Scott Armstrong’s letter responding to Margaret Wertheim’s rather strange attempt to associate skepticism over alarming forecasts of global warming with pseudoscience, was published in the Wall Street Journal on 2 November 2012. The online version is available here, and the text of the letter was as follows.
Regarding Margaret Wertheim’s “strange and dangerous” view of science displayed in her review of Michael D. Gordin’s “The Pseudoscience Wars” (Bookshelf, Oct. 23): Science isn’t based on the opinions of scientists. Rather it is a process that tests reasonable alternative hypotheses and describes this so that others can challenge the findings. Discoveries arising from this process often seem absurd to scientists when initially presented. Many Nobel Prize winners have described the negative reactions to their most important findings.
It seems odd then that Ms. Wertheim should choose the Immanuel Velikovsky case to illustrate pseudoscience. Velikovsky provided full disclosure of his hypothesis and asked other scientists to test predictions from his hypothesis. It was other scientists who acted in an unscientific manner, with ad hominem attacks and attempts to stop his views from being heard. Ms. Wertheim apparently believes these responses were appropriate and by extension, she believes that hypotheses that humans have little influence on global average temperatures should not be heard or tested. She even suggests that scientists who propose such hypotheses aren’t credible because some of them received funding from sources that don’t meet with her approval.
Prof. J. Scott Armstrong
University of Pennsylvania