The New York Times renounces the scientific method

I was astonished to see the following letter in today’s NY Times, which I herewith print in its entirety:

To the Editor:

I have no idea whether humans are contributing substantially to global warming, and I agree with those who say we should plan “as if” because not to take steps could be catastrophic if writers like James Hansen prove to be correct. But consider one of his claims: “Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real.”

Here’s a news flash: European scientists in the 15th century agreed that the earth was the center of the universe. That didn’t make it true.

Warren, N.J., May 10, 2012

Let’s think a moment about what this letter is actually saying. Supposed Mr. Thomas had made precisely the same assertion, but had used slightly different phrasing:

Science in the 21st century can be thought of as being essentially the same as science in the 15th century.

It is doubtful that such a bizarre claim would have been published in the Times. After all, the scientific method as we know it was not even practiced in Europe until the 17th century — two hundred years after the era in question.

I’m not faulting Mr. Thomas. He is entitled to be a crank, and to write nutty letters about whatever notion enters his head.

But it is inexcusable that the editors of what claims to be the “newspaper of record” are so intellectually lazy that they would publish a letter like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *