The Lawrence Samuels commentary in Sunday’s Monterey Herald wouldn’t really have bothered me if they had done a decent job of explaining who he is. The piece was bunk, a layman’s attack on the fact of climate change and global warming, but if the paper had described him a rabid practitioner of libertarianism, readers would have known that little or no science was committed in the production of his essay.
Instead, Samuels was described as “author of the 2013 book ‘In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.’” In case you didn’t know, chaology is the study of chaos, something that Samuels seemingly supports. The tagline went on to acknowledge that he lives in Carmel Valley.
To my mind, that isn’t enough context to explain what qualifies Samuels to opine publicly that global warming is a hoax partly because “all the computer power in the world could not provide a perfectly accurate picture of impending weather a week from now.” Good to know. Samuels in recent times has also written in the Herald that the proposed public takeover of California American Water smacks of 20th century European fascism.
Other than the somewhat cryptic title of Samuels’ book, the only hint that his writing is shaped by politics rather than meteorology or some other form of research is in the final paragraph in the Sunday piece: “I believe it (the quite solid notion of climate change being driven by human causation) is just political. Some people want more political control and money. An epidemic of fear can rack up a lot of political points … . Some (climate change scientists) are just ideological determinists who oppose the right of people to make free choices.” As opposed to ideological determinists who have won awards for promotion of libertarianism. (See Samuels’ self-written Wikipedia entry for details.)
Samuels finally does, in the very last sentence of his Herald piece, write something that is likely true: “Whatever the case, the laws of science will eventually trump the absurdities of politics.”
Years ago when I was responsible for the content of the Herald’s opinion pages, I had a guideline. With some exceptions, local guest commentaries should only be written by people with some special connection to or expertise in the issue at hand. Without such a rule, relatively savvy Herald readers such as Samuels were likely to write about any old nonsense and call it a commentary when something they had written turned longer than a letter to the editor.
In some cases, there is nothing wrong with someone from the community writing about whatever topic strikes their fancy. Some nice essays can emerge from such a situation. But readers of the Herald would be better served if the editors would not provide significant space for people who can only pretend to bring some sort of expertise to their topic and who may seek to obscure their agendas.