I posted this as an update on my last post but, on reflection, felt that it deserved the status of a full post. In particular, as you will see below, there are some causes for concern. This is copied from the update on the last post, with a couple of minor changes.
I just remembered that I needed to add an update on the ‘saga’ with Professor Keith Hunter (perhaps saga is too strong an expression, but…). If you click on the link, you will get the gist of the story. Professor Hunter is pro-vice chancellor of sciences at University of Otago, and I suggested that his discussion of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) court action against NIWA had been on the wrong side of science. I asked him to clarify his position in light of events showing that NZCSC had revealed the problems in the ‘science’ used by NIWA. His most recent response was to indulge in an ad hominem attack on me (sound familiar – see previous post). I suggested that he might respond to the substantive issue. I checked my email today, and still no response.
It seems a little sad that a person in such a position within the scientific community might not come out and clarify that they are firmly on the side of good science. Whether he likes or dislikes the position of NZCSC, it seems that a person in such a lofty position should want to be actively supportive of action that served the interests of science. Instead, what we have is an attack on my integrity, and a refusal to clarify his position.
In this case, Professor Hunter has allowed a newspaper to quote him, and is not willing to stand by his comments, or clarify his position. It is very easy to dish out quotes but it seems that individuals should be held responsible for such quotes, in particular when they hold positions of responsibility and influence. It seems that, in light of the events that followed the quotes, he should want to use any outlet to clarify his position, if indeed he regrets his comments. In light of the refusal to clarify the quotes, it might be that Professor Hunter does indeed stand by the quotes. If so, one can only express concern for the scientific endeavours of the University of Otago. After all, if Professor Hunter does stand by his comments, one can only wonder at what he believes is good science.
Bearing in mind Professor Hunter seems to take a dim view of this blog, he might want to clarify his position in another outlet. Perhaps a press release in which he explains his position, but the mode of clarification is not an issue? After all, if he stands by the quotes, he should explain why. We should know why such a high profile scientist stands by such a position. If he regrets his attack on NZCSC, then he should make this public, as the comments were, to be quite frank, rude. I have highlighted in my posts on this issue that Professor Hunter’s quotes might be seen as problematic in regards to good science. He might have forgotten that he issued the quotes, and this might explain why he did not previously clarify his position.
However, now that I have pointed out the problem, if he does not stand by his quotes, it seems a matter of courtesy and also personal integrity to express regret for such an intemperate and rude attack. It does not have to be here, but in any public forum. If he does stand by the quotes, it seems that he has a responsibility to explain his position. After all, he is in a position of responsibility in one of New Zealand’s leading research universities. His discussion of the messenger (this blog) should not at be issue, except that he might not choose to comment here but instead comment elsewhere. Or does he think that a person in his position should not be held responsible for their public statements?
Once again, over to you Professor Hunter. I look forward to reading your clarification somewhere (and you are always welcome to comment here if you so choose).