Archive for the ‘Sir Paul Nurse’ Category
I should like to thank James Delingpole for making such a complete ass of himself in an interview with Sir Paul Nurse just over a year ago, as it was this act of gross stupidity that first propelled me into the Blogosphere. Although my first Blog, entitled James Delingpile, did not last very long, the second, Earthy Issues, fared better and is still available today (although I am not maintaining it). However, last August, just before going on holiday, I set up this blog and the rest, as they say, is history. For an elaboration on this part of the story, please see my Background page.
While on holiday in the South of France with my children and my ex-Wife (yes, I know, that is a bit weird), it was very hot (I wonder why?) and, for over a week, the night-time temperature never went below 20C / 70F. Therefore, I don’t know whether it was the heat or indigestion but, every night, unable to sleep, I would sit at the dining room table writing stuff that has since appeared here: I have also used this blog as a vehicle for sharing with the World the findings from my 5 months spent analysing the public discourse of climate change scepticism in the UK, as practiced by organisations, scientists, economists, politicians, and others. Whereas a 300-word Abstract of my dissertation is viewable on my About page, I still think my first attempt to subsequently summarise its importance to a wider audience was possibly better:
How to be a climate change ‘sceptic’ (7 September 2012).
Since then, although I have always tried very hard to attack the erroneous message rather than the messengers, I have posted a large number of items on many of the subjects of my research, the following being good examples:
The Global Warming Policy Foundation
The Institute of Economic Affairs
Lord (Nigel) Lawson of Blaby
Lord (Christopher) Monckton of Brenchley
Conservative Euro and Climate sceptics
Graham Stringer MP (Labour)
Sammy Wilson MP (DUP)
I have run a series of posts on the challenges posed by ecological economics to modernity itself (in 3 parts); as well as Conservatism (N.B. I am a Conservative voter), Liberalism, and Socialism; and perhaps most significantly of all, I have written a great deal as a consequence of reading James Hansen’s extra-ordinary book, Storms of my Grandchildren. For those that have not read it, or any of my posts on it, the best place to start would be Climate science in a nut fragment (6 February 2012).
Much more recently, I ran a series of posts looking at the work of the sceptical British journalists Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, Christopher Booker and, of course, James Delingpole; starting with an introduction to these peddlers of fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) here.
However, because this blog is not seeking to attack anyone personally, underlying all of this is my concern for the Environment in general and concern regarding the failure of humanity to grasp that it is not superior to nature; it is part of it: In other words, all things are connected… As I said in my recent post regarding mining in wilderness areas, with me, this concern for the environment goes back over 20 years and, with the benefit of all that I learned while doing my MA, I have decided that the lies must now stop; and I believe I am in as good a position as anyone else to stop them. So, Professor Lindzen, please don’t take it personally but, I firmly believe you over-stepped the line at the Palace of Westminster on 22 February 2012; and I believe the World will now call you to account for it. I still don’t know why you did it. Indeed, as do many others, I suspect you genuinely believe what you say to be true, as do all of those I have listed above (probably).
However, when it gets to the point that anybody has to denounce those who admit they were wrong and/or change their mind (like Richard Muller and William Nordhaus) for supposedly being duped by the conspiracy; when that conspiracy must be forced to grow to include steadily more and more people (now including the UN, the WMO, the IPCC, Governments, Scientific and Professional bodies, and hundreds of research scientists all over the World), I think it is time to admit, as Barry Bickmore has said, “you are trying too hard to avoid the truth!”
However, by far the most insidious thing about all this is that behind all the peddlers of misinformation lurks the driving force of this campaign to deny human responsibility for climate change, the Conservative Think Tanks like the Heartland Institute, which work on behalf of major business interests (as opposed to the public interest) of which James Hoggan says in his book, Climate Cover Up:
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.
As I said, I think it is time for the lies to stop; and if Lindzengate shall prove to be the El Alamein of climate change denial (i.e. the beginning of the end or at least “the end of the beginning” – Winston Churchill), I for one will be delighted.
It has occurred to me that this is a very profound and important question for our times. I suspect that most people would put having an open mind up there alongside not killing people, but is it? Having an open mind should not be confused with being tolerant and/or flexible; and we cannot afford for it to be synonymous with being undecided (but more on that later).
For an individual to have an open mind, it is first of all necessary for that individual to believe that he or she has the requisite knowledge and understanding, or intellectual and analytical faculties, to assess information (if a valid conclusion is to be reached). This is OK if the question is, “Have a listen to Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and tell me whether you like it or not?” However, this is not OK if the question is, “Do you think we should accept the settled opinion of the vast majority of climate scientists who say we face an environmental catastrophe if we do not now act to prevent it?”
I am not a climate scientist, so why should I suppose that I can second-guess their opinions? Therefore, any non-climate scientist who rejects the consensus view (or indeed denies its existence) must be some kind of conspiracy theorist! How can anyone claim to have an open mind if, all the time, a little voice in their head is telling them that they are being lied to? But, you may say, what are we to do if both sides of the [supposed] debate over the validity of climate science claim that the other is involved in folly, error, or deceit…? Indeed, this is what leaves most people having no fixed opinion. However, as I said on this blog a few months ago:
“There is simply no evidence for [a] left-wing conspiracy to over-tax and over-regulate people (so as to make everyone poorer). Whereas, there is a great deal of evidence for a right-wing conspiracy to under-tax and under-regulate industry (so as to make a few people richer).” [Quoted from my 'To all who say AGW is junk science' (4 October 2011)] (N.B. For AGW, please now read anthropogenic climate disruption [ACD])
I believe it is that simple. This is because the marketplace of ideas is a nonsensical fallacy. Irrespective of how earnestly they are cherished, all opinions are not equally valid. Some people really do know better than we do. I think it is time we all accepted this as fact. As David Aaronovitch says in his Voodoo Histories – How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped modern History (2010), if all opinions are equally valid “…then we are lost… Relativism doesn’t care to distinguish between the scholarly and the slapdash, the committed researcher and the careless loudmouth, the scrupulous and the demagogic” (page 335). [See this quoted in context in my 'All that is wrong with the “marketplace of ideas”' (16 August 2011)]
Therefore, if we indulge it, the marketplace of ideas ultimately demands that non-scientists be allowed to act as judge and jury over complex scientific matters that they do not really understand. This is exactly what most people who dissent from the consensus view of climate change insist is their right. Indeed, this is exactly what James Delingpole (JD) asserted should happen a year ago on a BBC TV programme “Meet the Climate Sceptcs”. However, this is illogical and completely insane. (N.B. There is a link to a video clip and partial transcript of JD’s interview with Sir Paul Nurse from my marketplace of ideas post linked to above). Meanwhile, though there may rarely (if ever) be certainty in science, we always have probability; and probability becomes greater when observations match or exceed theory and/or predictions. This is where we are today with climate science.
The time for indecision has now passed.
What we need is the wisdom to know – and be comfortable with – the limit of our own expertise and, therefore, to know when it is appropriate to defer to a higher authority. Although it was a little tongue-in-cheek, this was the point I sought to make in my AGW – What would Jesus do? (18 September 2011): However, even if we could get all the greatest intellectual minds together and give them all the information to help them decide what we ought to do, would we listen? Or do we rate our own opinions higher than them; as well as all the experts?
This is why climate change denial reduces either to ‘marketplace of ideas’ thinking or to conspiracy theory: But, as I said, there is only one conspiracy and it is not a theory; it is a well-documented historical fact. This was probably best summarised on my very first substantive post on this blog: ‘Sceptical economists are intellectually bankrupt’ (10 August 2011).
That leaves us with a decision to take as to whether we are going to listen to the marketplace of ideas or listen to voices of authority. Our decision could have enormous consequences because, until we all insist that our politicians demand that action be taken, our politicians will continue to be controlled by the vested interests of big business and the fossil fuel lobby. Again, this is not conspiracy theory; it is well-documented fact.
This too is something upon which you should not have an open mind.
It would appear that talk of Fred’s death has been grossly exaggerated* so, apparently, he is still able to defend himself. If so, bring it on! Better still, why don’t you (i.e. Fred) sue Oreskes and Conway for defamation of character (as they did it first)?
I was taught not to talk ill of the dead but, with the [not] late Dr S. Fred Singer PhD, I am afraid I may have to make an exception: Sir Paul Nurse recently interviewed him for the same programme, Science Under Attack, that has done so much to discredit James Delingpole. Unfortunately, being [not] dead, people may be more wary of criticising Singer. To his credit, unlike Delingpole, Singer did not actually say anything obviously stupid; but he did say that climate change is natural (i.e. what is happening now is not unprecedented); and that the IPCC is not an independent body free of political influence.
It is hard to understate Singer’s importance in the denialist movement, as is best demonstrated by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt. Indeed, it is truly alarming how often his ideas are repeated by people who should know better (but do not because they are not scientists!); like Christopher Booker, James Delingpole, and Andrew Montford.
With regard to the latter, his Hockey Stick Illusion thesis is founded upon Singer’s claim that the entire UN/WMO/IPCC edifice is involved in a politically motivated scam (a claim that I believe Singer knew to be false and, yes, I therefore believe he was involved in a deceitful campaign to prevent action being taken to mitigate AGW).
So there, I have attempted to trash the reputation of someone who can no longer defend himself.[?] However, he has left us a very detailed record by which we can – and I believe history will – judge him to have been one of the main causes of humanity’s failure to take action to mitigate AGW in good time.
I also believe that, in time, it will also become clear that the cause he championed in the latter two decades of his life (following the end of the Cold War and in the absence of a “Red Menace“) will be found to have been entirely counter-productive: This is because the campaign to protect laissez-faire global Capitalism from being undermined by concern for environmental protection and/or sustainability will, in the end, make the necessary global carbon-correction make recent financial crises seem like mere market-wobbles.
Whereas, as the Stern Review (and many others before) made clear, the sooner we act – the less-painful the medicine would have been to take. However, w.r.t. Stern, it should be noted that he was only recommending shaving 1 or 2 % off total economic growth over 50 years (meaning peoples salaries take an extra year to double within that timeframe); and that AGW mitigation is not comparable to building a new bridge; and therefore marginal cost-benefit analysis rules do not apply (Stern 2009, p.13).
* I think I confused him with (fellow Merchant of Doubt) the late Frederick Seitz (who really is dead)!
This can be seen in a UK education system that has been compromised by left-wing progressive ideas that have been repeatedly tried and found wanting; and yet we keep trying them – why is that?…
The so-called “marketplace of ideas” is a product of a postmodern world that has been over-run by all-pervasive, morally-bankrupt, relativism. It is – as David Aaronovitch points out in the conclusion to his Voodoo Histories book (yes I am back to that again!) – the root cause of the paralysis that prevents many people from resolving their ambivalence towards climate change: “If all narratives are relative, then we are lost… Relativism doesn’t care to distinguish between the scholarly and the slapdash, the committed researcher and the careless loudmouth, the scrupulous and the demagogic” (2010, p. 335).
Thus, the curse of relativism convinces non-scientists that their opinions are just as valid as those of scientists; and erodes respect for all reasonable authority. In this context, the serial failing of our educational system over recent decades (in stealing from teachers all effective sanctions and forms of punishment for errant behaviour) has merely compounded the problem.
Somehow, our society needs to re-discover its respect for authority; and realise that all ideas do not have equal merit. Because if it does not do so, we are doomed to a future in which the topsy-turvy thinking of people like James Delingpole will hold sway. For example, in a remarkably frank interview with Sir Paul Nurse, as broadcast on a BBC Horizon programme entitled Meet the Climate Sceptics on 24 January 2011, Delingpole admitted that:
– he believes concern about climate change is being driven by a “political agenda” seeking “control” over people;
– “the peer review process has been perhaps irretrievably corrupted” (presumably he meant ‘discredited’?) by Climategate;
– Science should now be assessed by “peer-to-peer review” over the Internet by thousands and thousands of people including “people like me [i.e. him!] that haven’t got a scientific background”.
When Nurse queried the legitimacy of this [non-peer review] process, by asking if he would or could read peer-reviewed scientific literature, Delingpole’s response was stupendously illogical: “It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed science papers because… I haven’t got the scientific expertise… I am an interpreter of interpretations…” [Some might argue that one or two comments posted 6 months ago in response to this particular youtube video of the interview seem to have got the measure of JD; but I could not possibly comment!]
However, if we acquiesce in allowing such relativism to be dressed-up as seeking the common interest (i.e. populism), we will soon be so far up an excrement-filled channel without a means of propulsion that the only viable means of employment left for those of us concerned for the welfare of our environment may be to open a waste to energy (biogas) plant!