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No apologies likely forthcoming in congressman’s stand-off with USU prof

November 15th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By J.P. Rodriguez

LOGAN–Utah State University professor Robert Davies said he does not expect an apology from state representative Mike Noel (R-Kanab). A Herald Journal editorial Nov. 8 said Noel should apologize to Davies after Noel told USU President Stan Albrecht he should get his faculty in line.

“Science is science, and what scientists find in their studies should not be influenced by what politicians want,” Charles McCollum, Herald Journal managing editor and author of the editorial, said. “I think the representative, for even insinuating as a joking matter that the USU scientist should fall in line, is really out of line.”

Noel said he still expects Davies to apologize to fellow scientist Roy Spencer over comments Davies made on Spencer’s climate change views.

“[Davies] said that professor Spencer is a fringe scientist,” Noel said, “And that all of his theories on global warming were debunked – that is not true.” Noel said Spencer is a climatology professor at the University of Alabama who was asked to testify to a Utah state legislative committee on climate change.

“No professor, especially an adjunct, has the right to call Professor Spencer a fringe scientist,” Noel said. “This guy is out of line – if you don’t believe what [Spencer] is saying you attack his data, not him personally.”

Davies said, “I didn’t say that he was fringe. I said his view of the science was in the extreme minority – so far in the extreme as to be fringe.”

Davies said he’s sorry Noel interpreted his comment as a personal attack on Spencer, but he was talking about Spencer’s views. He said the Brigham Young University (BYU) science faculty used the same words to describe Spencer’s views. Davies said his original comments were that Spencer holds a minority view on climate change, and he asked why legislators invite somebody with an extreme minority view to testify.

Davies said Spencer’s view argues that climate change is due to natural reasons instead of being human caused. He said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) disagrees with Spencer’s view, and the IPCC’s conclusions are supported by a majority of scientists.

Davies said a poll conducted last year by the University of Illinois at Chicago and published by the American Geophysics Union supports his opinion. The poll, he said, found 97.4 percent of active climate scientists believe humans are the dominant cause of global warming.

Noel questions these figures, citing a report by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) which states over 650 prominent climate scientists have questioned whether global warming is human caused, believing it may instead be a natural cycle. “If Rep. Noel does not concur, that is his prerogative,” Davies said. “I simply stated a fact on his scientific views.”

Noel said he did not seek out Albrecht to say Davies was out of line, and the conversation was not serious but both were joking. He said, however, Davies should apologize to Spencer and the committee for his comments.

John Devilbiss, executive director of public relations at USU said Albrecht deferred questions on this matter to Michael Kennedy.

Kennedy, special assistant to Pres. Albrecht on federal and state issues, said USU’s administration respects both professors’ rights of academic freedom and the Legislature’s right to make policy from research provided by USU and other researchers.

“USU has a policy for academic freedom – a written policy,” Kennedy said. “We support academic freedom of our professors.” Kennedy said he believes this is last month’s news, and not a big issue between Noel and Albrecht.


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  1. 2 Responses to “No apologies likely forthcoming in congressman’s stand-off with USU prof”

  2. By Gid on Nov 15, 2009

    J.P., Sen. Inhofe is from Oklahoma, not South Dakota.

  3. By nancy on Nov 16, 2009

    Thanks, Gid. It’s been corrected.

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