Steve Schneider: “We are not in the business of equal time for all claims”

Stephen Schneider (1945-2010) placed great importance on scientists engaging with the public and policy makers to raise awareness and understanding about climate change, and he was one of the most audible scientific voices on this issue in the public sphere. You’ll find a number of references to Steve in two of the books that we read over the summer for the Mosaic — Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming and Oreskes & Conway’s Merchants of Doubt.

I’m reading Steve’s book Science as a Contact Sport in which he recounts in detail some of the events described by Oreskes and Conway in which Steve was a principal participant or observer. In his book, Steve addresses the “doctrine of balance” as applied by media in news coverage of climate change. He writes that the doctrine

“is pernicious when applied to science, because science is rarely just two-sided like two-party politics, where balance is appropriate. Scientists winnow out the relative likelihoods of all of the various potential outcomes. We are not in the business of equal time for all claims; we are in the business of quality of evidence assessment. Therefore, what we need to do is report the relative strength of the arguments, not give equal time to all claimants of truth.” (pp 119-120).

I had the privilege of working with Steve on the IPCC’s 2001 report. This photo was taken of us at a meeting in Geneva near the end of our work on the Synthesis Report.  Schneider-Leary TAR SYR Geneva copy









You can watch Steve talk about Science and Distortion in this video produced by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia:

Stephen Schneider: Science and Distortion



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