New Scientist reporter moderates language (an incy, tincy bit)

Posted on timeFebruary 2nd, 2006 by userPali Gap


A while back there was an article published in the New Scientist titled “Silencing the climate sceptics” (4 June 2005 issue 2502 p.14). Now, when I visit the online archive I see that this has been altered to “New probe may silence climate sceptics” (here).

Now why would that happen? I think I know!

The original title was something of a fraud. The article (by Duncan Graham-Rowe) was actually about a proposed method to increase the accuracy of satellite data. No new data had yet arrived. Obviously no open-minded person would presume to know a priori how that data would turn out.

Not so in the case of Mr Duncan-Rowe!

Those who deny global warming is happening often rely on somewhat error-prone satellite information about our planet…a proposed probe could put an end to the climate change debate

Well yes – if the data comes out in the wash the way he approves. If it doesn’t then I guess Duncan-Rowe will once again come over all a priori and assume we need yet even more accurate data (until he gets the result he wants).

Anyhoo, feeling not a little incensed when I read the original article, I put pen to paper and wrote to New Scientist. I have always felt that the magazine is soft on global warming, so I was pleased and a little surprised to see my letter published:

Satellite data has failed so far to deliver the results that advocates of global warming would like. Presumably there is something wrong with the data. So it was good to read the article by Duncan Graham-Rowe about a proposed method to increase the accuracy of the instruments (4 June, p 14). But before giving the article the title “Silencing the climate sceptics” shouldn’t he have waited for the new and improved data to come in?” (18 June 2005)

Now, praise be, it seems Duncan-Rowe has moderated his language and altered the title of his article! Could that be because of my letter? Well maybe, who knows. But is Duncan-Rowe (issue 2) really so very much more reasonable and objective than Duncan-Rowe (issue 1)? I think not.

Why for goodness sake must he insist on prefacing a perfectly sensible and interesting article about the difficulties of satellite measurement with such a prejudicial title? After all consider these three candidates for the title:

  1. New probe may silence climate sceptics
  2. New probe may refute claims of global warming
  3. New probe may provide better data to test global warming claim

So which title would be appropriate – especially for a scientific magazine? Well if science means anything it surely means that you maintain an open mind ahead of the facts. I would think that makes the choice of title a bit of a no-brainer!

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