On Monday, Dr. Willie Soon, the brilliant astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has been smeared by media outlets including the Boston Globe, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Scientific American and Nature because he had the temerity to point out that human activities are not “a major cause of global warming,” struck back with a press release defending himself from the scurrilous charges aimed at him.
Soon wrote bluntly:
In recent weeks I have been the target of attacks in the press by various radical environmental and politically motivated groups. This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming.
Unafraid of his critics, whose baseless charges were systematically and comprehensively eviscerated by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley on Breitbart.com last week, Soon wrote, “I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is a shame that those who disagree with me resolutely decline all public debate and stoop instead to underhanded and unscientific ad hominem tactics.”
Addressing the false charge that he wrote his opinions for financial gain, and hid his connections to funders that wanted him t0 pursue a certain angle, Soon responded, “Let me be clear. I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest. I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record.”
In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues. If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply. I would ask only that other authors—on all sides of the debate—are also required to make similar disclosures. And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists.”
Soon lamented that the savaging of him might intimidate other scientists from pursuing scientific truth, writing, “I regret deeply that the attacks on me now appear to have spilled over onto other scientists who have dared to question the degree to which human activities might be causing dangerous global warming, a topic that ought rightly be the subject of rigorous open debate, not personal attack. I similarly regret the terrible message this pillorying sends young researchers about the costs of questioning widely accepted ‘truths.’”
Monckton adumbrated the attacks against Soon, and delineated clearly how flagrantly false the charges were:
1. The charge that Soon should not have claimed he was affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The director of said institution claimed that the “center” referred primarily to a shared set of physical facilities and said, “From a legal point of view, there is no such entity as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.” As Monckton pointed out, in 2005 the director of the center had described the marriage of the Observatory and Harvard as having been “… formalized as the Center for Astrophysics.” Monckton added that “funding proposals for Dr Soon’s research, written on the letterhead of the Observatory and signed by the director, bear the following box that appears prominently at the foot of the page: The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is a member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Additionally, a previous director had given specific instructions, still in use, all researchers to identify themselves in their published papers as affiliated to the Center.
2. The charge that Soon’s research is not of “the highest quality.” The Smithsonian gave Soon an award in 2003 for “detailed scholarship on biogeological and climatic change over the past 1,000 years … in official recognition of work performance reflecting a high standard of accomplishment.” In 2004, Dr Soon received the Petr Beckmann award of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness for “courage and achievement in defense of scientific truth and freedom.” In 2014, he received the Courage in Defense of Science Award, with a monetary prize, from the George Marshall Institute.
3. The Smithsonian’s investigation of “the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.” One problem, as Monckton wrote: “It is the Center, not Dr Soon, that accepted the financial support from external entities; the Center agreed, signed and holds the contracts.”
4. The Smithsonian accusing Soon of denying that human activities cause climate change. That is simply false: he said human activities are not “a major cause of global warming.”
5. The allegations of an undeclared conflict of interest. Monckton wrote: “At the Center, the rule – which Dr Soon has always scrupulously followed – is that all grant applications for proposed scientific research must be approved in advance both by the director’s office and by his department, the Center’s Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division. For this reason, all grants awarded are automatically known to the Center at once. Dr Soon has no power to accept any grant unless and until the office of the Director has approved not only the amount and source of the grant but also the research purpose for which it was awarded.”
Telling people that Willie Wei-Hock Soon is so corrupt that he is trying to hide all the cash he has received from corporate sources for his quarter of a century of research at the Center for Astrophysics is false, mean-spirited, and insulting. Allowing such attacks to stand, and to allow politics and fear tactics to silence Dr Soon or any other scientist, or to censor scientific publications, would not only be a personal calumny against him: it would also be a blow against scientific freedom of expression the world over.