“A Disgrace to the Profession” That's the title of Mark Steyn's latest book, which I read yesterday. I bought it without high expectations, despite being a big fan of Mark's works – mainly I hoped in a small way to support him in his legal defense (he's being sued for defamation by Michael Mann). I already knew, from reading some reviews and Mark's own description, that the book's premise was a collection of quotes by other people (not Mark) about Michael Mann and his (in)famous “hockey stick” graph. So my expectation was for a lightly annotated collection of quotes – amusing and entertaining, but perhaps not particularly enlightening.
The reality is much different.
First of all, Mark's additions to the quotes aren't just brief annotations. They are entertaining, witty expositions of the context for each of his featured quotes. He describes the person he's quoting and the situation in which the quote was made. Often the featured quote is buttressed by additional quotes, from the same person or others. Each chapter (generally just a few pages at most) is devoted to a single quote, and each could stand alone but is more powerful as a component of the collection.
This book, it turns out, is a wonderful primer for anyone who wonders why anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics are skeptical of the hockey stick. It's an equally useful primer for anyone who thinks “the science is settled”. An impressive array of what I'll call real scientists beautifully articulate why they are unimpressed with Dr. Mann's “science”.
I thought of myself as fairly well-read on the subject of AGW. I've probably read 25 or so books on the subject, and I've plowed through hundreds of emails from the ClimateGate dump. I participated in some of the data analyses. I've read countless articles in the media. Nevertheless, Mark's new book was full of surprises for me.
Most of all, this book is an absolutely devastating summary critique of Michael Mann, both personally and professionally – as well as the premier product of his scientific research, the infamous “hockey stick”. Anyone who cares to investigate Mann's scientific perfidy for themselves will find this volume to be the perfect starting point for their investigation. Each chapter provides a lead (sometimes several!) to credible, authoritative critics of Mann's work.
I wonder how Dr. Mann perceives this book? Surely it must give him a taste – a bitter, foul taste – of what he's up against in a fight with Mark Steyn. That's not a battle I'd be eager to fight, that's for sure :)