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My letter to the New York Times

The New York Times
Elizabeth Spayed, Public Editor

Dear Elizabeth,

I am writing to express my concern for the addition of Bret Stephens to the NYT team as a columnist.

I don’t expect a columnist who seemingly writes about everything to be wrong about nothing. But the Gray Lady should, at the very least, expect a columnist to know something about something.

Stephens doesn’t simply express opinions that are not popular in certain, many, circles. He attempts to support his opinions with what we now seem to be calling alt-facts.

For example, his opinion about the importance of climate change is that we don’t know what climate change will really do, if it will really do anything, or when. He supports this idea by asserting that there is too much uncertainty in the science for us to know.

Elizabeth, you must know that science is nothing if it is not the study of variation in nature and its causes and properties. While the public face of many scientific findings is often the trend line showing the relationship between two variables, much of the science itself is about the uncertainty around that trend line; measuring, understanding the limits and extent of, and grappling with uncertainty is what scientists do.

As a scientist (not a climate scientist, though I’ve published in that area) and a science communicator, I can tell you that when Mr. Stephens makes the claim that there is too much uncertainty about anthropogenic climate change to say much about it, he is simply wrong. He does not know the science, he has made up this thing that looks like a fact, and he has used it to buttress absurd arguments, and you, the New York Times, is now set to be a vehicle for passing this misinformation on to the general public.

Many of my friends and colleagues have unsubscribed to the New York Times over this. I have not. Rather, I was just about to subscribe, as part of my overall effort to support good journalism in the Trump Era. In the past few weeks I’ve subscribed to my local paper, my regional paper, and one national paper (Washington Post) and I was just about to add the New York Times to that list. But now I can’t ethically do so, even though much of your other science coverage is pretty good, and even tough I grew up on the New York Times Science Section (remember that?).

But this probable drop in subscription is nothing to you, because trends in the business side of the NYT operation are much larger and more complex than many, if not most, of the world’s climate scientists dropping off your list over the addition of Bret Stephens to your staff. The bigger problem is this: The New York Times editorial staff has lost our respect.

I look forward to your prompt and decisive attention to this manner, and the quick repair of the mistake the NYT has made.


Greg Laden, PhD.