Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 01/20/2011 - 04:46.
Dr. Edgar J. Schoen
As the son of a physician, who grew up socializing with physicians and their families, I've always seen doctors - scientists - as regular human beings, who burn hot dogs, crash cars, fall down, make mistakes, and fade away. This makes me very aware of the fallibility of doctors and their diagnoses, to the core.
Lessons learned - not all scientists are created equal - all scientists are flawed - be an informed consumer and make certain all your science decisions are based on the best scientific data and scientists possible - always get a second opinion... more if the decision in truly important.
Having spent several years studying and addressing the lead poisoning crisis in Northeast Ohio and worldwide, as a subcommittee co-chair of the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council, and seeing lead poisoning from inside the healthcare and human services industries, as the parent of lead poisoning victims, I have become informed about the poor quality of healthcare industry attention to lead poisoning in America - historically and now - nationwide and especially in highest incidence regions like Northeast Ohio. The poor quality of healthcare response to lead poisoning is intentional and designed into government by the healthcare industry through corruption of scientists who are bad.
Bad—Synonyms: Depraved, corrupt, base, sinful, criminal, atrocious. Bad, evil, ill, wicked are closest in meaning in reference to that which is lacking in moral qualities or is actually vicious and reprehensible. Bad is the broadest and simplest term: a bad man; bad habits. Evil applies to that which violates or leads to the violation of moral law: evil practices. Ill now appears mainly in certain fixed expressions, with a milder implication than that in evil: ill will; ill-natured. Wicked implies willful and determined doing of what is very wrong: a wicked plan.
As all scientists are human, and so some significant percentage are bad, it is not a problem for industry to hire scientists who are corruptible and use science wrong. Tobacco, lead poisoning and now climate change are all areas of science where industry has hired bad scientists to use bad science wrong, to mislead government, the media and the public, killing beyond measure.
As the informed world watches global industrial interests corrupt environmental science concerning climate change - paying bad scientists to promote bad climate change-denier science, and attack good science and good scientists - leading to flawed decisions in government, leading to excessive industrial harm in the world, pushing human life to the precipice... consider the suffering caused as a result of unnecessary lead poisoning, as a result of over a century of corruption of science, government and media by industry, causing an avoidable crisis still destroying the lives of 1,000,000s of Americans and the American economy today.
As the father of lead poisoned children, furious about bad lead poisoning-denier science in America, I get furious whenever I come across evidence of industrial operations to discredit good science and prevent good government from protecting citizens from the crisis of lead poisoning in America. As many of the bad scientists responsible for this are still alive and impacting public health today, I'm inclined to "out" them and challenge them on their competency, now that they are proven wrong about lead poisoning.
Perhaps the best way to eliminate bad climate science is to discredit bad lead poisoning scientists personally - show bad climate scientists how badly they will be treated when they are exposed.
Make examples of bad lead poisoning-denier scientists to scare bad climate change-denier scientists straight.
One disturbing lead poisoning-denier "scientist", who helped cause the unnecessary lead poisoning of 100s millions of children and adults in America, is Dr. Edgar J. Schoen, still practicing medicine in California today. Doctor Schoen... from Wikipedia:
Dr. Edgar J. Schoen - (born 1925 in New York) is an American physician, who works as a Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and held the position of Chair of the 1989 American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision. Dr. Schoen holds positions at Children's Hospital of the East Bay in Oakland, CA, and the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, CA and is Board-certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Endocrinology, and has practiced Pediatrics and Pediatric Endocrinology in Oakland, CA for 46 years. Dr. Schoen was Chief of Pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland for 24 years.
Missing from his biography there, and at his circumcision site, is reference to his role as a published, "expert" lead-poisoning-denier who, in 1998, published "CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING AND TAINTED SCIENCE" (143 KB .PDF), where he pontificated:
Government agencies are telling people that childhood lead poisoning is often named as the leading environmental threat to our children. This conclusion is not accepted by most practicing physicians, who almost never see a case of symptomatic lead poisoning. Most pediatricians who practice in a large medical group in an urban area see environmental threats daily. These include poverty, violence, homelessness, family dysfunction, abuse, teenage pregnancy, drugs, and alcohol--but they have not included symptomatic lead poisoning. Most physicians do not accept current proclamations about the importance of childhood lead poisoning: the nation's pediatricians did not comply with 1991 recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for annual, universal childhood BPb screening
Re-read this passage published by Schoen - literally gloating about committing medical malpractice - from as recently as 1998 - "Most physicians do not accept current proclamations about the importance of childhood lead poisoning: the nation's pediatricians did not comply with 1991 recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for annual, universal childhood BPb screening".
In 1995, around 25% of Cleveland children had confirmed blood lead levels greater than 15 μg/dl... showing how great our lead burden was here, in the days Schoen wrote those words.
Now, realize the symptoms of broken society caused by "symptomatic lead poisoning" are "poverty, violence, homelessness, family dysfunction, abuse, teenage pregnancy, drugs, and alcohol"... exactly what Schoen reported "most pediatricians who practice in a large medical group in an urban area" see as "environmental threats daily".
Dr. Schoen's JOB - his responsibility as a physician in America - was to comply with and enforce the 1991 recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for annual, universal childhood BPb screening. He is admitting and reporting crimes against children by himself and "most physicians" in America of his time.
The US Government requires doctors to protect society and protect children from lead poisoning through simple, inexpensive testing, which doctors routinely fail to do, because of conditioning from lead poisoning-denier "doctors" like Schoen.
Unfortunately, doctors in Northeast Ohio learned medicine from doctors like Shoen, who claimed, in 1998: "Since the early 1970s, when regulations were promulgated eliminating lead from gasoline, paint, and other sources, mean BPb levels have rapidly and continuously fallen, and the threat of lead encephalopathy (Encephalopathy literally means disorder or disease of the brain) and related death has essentially disappeared in the United States."
So foolish, considering reality, as of 2008, from Environmental Health Watch:
Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Childhood Lead Poisoning Rates - 2008 (children under 6 years of age)
- Based on the CDC blood-lead level-of-concern (10 mcg/dl), 6.3% (956 children) in Cleveland were identified as lead-poisoned
- Based on the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County blood-lead level-of-awareness (5 mcg/dl), 21.7% (3,298 children) in Cleveland were identified as lead-poisoned,
- Of the 25,351 children in Cuyahoga County that were tested in 2008, 16.2% (3,951 children) were tested at levels of 5 mcg/dl and above.
- Of the 25,351 children in Cuyahoga County that were tested in 2008, 4.8% (1,174 children) were tested at levels of 10 mcg/dl and above.
- Lead poisoning and increased blood lead levels have permanent affects on the well-being and health of a child, regardless of the current blood lead level.
- Prevalence history of Cleveland including charts and maps dating back to 1995.
Making lead poisoning in Cleveland the worst in the nation.
In "Dr." Schoen's mind, influencing the minds in the American medical community, the threat of lead poisoning had disappeard by 1998:
Paradoxically. in the past decade as symptomatic lead poisoning has disappeared, the attention and expenditures devoted to childhood lead poisoning have multiplied. In 1991, the CDC issued a report decreasing the threshold of concern about BPb levels in children from 25 μg/dL to 10 μg/dL, thus increasing the number of children considered to be at risk from childhood lead poisoning from 250,000 to over 3 million, creating an "epidemic by edict". The CDC also recommended that all U.S. children should first have lead testing done during the second half of their first year and then annually until age 5 y. These recommendations would have required testing for as many as 8-16 million U.S. children annually at a mean cost of about $20 per test, or $320 million annually for laboratory costs alone. Further regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) brought the total cost of lead testing and abatement programs to billions of dollars annually. The CDC issued a report referring to childhood lead poisoning as "the leading environmental threat to U.S. children".
Here we see the real basis of this Doctor's science - he is trying to protect his employer at the time, Kaiser Permanente, from the cost of testing children in their health system for lead poisoning, and from the costly reality that a high percentage of their child-patients are permanently disabled.
Dr. Schoen's term "epidemic by edict" is specifically referenced in Little Pamphlets and Big Lies: Federal Authorities Respond to Childhood Lead Poisoning, 1935–2003 (77Kb .PDF), by Christian Warren, PhD, New York Academy of Medicine, in analyzing dishonest science and media that has caused ongoing lead poisoning of 100,000,000s of Americans, over nearly a century:
An important part of the CDC’s leadership is its dominant role in setting standards: how to set up a screening program, best practices for laboratories, standards of care in case-management. And since the 1980s, the CDC’s standards for risk-assessment and case management have in effect defined the level of lead absorption considered to constitute a case of lead poisoning in the first place. Setting these standards is often highly politically charged. For example, lowering the blood-lead level that triggers medical or public health agency interventions (which for most of the medical community and the public comes to define the boundary between a “normal” and “lead-poisoned” child) dramatically increases the population of at-risk children, a function critics refer to as “epidemic by edict.” Favoring one screening technology over another has huge ramifications for medical technology companies hoping to cash in on enlarged screening programs. Establishing health standards in such a setting requires a mixture of good science, political and marketing savvy, and political will.
It should have been no surprise, then, that as average blood lead levels fell sharply as a consequence of successes in removing lead from the general environment, advocates
for universal screening within CDC had increasing difficulty making their case. By the mid-1990s, lead poisoning appeared to be far from the pandemic it had seemed ten years earlier. In 1995, the CDC began reviewing its 1991 recommendations for screening and abatement. At least three related factors pushed CDC toward capitulation. First, the lead industry was successful in manufacturing controversy around the dangers of “low-level” lead exposure through industry-sponsored research and highly public professional and legal attacks on prominent researchers. Second, there arose strong opposition from health care providers unwilling to be saddled with screening for lead poisoning in regions with low prevalence rates—especially in western states where housing stock was predominantly low-lead. In this setting, consensus within the CDC shifted considerably on the question of whether universal screening was a realistic goal.
Dr. Warren just defined Dr. Schoen: "there arose strong opposition from health care providers unwilling to be saddled with screening for lead poisoning in regions with low prevalence rates—especially in western states".
As a result of Schoen's global corruption of science - for his former employer Kaiser Permanente - and Schoen's misuse of his medical standing and the media, Cleveland suffers.
It may come as no surprise Schoen's Kaiser Permanente has a huge customer base in Ohio - it would be interesting to see what percentage of their child-patients in Ohio have been lead tested as the law requires.
My observation has been that, in Northeast, Ohio, "most physicians do not accept current proclamations about the importance of childhood lead poisoning". They learned the wrong lessons well.
And, that shows in our ongoing lead poisoning crisis, as Cleveland has the most tragic lead poisoning outcomes in America... low testing rates - highest childhood lead poisoning rates.
As a result of bad lead science in America, America remains in lead poisoned crisis... meaning "most physicians" and the "nation's pediatricians" are/were wrong about the seriousness of lead poisoning - especially at low levels - and have been generally criminal in their treatment of patients, which cost America our future.
The 21st Century that Dr. Schoen and his fellow doctors gave us and our children is one of 1,000,000s more toxified citizens than necessary, and the harm they cause others, as best reflected in growing acknowledgement in the academic and legal systems that lead poisoning leads to murder, and lead poisoned murderers are mentally incompetent, and should be treated as such.
Meaning, America needs a Guide to Mental Health Mitigation (5 MB .PDF) - prepared by David Freedman and the Capital Resource Counsel Project and the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel (May, 2004) - to help defense lawyers ensure that their "clients’ disabilities and impairments are accurately identified and understandably explained".... guides to help defenders explain to courts how and why clients' mental disabilities, like lead poisoning, were fectors in crimes. Regarding lead poisoning, from the Guide to Mental Health Mitigation:
Lead: Recent research indicates that there is no safe level of lead exposure, with even the smallest amounts, at 1 microgram per deciliter of blood, ingestion in childhood results in lifelong decreases in IQ and increases in behavior problems.
Lead has been recognized as causing neurological damage for at least 150 years, yet industry was slow to remove lead from places which exposed people to lead’s dangers.
Even at exceptionally low levels of exposure, lead causes:
- decreased IQ and cognitive functioning
- heightened distractibility and shortened attention span
- inability to inhibit inappropriate responses to stimuli
- poor vigilance
- inability to follow simple and complex sequences of directions
- deficits in changing response strategy
Symptoms Associated with Metal Exposure
Acute Exposure Symptoms Chronic Exposure Symptoms
abdominal colic Persistent cognitive deficit
constipation Decline in IQ score
vomiting Impaired Attention
headache Decline in visuo-spatial functioning
lightheadedness Impaired Memory
dizziness Reduced Reaction time
forgetfulness Impaired Executive Functioning
anxiety Mood Alterations
muscle and joint pain
increased intra-cranial pressure
Do you believe lawyers and judges in the courts in Northeast Ohio consider a Guide to Mental Health Mitigation when determining the sentences lead poisoned criminals face?
Do you think the criminal justice system in Cleveland - with the highest lead poisoning levels in America - provides appropriate treatment for inmates who are lead poisoned, or even knows who they are?
In Criminality Resulting from Brain Damage from Lead Exposure in Philadelphia and Implications for Management of Deviance in a Fluid Culture (980 Kb .PDF)- Jenna Rosaniathe reflects: "When some of the underlying causes of crime, such as lead poisoning, can be obliterated from society, perhaps the purpose and need for capital punishment in our society may eventually be negated as well."
Why aren't we exploring such issues in the lead poisoning capital of America?
Rosaniathe introduces the real reality of lead poisoning in America in 2005, denied by most American physicians and courts still today:
This thesis explores whether the functional behavioral effects of the brain damage caused by exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead, may be considered by the American culture, and therefore by the American legal system, as mitigation of the culpability of criminal defendants who suffer from such exposure sufficient to prohibit the imposition of the death penalty in capital cases as cruel and unusual punishment.
The neurological deficits of individuals who exhibit criminal behavior that will be discussed are those caused by the lead poisoning of children. Lead poisoning has been discovered to cause a range of social problems for exposed children due to the damage lead inflicts on developing brains. These social problems can include behavioral problems, learning disabilities, lack of impulse control, and mental retardation, all of which can lead to delinquency and are predictors of crime.
The justice system has the means and authority to administer and enforce sentencing in the spirit of rehabilitation as well as punishment, particularly when crime can be proved to be a disease in need of a cure. This culture has the flexibility to accept that crime can be a symptom of disease rather than of the notion of inherent evil based on biblical and consequently cultural conceptions of free will and morality, and can evolve to discern the difference between the two sources in terms of managing deviance from culture. As in the cases of mental retardation and juvenility, there will still be penalties for crimes committed by brain-damaged offenders. Capital punishment cannot be an appropriate penalty for offenders who have demonstrably been brain damaged by lead exposure as this would be cruel and unusual punishment as well as inconsistent with the norms of a cognizant culture which marks an enlightened society.
It is evident that the American medical community's approach to lead poisoning is inconsistent with the norms of a cognizant culture which marks an enlightened society, and those who are clearly inherently evil, "based on biblical and consequently cultural conceptions of free will and morality", are Dr. Schoen and his followers in the medical profession who have denied real lead poisoning science and so caused 1,000,000s of Americans to be unecesssarily harmed by lead poisoning in our society today.
Especially disturbing and revealing, in Dr. Schoen's shocking pursuit to save Kaiser money by lead poisoning children, was his use of his publication ability to personally attack Dr. Herbert Needleman, who is a much more significant physician and researcher on the effects of lead poisoning on children, still respected today - from Wikipedia:
Herbert Needleman, MD, known for research studies on the neurodevelopmental damage caused by lead poisoning, is a pediatrician, child psychiatrist, researcher and professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an elected member of the Institute of Medicine, and the founder of the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning (now known as the Alliance for Healthy Homes). Dr. Needleman played a key role in securing some of the most significant environmental health protections achieved during the 20th century, which resulted in a fivefold reduction in the prevalence of lead poisoning among children in the United States by the early 1990s. Despite engendering strong resistance from related industries, which made him the target of frequent attacks, Needleman persisted in campaigning to educate stakeholders, including parents and government panels, about the dangers of lead poisoning. Needleman has been credited with having played the key role in triggering environmental safety measures that have reduced average blood lead levels by an estimated 78 percent between 1976 and 1991.
Dr. Schoen's "CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING AND TAINTED SCIENCE" is a direct attack on Needleman. Here is why, from Schoen:
What caused this flurry of expenditures and concern despite rapidly-diminishing childhood BPb levels? The answer: controversial studies showing that BPb levels far lower than those causing symptoms were responsible for subtle neurobehavioral defects in children, including decreased IQ and learning disabilities.
Concern about these supposed defects was largely the result of a study by Herbert Needleman and colleagues, who published an article in 1979, which showed diminished 1Q in children who had elevated lead levels in dentine. Further work by Needleman and other investigators indicated a possible decrease of 4-8 IQ points for every 10 μg/dL rise in BPb level.
Dr. Schoen goes on to reveal his core fear, regarding the work of Dr. Needleman:
This advocacy has prompted recommendations for a multibillion-dollar screening and abatement program which, according to Needleman, would have a societal as well as a medical benefit by helping to alleviate homelessness and joblessness. Being acknowledged as heroic initiator of such a program can be quite a stimulus for researchers to find detrimental effects of low BPb levels.
Doctor Schoen literally attacked universal lead screening and remediation because it has "a societal as well as a medical benefit by helping to alleviate homelessness and joblessness"... and he attacked Needleman for initiating such a program because that is "heroic".
What Schoen didn't attack is childhood lead poisoning, as was his job.
A disproportionate percentage of lead poisoning victims are people of color... environmental racism victims....
Dr. Schoen's perspective on society and lead poisoning is ignorant, corrupt and/or elitist, if not racist - he concludes his article:
Elevated BPb level is a marker of a disadvantaged child and is associated with poverty, low parental IQ, dysfunctional families, violence, and other confounders. For example, abused children seen in an emergency department were shown to be 27 times more likely to have elevated BPb levels as controls.
Acknowledgment--The Medical Editing Departrnent Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, provided editorial assistance.
Dr. Schoen was a Kaiser Foundation production - of course big business is behind corrupting lead poisoning science.
In Little Pamphlets and Big Lies: Federal Authorities Respond to Childhood Lead Poisoning, 1935–2003, Christian Warren wrote:
Without the expansive notion of social responsibility that drove Great Society programs, health agencies, no matter how well-funded, will be subject to undue influence from industries (not only lead manufacturers and landlords seeking shelter from liability, but health providers seeking shelter from costly measures such as lead screening). On the other hand, with that enlarged sense of moral purpose, the leadership of federal efforts to combat childhood lead poisoning could return to 1991’s statement of principle—that universal screening is the gold standard. CDC should insist that targeted screening be considered a compromise—perhaps a necessary capitulation, but a costly one—and work to perfect cheap and effective screening technology and help lower barriers to their adaptation in all lead prevention programs. The “poor may always be with us,” as that lead poisoning researcher concluded in 1940, but our leaders can shape our response to that sad fact, and insist that lead poisoning need not be, even among the least of these.
Warren also offers excellent observations on what works in lead poisoning eradication:
What works is a shared sense of the universality of lead’s threat, or at least the “paternalistic” commitment among those in power to protect those most afflicted. What works is regulatory bodies, health providers and communities enlisting the broadest possible coalition of forces to move toward eliminating lead poisoning. This coalition should include industry, whether its participation comes at the point of new restrictions or litigation, or through more voluntary means. All parties in such a coalition must fully acknowledge their competing interests even as they share the same goal. Industry should contribute to, but never be allowed to dominate the field, as it did for much of the twentieth century. And the driving force in this complex process is an empowered and well-funded government regulatory apparatus as science-driven and politically detached as possible.
What works is the opposite of what Dr. Schoen prescribed.
What works for addressing lead poisoning will work for addressing climate change, as well.... including attacking bad climate scientists and their bad science, and defending good science in public.
Consider an account of Dr. Needleman's battle with industry-funded bad lead poisoning-denier science and realize this is not the first time society has had to deal with this cursed problem:
Herbert Needleman is no stranger to the smear tactics of industry. Needleman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, began to document the health effects of low lead exposure in the early 1970s. His groundbreaking work—which industry fought tooth and nail—clearly demonstrated lead's toxic effects on children, providing critical evidence for regulations to eliminate lead from gasoline and interior paints, and to lower the blood lead standard for children.
Concerned that blood lead levels in an older child would not reflect early exposures, Needleman developed a method to evaluate discarded baby teeth (both teeth and bone accumulate lead) for a more accurate history of past lead exposure. He found that inner-city children had higher lead levels than children living in the suburbs, even though none of the children showed signs of lead poisoning . When Needleman presented his findings at a 1972 meeting of lead researchers, he was surprised by the venomous nature of attacks by industry scientists leveled at any researcher who dared present evidence that lead could cause harm at low doses.
Needleman continued his work and found that children with elevated tooth lead levels scored lower on a suite of cognitive tests measuring IQ, speech, and language skills. He published his results in a 1979 landmark study showing that early childhood exposure to low levels of lead could compromise a child's intellectual performance and behavior, again, without evidence of lead poisoning [6,7]. Six months later, Needleman received a call from a representative at the International Lead Zinc Research Organization, a nonprofit trade organization that conducts research on behalf of the lead and zinc industry, asking for his data. He declined.
The attacks began soon after, starting with a Pediatrics paper criticizing Needleman's 1979 study , followed by charges that the work was flawed in testimony before the EPA . After reviewing the charges and original work, the EPA confirmed Needleman's findings . Then, in 1991, two psychologists who provided expert testimony on behalf of the tetraethyl lead industry accused Needleman of scientific misconduct. One of the psychologists, Claire Ernhart, had written the critical Pediatrics paper and testified against his study before the EPA. The attorney who filed the complaint with the NIH Office of Research Integrity worked for a firm with links to the Ethyl Corporation of America, the major manufacturer of tetraethyl lead.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical School began a preliminary investigation of the charges, but denied Needleman's request for open hearings. Needleman sought the support of the faculty assembly, which unanimously voted for open hearings, filed a complaint in federal court, and had the support of 400 independent scientists calling on the chancellor to open the hearings. The university acceded. After a 2-day hearing, and months of deliberation, the committee released a unanimous decision: there was no evidence of scientific misconduct . Thanks to Needleman's pioneering efforts to reduce the hazards of lead , average blood lead levels of children in the United States dropped an estimated 78% from 1976 to 1991 (http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/t960501b.html). Whether other defenders of public health will be spared a similar path may ultimately depend on stronger laws to safeguard scientific integrity—and public health—from the undue influence of industry.
For now, climate science is full of Dr. Schoens who are using credentials and positions they clearly don't deserve to promote science that is wrong, and to wrongfully attack good science and scientists, like Dr. Needleman.
This is a topic of considerable concern among environmentalists and climate scientists... especially as the new Republican leadership in Congress has promised a challenge to climate science and climate scientists in coming months and years. I recommend the good science community become as aggressive against the bad science community as the bad have been against the good.
Know the enemy is flawed, expose them, and make matters direct and personal.
Expose the enemies by name, as Dr. Schoen is exposed here, and make the truth as public and global as possible.
Make examples of bad lead poisoning-denier scientists to scare bad climate change-denier scientists straight.
Evelyn Fox Keller, emeritus professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers further advice for Climate Scientists who find themselves under attack, from NewScientist (registration required):
Stick to your guns, climate scientists
Researchers should not be apologising for their errors when they could win hearts and minds by patient explanation, argues Evelyn Fox Keller
IF NOTHING else, December's Cancún climate conference demonstrated, once again, just how dependent international negotiations are on the American political process. In this respect, the US Senate's failure to pass a climate bill last summer was a colossal setback, and we need to understand how this could have happened.
One major factor is that public confidence in climate scientists and their science is at an all-time low. This loss of confidence is a direct result of a long-standing campaign to discredit them, initially mounted and funded by business interests and libertarian-conservative organisations.
The campaign made good use of strategies honed by the tobacco industry and soon recruited an army of "sceptics": some opposed to government regulation per se, some resistant to claims to intellectual authority (especially scientific), and some mobilised by a version of everyone's right to an opinion.
The upshot is that internet sites, radio and TV channels now transmit "contrarian" attacks on climate scientists on a daily basis. Even responsible newspapers seeking "balance" contribute to the false impression that climate scientists are deeply divided about the danger and relevance of human activity to global warming. Not knowing who or what to believe, the natural response of the public is to do nothing.
"Climategate" may well have brought tensions to a breaking point. The term was coined to describe the scandals erupting, first, from the theft and release of some scientists' private emails, and second, from the exposure of an error in a report by a subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate scientists were charged with mounting a "hoax" and engaging in "fraud" and "conspiracy", and bombarded with threats. The researchers were - and are - thunderstruck: nothing in their training prepares them for the vitriol of such attacks.
Until recently, the main response has been to take refuge in peer review and to blame scientific illiteracy. But with the escalation of attacks, some now feel the need to engage with their critics, admit mistakes, and open up their data. As a result, the media reports that researchers have been learning a little humility and trying harder to stay clear of policy advocacy. This response, they claimed, indicated a new willingness to engage with critics, as if this was a step towards more democratic relations between science and society.
I am not sure. I am all in favour of greater engagement with the public, but propitiation is not engagement, and self-criticism must not obscure the fact that these "revelations" are not evidence of misconduct but of the human nature of scientific inquiry. Nor must it obscure the fact that their own confidence in their findings on climate remains unshaken.
If they are to be blamed at all it is for adhering to an image of science as capable of delivering absolute (and value-free) truth: an image most scholars recognise as indefensible, and one that, among themselves, most researchers accept as unrealistic. They well recognise that, however rigorous their practice, the knowledge they produce falls short of infallibility, certainty, and value-neutrality. Furthermore, confidence in their findings does not depend on such unattainable ideals, but on the constant scrutiny, mutual criticism, and peer review to which they are subject.
Climate science is especially prone to uncertainty, but what mainly distinguishes it from other sciences is the gravity of its social implications. That this science has become so politicised is probably inevitable. Because its findings so conspicuously affect the body politic, climate science might be said to be inherently political.
Yet the notion that scientific knowledge should be politically neutral persists, posing a deep dilemma by suggesting that engaging in public controversy could compromise their claim to scientific objectivity and undermine their credibility.
On the contrary, I say that researchers have a responsibility to so engage. Discussions of scientific responsibility often centre on questions of scientific integrity. But researchers are also under an obligation to the public who have placed their trust in them - by their implicit contract with the state, which by funding them makes the product of their labour a public good.
For as long as the scientific knowledge they produce remains under their control, they are its custodians, responsible for its safe delivery into public hands. They have an obligation to convey the results of their expertise to those likely to be affected by the implications of those results.
They need to redouble their efforts to make their arguments, their doubts, and the reasons for both their confidence and their concerns intelligible to the non-specialist citizen. They need to combat, piece by piece, the misrepresentations brought in support of attacks on their scientific integrity, and to show readers why the popular accounts and even the naming of "Climategate" are so misleading. And they need to explain why the expectations of science on which these accounts are based are similarly misleading. Doing so is rarely as difficult as they assume: disagreement, uncertainty and distortion are familiar territory to most readers who, even without specialist technical expertise, are capable of the discrimination needed to establish trust.
What I am proposing is far from a solution. But if it encourages climate scientists to take the lead in breaking the current impasse, both because they are best equipped to take on the task, and because their responsibility as scientists obliges them to do so, it is at least a start.
Scientists also have obligations incurred by the trust the public has invested in them
Evelyn Fox Keller is emeritus professor of the history and philosophy of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology