Thursday, December 3, 2009


As a litigator I am constantly telling people not to put into an e-mail something they wouldn’t want posted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. I say this because in our electronic inter-connected world, e-mail never seems to die. And once you send it out into the world, you have absolutely no control over where it will end up – no matter how much you trust the recipient.

But this seems to be a reality that most people – even otherwise highly intelligent people – just cannot grasp. People continue to say stupid things in e-mails. Things they would never say in a public forum. And the worst part is that people never seem to give any thought to how they express themselves in e-mails. As a result, statements that might be innocent take on the appearance of something sinister.

Thus, “Climategate.”

Climategate has been reported on ad nauseum and I will not recite the facts here. If you haven’t heard about it, there is a good introduction over at the New York Times. I write simply to register my disappointment. Even if we assume that the e-mails do not represent any improper conduct by the researchers involved – a fact I would not want to have to argue to a jury based on some of the e-mails – they still represent conduct that is simply inexcusable.
These are not scientists conducting esoteric research without real-world application. These are scientists whose opinions are being relied on by nations to set national and international policy. These are scientists who are asking the world to change fundamental elements of the global economy. A change that is likely, at the very least, to cause significant dislocation and hardship to real people.

When you ask for so much, you have a deep responsibility that your methods, actions, and motives be above reproach. These e-mails cast doubt upon whether their authors have met that responsibility. And they cause us to question the integrity of scientists generally.

That such obviously intelligent people could be so thoughtless is just disappointing.

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