In a recent letter published in the American Physical Society (APS) Newspaper, two physicists state that the scientific organization should stick to scientific matters, and not allow an anonymous faction of members to use the organization for political advocacy on AGW.
APS Should Stick to Scientific Matters
We read with some interest the story headlined “APS Responds to Member Resignation over Climate Change” (APS News, November 2010.)
It seems to us that the real question is not whether global warming ideology is a scam or not. The real question is what type of an organization does APS want to be? Since joining APS in the 1960’s we have noted a constant drift from a scientific agenda toward a socially relevant agenda. We believe that APS should limit its activities and publications to scientific matters and avoid political and societal issues altogether. We are not saying that scientists should not be concerned with politics and social issues. They should. It is their duty to do so.
But they speak for themselves, according to their own beliefs. APS is on a slippery slope.
Once politics and societal issues creep into its agenda scientific integrity will suffer at the hands of political correctness and demagoguery. As a trivial example, in APS’s response the following occurs: “...APS notes that virtually all reputable scientists agree with the following observations:...” In science truth is not determined by a majority vote. Words such as consensus and incontrovertible do not play a role. The annals of physics are rife with instances in which the majority of scientists agreed on something that turned out to be wrong. (Light propagates through the aether, and the atom is the smallest unit of matter.)
We feel that APS should limit its activities to establishing facts and finding the truth by scientific means. Individuals or groups of individuals within the APS membership have every right to express political or policy views as it may affect various funding scenarios, but identification of those individuals who espouse a particular point of view should be explicitly provided. The APS Council, and POPA in particular, should not attempt to speak for the membership as a whole on political policy matters. As a start to move toward openness and transparency, the APS should publish in this newspaper a list of individuals who formulated and wrote the current climate policy statement(s). It is their statement and not necessarily the statement of the APS membership. The APS should also publish on the web the 1600 (or so) members’ commentary statements on the climate issue solicited this past year. Then, we and the public as a whole can begin to see the diversity and divergence of views, knowledge, and expertise amongst physicists in the US.
San Clemente, CA
[emphasis added. Both authors are former chairmen of university physics departments]