Prof Brian Cox: Prettier than Brigstocke but Just as Wrong

Another Grungy Green

Prof Brian Cox: even bronzed, honey-tonsilled dreamboats can be wrong, sometimes

Martin Durkin is a hero of mine, not just for his courage in making the first mainstream British TV programme seriously to challenge the idea of Man Made Global Warming – The Great Global Warming Swindle – but also for the equally brilliant programme he made on our eye-wateringly vast national debt, Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story.

So I’m delighted to be able to put up a guest post of his on the subject of a recent drubbing he had from top celebrity particle-physicist Brian Cox. Cox (not to be confused with the scary man who played the original Hannibal Lecter) has become one of TV’s favourite science pin-ups because not only does he look a bit like a pop star but he actually was one once in D:Ream (unofficial court composers to New Labour thanks to their party anthem “Things Can Only Get Better”). Unfortunately, it seems, there are one or two things that our Brian doesn’t quite get about Climategate and peer review: as Durkin will now explain. (In bold, I’m afraid because I can’t be bothered to strip out all the “strongs” from html)

This year’s BBC Huw Wheldon lecture was delivered by pop star and celebrity-physicist Brian Cox, who was telling us how science should be reported on television.

Brian looks like a rebel.  One of the kids.  He has long hair and wears a T-shirt under his jacket.  But appearances can deceive.  I’ve met countless grungy greens who are every bit as censorious and freedom-hating as the most well-ironed Nazi.

And, as it turns out, Brian is about as rebellious as Captain Mainwaring.  He says it’s the job of documentary makers to relay to the public science which has been approved by the scientific establishment.

He described a film of mine – The Great Global Warming Swindle – which naughtily did not toe the line, as ‘polemical cack’.   Like many censors, he starts by waving the flag for free speech.  Far be it from him to stifle views which are outside the mainstream.  But …   There were many buts.

The logic of his descent into censorship went like this (it so often does):  Science is really important – just look at the need to combat global warming.  Government funding is therefore vital.  And television ‘has a big responsibility to get the science right’.  This means television must ‘report and explain the peer-reviewed consensus accurately’ and (here it gets interesting) broadcasters must ‘avoid the maverick and eccentric at all costs.’  After all, ‘we’re dealing with the lives of our children and the future of the climate’.

He admits that his argument ‘does sound rather authoritarian’ and asks himself blithely towards the end, ‘Have I been led to an Orwellian conclusion? … I don’t know.’

I do.   All the way through, there’s a sinister Orwellian ring to Cox’s style.   In weasel words, he warns of ‘occasional incompatibilities between science and television’.  Like Uriah Heep, says he wants to explore ‘how these might be avoided’.

His special worry is global warming.  The problem appears to be this.  Lots of people don’t believe it.  Despite the fact that there is almost total acceptance of this ridiculous theory in the media, many ordinary people just don’t buy it.   So if some scoundrel (like me) pops up and says the science behind this garbage is bunkum, the scientific establishment – Cox & Co – become furious.  And I know to my cost what it’s like when they turn on you.

Cox equates scientific truth with the consensus view of the scientific establishment.  His justification for doing so is the revered practice known as ‘peer review’.  Cox tells us, ‘a peer-reviewed consensus is by definition impartial’.  Now this is an extraordinarily stupid thing for anyone to say, let alone someone like Cox who likes to pretend he’s clever.

Peer review happens when an article is submitted for publication to a science journal.  The editor doesn’t know whether the author is talking out of his hat or not, so he sends it out to other scientists working in the same field to (anonymously) pick holes in it.  If the others say it’s fine he’ll print it.  If not, he doesn’t.

Peer review is at best imperfect.  At worst it’s a rather nasty form of censorship within the scientific community.  Good papers are frequently rejected.  Rubbish is often printed.  The main problem is that scientists who do the reviewing are extremely partial to their own views.  Their reputations have been built on certain theories (like global warming).  Their grant funding depends on the wide acceptance of these theories.  They don’t like it when folk rock the boat.  So there is a tendency for the consensus to prevail against those who would shake things up.

Take the notorious ‘Hockey Stick’ scandal.  A big problem for global warming theory is that, compared to temperature change over the past thousand years, today’s temperatures look perfectly normal.  So a bunch of jokers came up with the ‘Hockey Stick’ graph, which suggested that temperatures were flat until the industrial revolution and then shot upwards.  It’s now clear that the research was, to borrow a phrase from Cox, utter drivel (see the Wegman report and others).  Nevertheless it sailed through peer-review with flying colours and was published in Nature and by the IPCC and by a thousand others.  James Lovelock had it up on his wall to remind himself about fragile Gaia.  Al Gore waved it about till he was red-faced.   Or how about all that peer-reviewed dodgy data from East Anglia, or the countless, laughably alarmist peer-reviewed papers published since the Ice Age scare 50 years ago.  Yet woe betide anyone in the media with the brass neck to point out that this peer-reviewed guff has proved to be nonsense.

Cox and his chums in the scientific establishment love to portray themselves as simple well-meaning scientific folk. But as anyone who has experienced the wrath of the scientific establishment will attest, it’s a significant political force, bullying politicians and beating up critics. The pious self-image of scientists, especially the global warmers, as guardians of the truth, is nauseating and dangerous.

Sanctimonious Cox says he himself is ‘absolutely true to science’.  He says that, unlike media people, scientists are above politics.

But science is incredibly political.  Whole careers are built on, and the funding of entire institutions depend on certain ‘scientific truths’, or as they should be called, ‘funding excuses’.  The global warmers embrace freedom of speech and critical views like turkeys welcome Christmas.

What’s more, the political views of scientists are inevitably, profoundly coloured by their almost complete reliance on big state funding.  Predictably, most of them have the trite anti-capitalist worldview that almost always go with it.

Global warming isn’t just the best funding wheeze they’ve hit upon since the Cold War.  It’s also a repository for all the green, middle class anti-capitalist prejudices which are part and parcel of the Western intellectual worldview.

Cox & Co are no saints.  They are not above the prejudices of the age and their class.  Nor are they unaware of their own economic self-interests.

Far from giving them rights of censorship, we in the media must watch them like hawks.

 

6 thoughts on “Prof Brian Cox: prettier than Brigstocke but just as wrong”

  1. Velocity says:6th December 2010 at 5:15 pmWe should give Mr Durkin a Knighthood and the sanctimonious socialist creep Mr Coz a bullet.Peer review is a suffocating consensus of the scientific establishment precisely as Mr Durkin describes. One of the main foundations of the internet was indeed for scientists to discuss and review each others work and AVOID establishment suffocation.Nothing in the world has EVER progressed by consensus. It is always the individual work of mavericks in all fields that first gains acceptance by fringe groups and early adopters and then permeates the herd changing the old consensus of wider society.And Government has NEVER been the melting pot for new (or great) ideas. It is the private sector, individuals and commercial organisations, that always come up with new knowledge, push the envelope, change society.

    How could it be else? Gov’t is filled to over flowing with empty idealists, criminals and incompetent crones. Gov’t is the dustbin of society, a follower, a catch up kid, never ever a leader in any field.

    99% of all knowledge resides in individuals hands and commercial hands. As the self-serving, useless, ignorant Totalitarian scum of Western Gov’ts attack Wikileaks they will see how totally incompetent and stupid Gov’t is versus the private individual.

    A club of overwhelming force to batter a hornets nest of bright young hackers. Watch Gov’t first be torn to shreds and then capitulate with snake oil to cover their abject ignorant defeat

  2. MarcoB says:7th December 2010 at 11:12 pmHi JamesKeep up the great writing, the only way to get this information into the thick headed masses is through repetition with concrete facts. I think you need to pitch a show to a channel like channel 4 with the title “fact vs fiction”, similar to “It’s only a theory” which is a great concept, but hosted by comedians that utterly fail.Hosted by you, you get a topic per episode, get a respectable professional/professor (or 2) for each side of the argument and let the debate begin. The rule is you are only allowed to debate with facts by stating papers, data sets, historical evidance and No OPIONS, No “I think” ,No “the consensus is”Guests are required to send evidence in advance to the show for authenticity verification, but neither knows the others facts. Might need a rating system, weak for simulation facts, medium for short term trends/data sets, strong for historical/long term trends, other factors might be number of studies showing similar results, variety of peers, ect.

    On the night, facts need to be short and powerful. Points are awarded for facts that cannot be countered or facts that are proven to be false by other facts.

    Quick terrible example…
    Eg. Guest 1 – “Co2 emmisions by man excede natural emmisions, 20 tons vs 10 tons. (Paper by Gene Wool 07)”
    Guest 2 – “Co2 emmisions by the pacific ocean in a year is equivalent to 10 years of man made CO2, 5 tons. (Paper by Will Dawn)”
    Guest 1 – “I have no rebuttle”
    Host- ” Point to Guest 2, Guest 2 shall now head the debate till Guest 1 can either rebut or Guest 1 concedes to the subject, which in this case is: Man produces more CO2 than nature”
    Subject is won by Guest 2, new subect is “CO2’s involvement in the greenhouse effect”

    Several subjects are set to break down the theory, focus the arguments and used in the final score to announce the winner, I think it would be the next QI, those that are not willing to put their facts to the test of an opposing respected peer, are merely spitting fiction instead.

    Other thing I wanted to let you know, found these 2 articles on the earth might be entering a new ice age.

    http://www.helium.com/items/1837151-why-earth-may-be-entering-a-new-ice-age

  3. Jules says:9th December 2010 at 7:36 pmI happened upon your “blog” because I have alerts for Professor Brian Cox. You can whine all you want, but that won’t stop what is happening. In the end, the planet will be fine, but humans (who soil their environment) will die off.Denying a car hurdling at you won’t make it kill you any less. Rather than wasting all your time and energy spewing at anyone you disagee with you, why don’t you learn some actual science and do something useful.Or continue on your silly path and end up with a heart attack or embollism.
  4. Velocity says:10th December 2010 at 11:04 amJules,Here’s a basic (Under 12 schoolboy) science lesson/question for you, see if you can work it out:Atmospheric content of Earth10,000-50,000 parts per million – Water (vapour)

    385 parts per million – Carbon Dioxide (CO2 to you)

    Water vapour is 20x more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 as well as being 25x to well over 100x more common in Earths atmosphere. (This is not a trick question but an Under 12 schoolboy maths one). Which greenhouse gas warms the most?

    Answers on a Postcard to:
    Shrill Green Empties Campaign
    Al Gore Financial Fraud Towers
    Monbiot Scientific Idiots Street
    The School for Retards
    East Anglian
    AGW RIP

  5. Emanuel van den Bemd says:19th December 2010 at 8:11 amCO2 at the present concentration is just adequate to sustain life . Any more pollution from the 70.000 plus manmade chemicals in our environment and we risk being killed by them . How stupid is that?.
  6. Georgia Witt says:24th December 2010 at 1:27 amJules, Here’s a basic (Under 12 schoolboy) science lesson/question for you, see if you can work it out: Atmospheric content of Earth 10,000-50,000 parts per million – Water (vapour) 385 parts per million – Carbon Dioxide (CO2 to you) Water vapour is 20x more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 as well as being 25x to well over 100x more common in Earths atmosphere. (This is not a trick question but an Under 12 schoolboy maths one). Which greenhouse gas warms the most? Answers on a Postcard to: Shrill Green Empties Campaign Al Gore Financial Fraud Towers Monbiot Scientific Idiots Street The School for Retards East Anglian AGW RIP

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