When personal, ad hominem attacks are launched against a scientist there is no upside for science. People who care about science discuss the science, not the scientist’s-biography. Instead there are five potentially ugly outcomes that the mudslingers are presumably aiming for:
- The target scientist may be effectively silenced: spectators tune out. Weaker journalists feel less inclined to cite them for fear of the push-back against themselves.
- Another day where the scientific national conversation wallows in the gutter instead of discussing science.
- The target scientist feels dissuaded. Who needs this hassle?
- The message to thousands of silent skeptical scientists is unmistakable – “don’t speak” or you’re next.
- Philanthropists, and corporate donors feel the heat too, and may (if they are not made of strong stuff) figure that their funding does more harm than good. This starves independent science of essential support.