Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Monday, February 20, 2012

Death Threats Against Scientists – In America

Here at the Clothesline Report, we sometimes get unflattering responses to our posts.  Usually, they involve tenuously-related references to things like  “Al Gore” or “godless religion” or “extremist hysteria.” I attempt to offer perspectives that are full of information and insight, but I’ve been told that I’m full of something distinctly less pleasant.

Well – it turns out – we ain’t seen nothing.

At Texas Tech University, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe conducts research and teaches the same science that all Texas climatologists embrace:  The global climate is changing – largely due to human activities – posing a serious threat to millions today and more in the future.  But there’s something different about Dr. Hayhoe: She’s an outspoken evangelical Christian – the daughter of missionaries and married to a Baptist minister and author.

“God has saved us, accepted us, forgiven us, and loved us for eternity, no matter what,” writes Hayhoe with her husband, Andrew Farley, co-authors of an excellent book.  “Given His radical grace toward us, will we choose to serve one another, or will we live in a bubble of ignorance about the outside world? If decisions can be made on an everyday basis, decisions that make sense, and ensure a cleaner and better world for us, our children, and everyone else on the planet, then why not make them?”

That message apparently doesn’t sit well with Rush Limbaugh, who ridiculed Dr. Hayhoe as “a climate babe.”  The chorus was taken up by a former top aide to Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe ("climate change is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” – THAT Sen. Inhofe ($1,287,950*)). The aide attacked her character on his climate-denial website, and made sure all his potential hate-mailing readers had her email address.

Dr. Hayhoe’s message has been measured and gentle – reflecting the overwhelming consensus of her profession and the best impulses of her faith community.  “God has placed His love in our hearts: love for Him; love for His people; and love for His creation. We love, because He first loved us.” And responsible action on climate change is necessary for “loving our global neighbor as we should....”

But her critics take a decidedly different tone.  Last week, Texas Climate News reprinted a sampling of the flood of hate mail that the Limbaugh/Inhofe machine has generated.  Hold your nose, and take a look:
  • “You are a fraud….  Your name and the names of the other warming alarmists will be mud as the years go forward. You are a disgrace. You are a nut.”
  • “You are nothing but a liar; you lie.”
  • “Nazi Bitch Whore Climatebecile….  You stupid bitch, You are a mass murderer and will be convicted at the Reality TV Grand Jury in Nuremberg, Pennsylvania….  After the Grand Jury indicts you, I would like to see you convicted and beheaded by guillotine in the public square, to show women that if they are going to take a man’s job, they have to take the heat for mass murder, just like the men do when they get caught. If you have a child, then women in the future will be even more leery of lying to get ahead, when they see your baby crying next to the basket next to the guillotine.”
  • “…The problem with America is women refuse to stay at home taking care and nurturing their offspring while prioritizing their selfish ambitions attempting to carve out a career for themselves.  Be a good mother or be a good researcher.”
  • “Get a real job.  McDonald’s is hiring.”
Needless to say, this barrage and hundreds more like them can be demoralizing and intimidating to the most stalwart soul.

“I think that there is no question that much of this is intended to intimidate, “ said Dr. Hayhoe in the video interview posted below.  “Just think about it. You sit down at your computer and you write an email to someone you’ve never met and you tell that person that they are a liar, that you hate them, that you’re disgusted by what they do. What do you think you’re doing by doing that? You’re not setting the person up to have a great day.

“And I think there’s an extra dimension, because as a woman, most of the attacks that I’m receiving are from men. So that has a very different dynamic to it that honestly can feel very threatening and intimidating sometimes.”

Dr. Hayhoe is not alone by any means.   The head of MIT’s climate science department has been threatened by climate deniers, together with his wife.  PennState’s lead climate scientist is so battle-hardened as to consider hate mail and legal harassment an occupational hazard of the profession.  A visiting climate scientist in Australia received a death threat mid-lecture by a man brandishing a noose.

So what can people of goodwill do to combat the swarm of vicious assaults against researchers, Christian and secular?  Well, realistically, we can’t stop the hate-mail perpetrators themselves.  And probably, we can’t stop the commentators and bloggers who encourage the abuse.  But maybe we could send some “love mail.”  Why not tell the scientists how much we appreciate their work?  Maybe a few words of intelligent appreciation will be enough to  encourage them to carry on for another day in the vital service they provide to us and to our Father's world.

Unlike the hate-mongers, I won’t provide the email addresses.  But if you want to send a note, you won’t have any trouble finding these brave souls.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

  • Find the the complete story of Katharine Hayhoe’s ordeal here.
  • Find Hayhoe’s and Farley’s book, “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions” here.
  • * We list in red the amounts of money U.S. politicians have taken from oil, gas and coal lobbyists.  Check out any of them by name here.

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