won't allow climate deniers to “misrepresent facts” on climate science in letters - an especially powerful case given the terrifying fires ravaging Australia against a backdrop of continuing broken heat records.
As the former Editor of DeSmogBlog, most of the climate deniers and self-proclaimed skeptics I have encountered over the years have been paid by Exxon, the Koch brothers or other such industry interests, making a good living as fake experts for hire. They are manipulators of the truth.
Of course, not all are paid mouthpieces, and some of them just simply believe that climate change isn't happening or it isn't caused by burning fossil fuels.
To those people not being paid by industry to sell doubt, to those who in their heart-of-hearts actually question the realities of climate change, I would say they have every right to submit their opinions as letters to a newspaper.
But just like the guy who sends in a letter each week to the paper insisting he was abducted by aliens, or that 9-11 was a hoax, it is up to the paper to decide what to print and what to throw in the waste basket.
Popular Science has every right to turn off their comment section. Especially if they think their comment section is a detriment to the advancement of scientific knowledge - the very thing Popular Science is in the business of doing.
Here on DeSmogBlog we turned off our comments section for over a year after we were overrun with all sorts of crazy climate change conspiracy theorists. Eventually we turned the comments back on, but only after posting a comment policy requesting commenters to post links to scientific evidence when making claims about climate science, and implementing a more strict community moderation system.
On another level this controversy over the right to comment and opine on matters of science is completely ridiculous, because science is not something to be debated in letters to newspapers or on blogs. Science is based on proposing, testing and replicating hypotheses and then posting your findings first to a group of your peers for review and then to the public via credible scientific journals. It is this scientific process that is the bedrock of anything we call a scientific truth.
The scientfic process, especially in North America, has been compromised by the idea that all opinions are as valid as another, or that an opinion is as valid as a proven scientific conclusion. But as the late astronomer and thinker Carl Sagan quite prophetically once said:
“…the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
If you want to stand in denial of the mountains of scientific evidence backing the realities of climate change and its causes, go ahead. But we don't have to listen and we don't have to publish your opinions. If you think you have something to contribute regarding the science of climate change, then spend your time doing the scientific research to back your claims, rather than writing letters to the editor.
Image credit: Name tag from Shutterstock