The Curious Double Standards of Simon Singh

Because mathematics?Singh

I know I promised yesterday that I wasn’t going to post about that ruddy Horizon documentary again but I’m afraid my hand has been forced by Simon Singh.

Yes, Simon Singh as in the popular mathematician and bestselling author of Fermat’s Last Theorem. And also, more germanely to this story, the recent victim of an expensive libel action brought against him by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). The BCA eventually dropped its action – but not before Singh had run up £200,000 in legal costs. Though some it his lawyers will be able to claim back, he’s still likely to lose £60,000 of his own money as a result of his brave, principled decision to fight the case rather than cave in earlier.

I hugely respected him for what he did. He won a victory (albeit a financially Pyrrhic one) not just for himself but for all those of us who trade in robust opinion and who believe that English libel laws are outrageously biased in favour of vexatious complainants, which is why we have unfortunately become a haven for libel tourists, some of them representing unspeakable causes.

As he said afterwards:

“English libel law is so intimidating, so expensive, so hostile to serious journalists that it has a chilling effect on all areas of debate, silencing scientists, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and everyone else who dares to tackle serious matters of public interest.”

Among those “serious matters of public interest”, you might imagine, would be Climate Change. Urged on by the increasingly doom-laden pronouncements of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s governments are presenting taxpayers with the biggest bill in history to deal with a threat they call Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Besides costing the global economy trillions of dollars, the threat of AGW has been used to justify everything from biofuels (which have led to the destruction of rain forests and increases in food prices, especially damaging to the world’s poor) to the blighting of countryside with wind farms and solar panels (which have wreaked havoc with economies including Spain’s). None of this is a matter of opinion and conjecture. It is provable, solidly back by much evidence and I have written about it many times on this blog – with sources and references, which anyone is free to check up on by revisiting my archive of posts.

Yet in the opinion of Singh, the worldwide Climate Change industry is the one area where the robust scepticism and empiricism he professes to believe in just doesn’t apply. Apparently, the job of a journalist is just to accept the word of “the scientists” and take it as read that being as they are “scientists” their word is God and it brooks no questioning or dissent. That’s it. Finished. There’s a “consensus” on global warming. It’s immutable and correct. And anyone who disputes it is a vexatious denier informed by nothing but ignorance and who deserves nothing other than to be hounded and bullied and abused by the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, Simon Singh’s Twitter mob, Ben Goldacre’s Twitter mob, and the shrill nest of paid-for trolls who infest the comments below this blog not to present a reasoned case but merely to disrupt and offend.

Well I’m sick of it.

What sickens me is the hypocrisy of people who claim to be in favour of speech, claim to believe in empiricism, claim to be sceptics yet refuse to accept room for an honest, open debate on one of the most important political issues of our time.

And just this afternoon, Simon Singh – purported defender of free speech; enemy of junk science – joined the ranks of those disgraceful hypocrites with a message on Twitter.

(Yeah I know a lot of your say “Why bother with Twitter”. But Singh speaks to a reasonably large audience of 14,500 followers. His views influence people’s opinion, so it matters)

Here’s what he Tweeted:

Sorry, but @JamesDelingpole deserves mockery ‘cos he has the arrogance to think he knows more of science than a Nobel Laureate

Is that the message Singh really took from the BBC’s Horizon documentary? When did I ever make that claim?

I have no doubt whatsoever that Sir Paul Nurse knows more about genetics than I do. It is, after all, where the field in which he won his Nobel prize. As for science, sure, Nurse has the advantage over me there, too. He has a PhD. He’s a science graduate and I’m an arts graduate. But then I’ve never pretended otherwise. My case is not that I “James Delingpole have taken a long hard look at the science of global warming and discovered through careful sifting of countless peer-reviewed papers that the experts have got it all wrong.”

What I am saying, and I say almost every day, is that the evidence is not as robust as the “consensus” scientists claim; that there are many distinguished scientists all round the world who dispute this alleged “consensus”; that true science doesn’t advance through “consensus” and never has; that the Climategate emails threw the peer-review process into serious doubt by demonstrating how eminently corruptable it is; that there are many vested interests out there determined and able to spend a great deal of money by making out that the case for catastrophic, man-made global warming is much stronger than it is. And on these specific issues I can reasonably claim to be better informed than Sir Paul Nurse, regardless of how many PhDs he has, because I’ve spent much more time than he has researching them and because they are not issues which require an exclusively scientific knowledge to understand. They just require the basic journalistic skill of being able to read and analyse.

Yet despite apparently knowing nothing more about me and what I do than he has learned from a heavily politicised BBC documentary, and maybe heard from his mob of Twitter bully chums or read in the Guardian, Singh feels able to decide that Paul Nurse is right on this issue and I’m wrong. Well I don’t call that an evidence-based argument. I call that dishonest, thoughtless and – given the high ethical standards Singh claims to represent – outrageously hypocritical.

I would be genuinely impressed – and even more surprised – if Singh himself, and all those of his Twitter chums who’ve been harassing me with vile messages, were prepared to read this piece to the end, consider what it says and respond thoughtfully. I don’t mind the occasional ad homs: they have their place in an argument. But if ad homs (and Appeals to Authority: eg “Sir Paul Nurse has got a Nobel prize and you haven’t, ergo he is right and you’re wrong…”) are all you can muster, then it says much for the poverty and ignorance of your cause.

You can disagree with me all you like on whether or not you think global warming is man made; on how much we should spend to deal with it; on whether mankind is a cancer on the earth or a force for good; on any number of issues. But what I can’t abide any more is what has been happening all this week, irresponsibly orchestrated by Sir Paul Nurse, the BBC and their dishonest, ferociously lopsided “documentary”: the frenzied witch-hunt of a journalist and blogger who has done no more than journalists and bloggers should be doing in a free and open society.

Those who can come up with reasoned riposte – or indeed an apology, and that means especially you Simon Singh – I will respect.

Those who cannot are ought to look into their hearts and ask themselves: “If my cause is really so powerful and right and true, how come its response to any kind of criticism is not to engage with it through argument but merely to try to silence it with censorship, appeals to authority, crude character assassination and establishment cover ups?”

Related posts:

  1. Simon Singh: is there anything he doesn’t know?
  2. Simon Singh’s for the joy of solar energy
  3. The curious rise of bottled water
  4. RealClimategate hits the final nail in the coffin of ‘peer review’

7 thoughts on “The curious double standards of Simon Singh”

  1. Richard Treadgold says:30th January 2011 at 8:32 amJames, I had to congratulate you when I noticed just now that your “Curious double standards” article at the Telegraph has achieved a remarkable 2100+ comments (and rising). Many of them are not worth the ether onto which they’re posted, but the mere fact that such huge numbers of your opponents consider your article a suitable pennant beneath which to quarrel magnifies your reputation.

    They are a tribute to your writing skills. Writing is learning. Readers don’t understand that, thinking that they are the ones doing the learning; neither do the argumentative, seeing nothing but the bickering they relish. Only the thoughtful know how much must be learned every time words are set down to be read.

    Your writing is perceptive, fearless and enthralling. To read it is to know you, your subject and myself a little more.

    I hope you keep up your fine work.

    Warm regards,
    Richard Treadgold.

  2. Bronny says:30th January 2011 at 3:48 pmWell, I’ll point out that quantity does not mean quality, 2100+ posts or not. This was a really petty article and makes the author sound like a petulant child. Dr. Singh’s libel case was to make sure discussion can be had without fear of legal reprisals, something from which we will all benefit. But you mention it and then mangle it up in statement about only scientists being able to discuss science based issues. No-one is suggesting those not qualified to high heaven should not have an opinion, but if I had to decide on a consensus reached on a complex scientific issue by a room full of scientists and the consensus reached by a room full of Heat readers then I know which I’d have greater faith in. Unless the topic was about whether Jordan looks better blonde or brunette of course. I do believe that peer review is an essential process in assessing validity of arguments, and the ability to understand the context of the arguments being made and even the precise meanings of the words used. Consensus is a process which does exists within all sciences, however, the very nature of scientific research is not to just to prove that something does work but also to advance evidence that previously accepted statements as not now working and are invalid. It should be about constantly challenging the status quo.

    I am a scientist, but not one qualified in the area of climate variations, but should I want to learn more about the arguments then I know which publications I’d turn to to get my facts. Unfortunately Mr Delingpole many people don’t appreciate that just because you have a lot to say on the subject that you don’t necessarily know anymore than anyone else, and a blog on the web is really not the best way to get the facts on the subject (by those on either side of the argument). By helping to create a pretty nasty environment in which global warming is discussed you are really not doing anyone a favour, and perhaps, just perhaps, it is because you don’t have the rigourous background as the scientists against which you rally. It is this tone and attitude which makes you a vexatious denier not what you are saying. You contribute to an atmosphere where absolutes are stated as correct and discourage people to listen to the “enemy”, which helps absolutely no-one. Science benefits from real discussion, not from sticking your fingers in your ears singing “I’m not listening, I’m not listening”. Scientists are not doing the best job they could do at explaining why the consensus, as it stands, states a certain process is occuring – that’s something they need to deal with. However, I don’t find that your attitude in any way helpful to addressing this issue.

    As for this petulant article anyone can read back on Twitter and see that Dr Singh quite clearly proposed an opportunity for you to discuss the issue of AGW in public, on the record, with experts in the field (because he acknowledges he is not an expert in this field, just as you aren’t). You say “What sickens me is the hypocrisy of people who claim to be in favour of speech, claim to believe in empiricism, claim to be sceptics yet refuse to accept room for an honest, open debate on one of the most important political issues of our time.” and yet he proposed the opportunity for such open debate, but you had your fingers in your ears singing “I’m not listening” and then rushed off to write a really unnecessary and petty article, further riling up the others with fingers in their ears.

    I suspect this is more about your pride and the Horizon programme than you feeling bullied by the mob, but that is unbelievably selfish of you considering the importance of the global warming debate. Perhaps next time you put fingers to keyboard you could consider whether it can make a positive contribution to society and not whether it can help correct one of your petty ego niggles.

  3. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 10:19 pm“Scientists are not doing the best job they could do at explaining why the consensus, as it stands, states a certain process is occuring – that’s something they need to deal with.” – Bronny

    What struck me was the arrogance of everyone except James in the BBC’s Horizon: Science Under Attack programme. Sir Paul asks the American NASA “expert” about climate change models and is shown a double screen comparison of weather forecasting a few days ahead with actual satellite data (no proof that the same model is valid for predicting climate a hundred years hence). The BBC edit it as much as possible to prevent the viewer seeing the differences, instead focussing on the American guy saying “seeing is believing”.

    The same guy also tells Sir Paul that he “doesn’t know” why critics of climate science doubt the effect of CO2 on climate (itself a remarkable admission, since if I don’t bother to learn and refute/correct for criticisms, I expect to be fired), then he suggests lamely with a shrug that he “think” the critics worry about the “details of the temperature record, or the carbon record”. Er, good guess.

    If he had bothered to research the objections further, he might actually find why the computer model is no use: (1) the tree-ring growth temperature data is all suspect because tree growth depends on cloud cover, pollution (including “natural” volcanic dust and chemicals like sulphur dioxide) and rain as well as air temperature, and (2) increased temperatures cause increased evaporation, which isn’t going into increased low level air humidity (according to measurements since the 1940s), so apparently is going into increased cloud cover instead. This usually reflects sunlight back, regulating climate.

  4. Nige Cook says:31st January 2011 at 10:31 amJames, can you sometime write something about the fraud in superstring theory, please? It’s a perfect analogy to the history of the global warming groupthink scam. The best place to start is with Dr Peter Woit, :

    “For the last eighteen years particle theory has been dominated by a single approach to the unification of the Standard Model interactions and quantum gravity. This line of thought has hardened into a new orthodoxy that postulates an unknown fundamental supersymmetric theory involving strings and other degrees of freedom with characteristic scale around the Planck length. […] It is a striking fact that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this complex and unattractive conjectural theory. There is not even a serious proposal for what the dynamics of the fundamental ‘M-theory’ is supposed to be or any reason at all to believe that its dynamics would produce a vacuum state with the desired properties. The sole argument generally given to justify this picture of the world is that perturbative string theories have a massless spin two mode and thus could provide an explanation of gravity, if one ever managed to find an underlying theory for which perturbative string theory is the perturbative expansion.”

    – Quantum Field Theory and Representation Theory: A Sketch, Dr Woit, 2002 arxiv paper,

    Please see Dr Woit’s continuing blog exposing lying hype, Not Even Wrong. His latest post is “Is the Multiverse Immoral?” which contains the very telling comment from the “Crackpot Index” inventor, Dr John Baez:

    “Maybe a branch of science is ripe for infection by pseudoscience whenever it stops making enough progress to satisfy the people in that field: as a substitute for real progress, they’ll be tempted to turn to fake progress. One could expect this tendency to be proportional to the loftiness of the goals the field has set for itself… and to the difficulty its practitioners have in switching to nearby fields that are making more progress.”

  5. Bert says:1st February 2011 at 3:09 amJamie

    After you have seen off the ‘warmists,’ and have put exposed the deceit of string theory, please could you set the record straight on the conspiracy that the earth revolves around the sun. Then could you prove that England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final never actually crossed the line?
    What a hero you are.. What a man!

  6. Nige Cook says:1st February 2011 at 10:05 am“please could you set the record straight on the conspiracy that the earth revolves around the sun”


    It’s just a hoax that the sun is the centre of the universe. Einstein’s relativity says that there’s no preferred frame of reference: the laws of physics work for either a sun-centred universe or an earth-centred universe.

  7. Pingback: Climate change and the traditional skeptics: An opinion study « Shub Niggurath Climate

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Oh No, Not Another Unbiased BBC Documentary about ‘Climate Change’…

A distinguished institution falters

Little known fact: there was an era when the Royal Society represented something more than the official scientific spokesman for Greenpeace

Little known fact: there was an era when the Royal Society represented something more than the official scientific spokesman for Greenpeace

The new president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse has been crowing to the Guardian’s environment pages about how he bested me in a documentary for the BBC on Climate Change. This isn’t how I remember it.

Nurse came to interview me at my home last summer, ostensibly – so his producer assured me – as a disinterested seeker-after-truth on a mission to discover why the public is losing its faith in scientists. “Not scientists,” I replied. “Just ‘climate scientists.'” But as is clear from the Horizon documentary Nurse had already made up his mind. That’s why about the only section he used out of at least three hours’ worth of footage is the one where he tosses what he clearly imagines is the killer question: Suppose you were ill with cancer would you wish to be treated by “consensus” medicine or something from the quack fringe?

As you’ll see in the programme, this took me rather by surprise. Nurse had come posing as an open-minded investigator eager to hear why Climategate had raised legitimate doubts about the reliability of the “consensus” on global warming. Instead, the man I met was a parti-pris bruiser so delighted with his own authority as a proper Nobel-prizewinning scientist that he knew what the truth was already. And to prove it, here was a brilliant analogy which would rubbish the evil climate deniers’ cause once and for all!

But Nurse’s analogy is shabby, dishonest and patently false. The “consensus” on Climate Change; and the “consensus” on medical care bear no similarity whatsoever.

In the field of medicine, treatments are tested in a semi-open market. Those with more favourable outcomes (the patient gets better) will quickly gain popularity over those with less favourable outcomes (the patient gets worse). Sure there are market distortions (eg the vast marketing budgets and rampant greed of the big drug companies; inefficiency and incompetence in the public healthcare sector), but generally in the field of medicine, the “consensus” on what constitutes good, bad or indeed “quack” treatment is a fair representation of the facts as they are currently known and empirically tested.

The “consensus” on ‘Climate Change’, by contrast, is a figment of Al Gore’s – and, I’m sorry to say, Sir Paul Nurse’s – imagination. It exaggerates the number of scientists who believe in Man Made Global Warming and it grotesquely underestimates the number who have many good reasons for suspecting that there is far, far more to “Climate Change” than anthropogenic CO2.

What’s more such “consensus” as there is is an artificial construct. It has not been subjected to the rigour of an open or even semi-open market. It is the creation, almost entirely, of politically-driven funding from US government, from various UN bodies, from the EU, from left-leaning charitable foundations on a scale unprecedented in the history of science. So far, in real terms, no less than five times the amount of the Manhattan Project has been squandered on research into AGW. For that kind of money you can buy an awful lot of scientists prepared to suspend any belief they might have that global warming is anything other than man-made. (I put this point to Nurse but he wasn’t having it. As a scientist he just “knew” that scientists didn’t behave like that.)

But you can’t say all that in a TV friendly sound bite. And even if I’d managed, it would no doubt have ended up with the rest of the three hours’ of reasonably cogent argument I made to Nurse – on the cutting room floor.

At the end of the programme, Nurse argues that it is vital that the quest for scientific truth should be divorced from politics. I don’t think he’ll find anyone in the ‘sceptic’ community who disagrees with him on that. What’s depressing is that he seems to have reached this conclusion in defiance of almost everything he has said in the previous hour.

In Nurse’s Weltanschauung, NASA’s temperature records must correct because, well just look at all those spiffy satellite charts this nice man from NASA is showing me and he’s a proper scientist so he should know; and Phil Jones is clearly a man more sinned against than sinning, because look here he is all broken and rueful (and he’s a proper scientist, you know, unlike all those deniers) telling me why Climategate was about how a few innocent emails were distorted by horrid deniers.

Meanwhile, according to Nurse and his execrable documentary, climate change “deniers” are on a par with people who don’t believe that AIDs is caused by the HIV virus and people who destroy GM crops (eh??? Since when did we have any truck with those eco-loons?). Is this really the level of intellectual sophistication we might have hoped for from the new president of the world’s most distinguished scientific association?

Or rather, of the world’s ex- most distinguished scientific association. As I’ve reported before, the Warmist bias of the Royal Society has become such a standing joke that last year 43 of its fellows wrote in to complain. Under its two previous presidents, Lord May and Lord Rees, it has tossed aside its traditions of lofty neutrality and eagerly embraced a new role as political activist for the green lobby.

Perhaps there was a time when this made some kind of warped sense. But with no ‘global warming’ since 1998, a succession of bitter winters, scandals cropping up every day about everything from Met Office incompetence to skullduggery in the EU carbon trading business, growing doubts in the scientific community about the validity of climate models, demands in the US for law suits against dodgy client scientists, and increasing public scepticism, it is only a matter of time before the AGW industry collapses and all those people who associated themselves with it suddenly look very foolish.

With his new documentary Nurse has sent out a signal that, bright boy though he thinks he is, he is happy to be taken for one of those fools. If he wants to join the Warmist lemmings on their final dash, that’s his look out. But what a pity for the rest of us that he’ll be taking the credibility of the Royal Society over the cliff with him.

Related posts:

  1. Sir Paul Nurse’s big boo boo
  2. Sir Paul Nurse – saviour of the universe!
  3. I’d rather stick my hand in a bag of amphetamine-injected rattlesnakes than put my trust in tonight’s BBC Panorama documentary on ‘Global Warming’
  4. Why the BBC cannot be trusted on ‘Climate Change’: the full story

12 thoughts on “Oh no, not another unbiased BBC documentary about ‘Climate Change’…”

  1. R.N. Quayle says:26th January 2011 at 3:15 amNurse was a coward.

    He should have taken on the MMR-deniers.

    ie. the thousands of mothers of U.S. & UK children,
    who developed autism & chronic bowell disease,
    within hours/days of being MMRd.

    Pure coincidence of course.

  2. Steve Win says:26th January 2011 at 11:40 pmOh Mr Delingpole, how utterly and completely wrong you are.

    Sir Paul Nurse made you look EXACTLY as you are. A complete and total ass. Clearly you don’t remember it because most of the time you were so interested in the only subject that interests you. I refer to you of course. Arrogant, self centred but best of all, ill informed which came across very clearly.

  3. Groper says:27th January 2011 at 8:04 amHey Jimbo, no point in sour grapes. I think it’s the fault of BBC Horizon for using a mickey mouse denialist instead of an informed sceptic. Still, Jimbo, at least you provided a great comedy moment for the world to see… keep it up bon3head.
  4. Ratty says:27th January 2011 at 1:22 pmJames, I thought that Nurse was far too easy on you. Perhaps that expression on his face was one of sad resignation, like you’d find when dealing with a child who just can’t grasp a basic idea.

    Just because a whole range of people disagree with your point of view, doesn’t make it a conspiracy or a biased presentation. It just means you’re wrong! Maybe you should take stock of the things you write and see if you are really aiding the debate on climate science or just promoting a half-baked and ill-informed view of the world that you’ve formed for yourself without really understanding the bigger picture, or how to disseminate the information you trawl through. I can’t imagine you having the character to admit to your shortcomings or admit where you don’t know enough to make a valid comment. Please do the world a favour and either quietly slip away or brand all your output with the health warning “not qualified to comment”.

    If that all sounds very patronising, it’s meant to be.

  5. Keith Gale says:27th January 2011 at 5:57 pmUnfortunately James you’ve fallen into the trap of dignifying one of these intellectually challenged myopics with a response. The Dawkins method is more efficient. Treat them as lunatics and let them rant. I have no doubt that within a few years most of them will have disappeared back into the woodwork denying they ever said anything. Exactly like the eugenics fans. Monbiot seems to be heading that way.
    It’s very sad that most people get all their information from the media and never question any of it. I’m including scientists in “most people”. We tend to think of them as brilliant academics who go around discovering wonderful things and indeed some of them are but the other 99% are very dull, unimaginative, quite thick and desperately trying to come up with an original thought. “Science”, our knowledge of the universe, is massive and populated by specialists. Experts in one small field with just a basic knowledge of the rest of it and no hope of ever catching up.
    This Nursey chap seems to be a scientist on his mothers side. In fact to call yourself a scientist and deride the opinions of others is a form of fraud.
    A debate exists if you look and looking objectively at both sides it becomes painfully obvious that we don’t have a clue what the climate will do. The statistics and numbers thrown around by the IPCC are desperate guesstimates to keep the funds coming and the pollies going. Just like the scientists there are very few of these who are aware of anything outside their own little worlds.
  6. Nige Cook says:27th January 2011 at 10:09 pmHi James,

    I’ve made a You Tube video pointing out the deceptions in Sir Paul Nurse’s climate documentary documentary:

    (It’s also embedded at the top of my latest blog post about the lies on the physics of the effects of nuclear weapons: )

    Kind regards,

    Nige Cook

  7. Marco says:28th January 2011 at 9:36 pmJames I just saw the bbc horizon documentary. Do you really think that you need to tell a Nobel Laureate where science is going, as if you know more about these things than you? It makes you look like a total and utter muppet.
  8. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 6:02 pmMarco,

    I think that the situation is actually the other way around.

    If you watch the video carefully, it seems that the Nobel Laureate and Royal Society president, Sir Paul Nurse, was the one who visited James for a chat and asked his opinion.

    The whole problem with the video is that he chose to visit critics and persuade them to change their mind by arguing that cancer is analogous to the question of whether humanity can adapt to climate change.

    He ignores all of facts, and falsely claims that nobody knows why tree ring data fails to match air temperatures since 1960. Actually, tree ring growth is not directly related to air temperature alone, but depends on rainfall, humidity, smog (absorbing sunlight), cloud cover, etc., etc. You can verify this by looking at trees in the shade (on the northern slopes of hills) and trees in parched areas. The tree ring sizes only correlate to air temperature if all other factors are constant, which they never are (outside the lab).

    Why did Sir Paul Nurse interview a journalist to find out about climate change? You must ask yourself that! Answer: it was a hatchet job, with pre-planned silly questions about consensus being science. Nurse goes wrong in defending status quo by showing off Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s Origin of Species in the library scene: these were revolutionary works which emerged not from “groupthink” consensus, but from individuals refuting groupthink consensus!

    Evolution and the laws of motion were not the result of “stamp collecting” by a team effort, they were essentially the work of individuals, fighting against authority (Aristotle’s authority in Newton’s case, the Bible in Darwin’s).

    All tree ring temperature data is false because it 1. fails to fit the records since 1960, 2. ignores cloud cover and shade variations over the years, 3. ignores dust and chemical smog, 4. ignores variations in rainfall rates, and 5. ignores variations in wind patterns over the years.

    Dr Phil Jones can’t seriously believe tree ring data, and nor can Sir Paul Nurse. Similarly, cloud cover blocks reliable surface air temperature global averaging by satellite measurements, while weather station data can be affected by local sources of heat pollution (unrelated to global CO2 effects). If we look at the actual sea rise rate, it is 20 cm over the past century (0.20 cm/year) compared to 120 m over the past 18,000 years (0.67 cm/year average). This is misleading, because the a lot of the 120 m rise occurred over a shorter period of time, at an even faster rate than 0.67 cm/year.

    Therefore, the current rate of global warming sea level rise is trivial compared to natural rates. We can adapt to it. The “big lie” of eco-evangelism is that we must try to fight global warming, not adapt to it. Physicist Dr John Baez points out that many simple solutions exist, like nuclear power. Some of the propaganda from New Scientist is neatly exposed by Dr Helene Guldberg (an Open University lecturer) in her 2001 article Eco-evangelism, , states:

    “Jeremy Webb, editor of the New Scientist, started by emphasising that human beings have ‘as much destructive potential’ as that which brought about former mass extinctions – where up to 90 percent of species were wiped out. Just look at BSE (What? How many bovine species have gone extinct as a result of BSE?), HIV (Again, what does this tell us about the human destructive potential?) and global warming (But, Jeremy, the history of the planet has been one of far greater temperature fluctuations than those predicted for the coming century). …

    “When I pointed out that none of the speakers had presented any of the scientific evidence that challenged their doomsday scenarios, Webb just threw back at me, ‘But why take the risk?’ What did he mean: ‘Why take the risk of living?’ You could equally say ‘Why take the risk of not experimenting? Why take the risk of not allowing optimum economic development?’ But had I been able to ask these questions, I suppose I would have been accused of being in bed with Dubya.

    “One of the speakers responded to my point, that there is evidence that the air is cleaner today than several decades ago (rather than ‘being turned into a sewer’). Yes, she said, that may be true, but clean air can also be a problem.”

  9. David A says:29th January 2011 at 10:13 pmJames: I tried to post this on your Daily Telegraph blog, but without success:

    Here is a short excerpt from the Horizon programme. I would be interested to learn how much editorial control Sir Paul had on the final programme. I can state categorically that I don’t trust the integrity of the BBC on any issue whatsoever and on any subject whatsoever, especially the biased so-called News.

    Sir Paul Nurse:
    “As a scientist, I find Tony’s [HIV does not CAUSE AIDS] views hard to understand.”

    The following is slightly edited. He brilliantly (in my opinion) explains why correlation on its own is not the same as proof of causation and unwittingly (in my opinion) makes the case for the skeptics. Essentially, he is arguing against himself.

    Sir Paul Nurse:
    “However, there may be a link between how he approaches the evidence for the causes of AIDS, and how some climate skeptics may look at the causes of Global Warming. Problems arise when you are studying complex data and trying to distinguish cause from effect. Understanding what causes what in complex systems like biology that I study, or climate, can be really difficult. Let me illustrate that, here. Imagine that each of these poles [shows three poles] are different events ; events “A” “B” and “C” . . .
    Event “A” causes event “B”. Event “A” also causes event “C”. But if you are a scientist [and] you don’t know anything about event “A” and you are simply studying “B” and “C”, then what you will see is that after a certain period of time you will see “B” and always (or nearly always) you will see “C” a certain time afterwards. It would be a natural consequence to think that “B” might CAUSE “C” when that is absolutely not the case. Here is a concrete example ; smoking and lung cancer. Let’s imagine that event “A” here [the cause] is smoking; let’s imagine that event “B” is yellow teeth that occurs after a certain amount of time and let’s imagine that event “C” is lung cancer. You could, perhaps, imagine, as a scientist, that you observe yellow teeth and then you observe lung cancer and maybe [conclude that] yellow teeth causes lung cancer. That’s obviously nonsense but if you didn’t know about smoking, then you could perhaps be led into that erroneous conclusion. So that’s the problem with complexity; that’s the problem with working out what causes what.”

    “There’s an overwhelming body of evidence that says WE are warming our planet. But complexity allows for confusion and for alternative theories to develop. The only solution is to look at all the evidence as a whole. I think some extreme skeptics decide what to think first and then cherry-pick the data to support their case. We scientists have to acknowledge we now operate in a world where point-of-view, not peer review holds sway.”

    The following is a GROSS simplification of the mechanism of CAGW. Sir Paul did NOT say the following but it follows his general argument about separating cause and correlation:

    “Here is a concrete example ; the Sun and global temperature rise. Let’s imagine that event “A” here [the heat engine] is primarily the Sun; let’s imagine that event “B” is the increase in carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere after the consequent heating of the oceans by the increasing heat output from the Sun after a certain amount of time and let’s imagine that event “C” is the global atmospheric temperature rise caused by the Sun. You could, perhaps, imagine, as a scientist, that you observe increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere [increasing carbon dioxide is released from a warming ocean] and then you observe an increase in global temperatures and maybe [conclude that] carbon dioxide directly causes [large] temperature increases rather than the Sun. That’s obviously nonsense, but if you didn’t know that the heat from the Sun warms the oceans and indirectly increases the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then you could perhaps be led into that erroneous conclusion.”

    It seems to me that Sir Paul is arguing that, if a consensus of scientists shows a good correlation between HIV and AIDS or else a good correlation between carbon dioxide and global temperature rise, then that correlation is proof of causation – a consensus of correlation is equivalent to proof of causation.

    Again: the above analogy is a GROSS simplification of climate science as it is known by both believers and skeptics.

  10. David A says:30th January 2011 at 10:38 amIn the event that any reader is interested, here are some links to articles describing “HIV is not the CAUSE of AIDS” skepticism.

    The first is by Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Kary Mullis:
    Book Excerpt By Kary Mullis

    The second is an interview with prominent HIV=AIDS ‘denialist’, Peter Duesberg:
    Interview with Peter Duesberg
    By Bob Guccione, Jr.
    Spin Sept. 1993

    The third is the opposite point of view, by Nicoli Nattrass. Notice how similar is the language she uses compared with the language used by warmists when denigrating climate change ‘deniers’. Just mentally change “AIDS” to “climate change” and “HIV” to “CO2” and “denier and denialist” to “denier and denialist” and you would be hard pressed to tell any difference.
    AIDS Denialism vs. Science
    Nicoli Nattrass

  11. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 10:43 amDavid:

    George Bernard Shaw opposed immunization statistical evidence, and distrusted the statistics purporting to show a fall in communicable diseases as immunization increased:

    “He hired somebody to count up the telegraph poles erected in various years … and it turned out that telegraph poles were being increased in number. He said, ‘Therefore, this is clear evidence that the way to eliminate communicable diseases is to build a lot more telegraph poles’.

    “All I would like to say here is that the important point is that if you really want to understand it, you have to look at the mechanism of the occurrence. I think this is where the emphasis should lie.”

    – Dr H. L. Friedell, testimony to the Special Subcommittee on Radiation, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, The Nature of Radioactive Fallout and Its Effects on Man, June 1959, page 1001.

    Dr Phil Jones shies away from provable mechanisms in climatic science, such as homeostasis.

    ct like Venus?

    Dr Zagoni and Dr Miskolczi have proved that substantial further global warming may be prevented by a remarkably simple and provable mechanism: the existing temperature rise in the oceans has increased evaporation and thus cloud cover, reflecting back more sunlight into space, so that on balance evaporated water has an anti-greenhouse effect.

    “Since the Earth’s atmosphere is not lacking in greenhouse gases [water vapor], if the system could have increased its surface temperature it would have done so long before our emissions. It need not have waited for us to add CO2: another greenhouse gas, H2O, was already to hand in practically unlimited reservoirs in the oceans. …” – Dr. Miklos Zagoni.

    Unlike certain other planets in the solar system, our planet is uniquely UNLIKE a greenhouse because 70% of it’s surface is covered in oceans, seas and lakes, so any initial rise in temperature (once the deep water heats up, which takes years due to the high specific heat capacity of water) increases the evaporation rate, forming more cloud which thus reflects back a larger percentage of the incoming solar radiation, thereby regulating the Earth’s temperature like a thermostat!

    If you actually make a greenhouse with an ocean and clouds in it, then you have a model for the earth. Without the ocean and clouds, sorry, the greenhouse is not a model for the earth.

    “During the 61-year period [since 1948] … the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent.” (Dr. M. Zagoni.)

    Hence, the increased evaporation has not turned into infrared-absorbing humid air, instead it has turned into increased cloud cover, which reflects back sunlight into space and keeps the temperature under control. This is why Dr Jones had to keep his data secret and fiddle it under orders from the World Meteorological Organization for their report. “Complicated” is the WMO euphemism for “politically correct”. Dr Jones made his data uncomplicated, and thus politically correct, on WMO orders. James should really go after the WMO bigots.

  12. David A says:30th January 2011 at 4:41 pmJames: You might wish to remove the last one or possibly two paragraphs of this comment post if you consider them “over the top”. Please remove these first two sentences.

    To Nige Cook:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to my post and for the interesting information you have included in your reply.

    Before I had posted my comments, I had taken an inordinate amount of time in transcribing Sir Paul’s remarks about the relationships between cause, effect and correlation. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave much time for the rest of my post. In my defence, I did mention (twice) that my description of climate science was grossly simplified. As it happens, I don’t think that a heating (or cooling) of the atmosphere is directly or solely caused by the actual heating (or cooling) of the Sun, but I do think that the Sun is the main driver of both weather and climate and not the minor greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The point that I was trying to make was that Sir Paul’s remarks could be turned around – the case for the prosecution (warmists) could be turned around to make a good case for the defence (skeptics), as it were.

    I don’t think anyone would deny that climate science is complicated. The warmists magnify any heating effect (from multiple causes) by stressing the positive feedback effects whilst (in the main) ignoring the self-correcting (negative) feedback effects.
    From the information that you have included in your post, it would seem that the negative feedback mechanisms of water vapour/ evaporation etc. can cope admirably in regulating the Earth’s atmospheric temperature.

    Don’t get me started on that odious Fabian Socialist, George Bernard Shaw!
    In addition to being a Leftist eugenicist, he was also an Holodomor (murder by starvation) denier. As most people know, the International Socialists under Josef Stalin intentionally and systematically starved to death millions of Ukrainians even though there had been a good harvest that year. Details can be found on Edvins Snore’s documentary, “The Soviet Story”.

    When warmists imply that global warming skeptics are “deniers”, I rather resent the implication that skeptics are Holodomor deniers. I take it that that is the kind of Holocaust that they are referring to and not the one by the National Socialists?


Comments are closed.

If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him? | James Delingpole

Ben’s a “true believer”Goldacre

Ben Goldacre says I’m a “penis.” He has told his 85,000 or so followers as much on Twitter. I’m also “absolutely a dick”, he goes on to tell his fan base, lest any of them doubt Ben’s commitment to the view that I am some kind of penile appendage.

And do you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad first because a “penis” isn’t such a bad thing to be called. Mine, certainly has kept me very happy over the years; possibly given pleasure to others; allowed me to pee in all sorts of exotic situations which might otherwise have proved tricky; and helped breed two beautiful children.

But the second reason I’m glad is because it gives me a chance to tell Ben something I’ve been meaning to tell him for ages: that though he’s a delightful guy and a massive talent, he’s also a moral and intellectual coward.

The reason I didn’t mention this before is because I think we’ve been observing a sort of unofficial truce. Ben and I met years ago at a Goldfrapp set years ago at Glastonbury. We were both pilled up, we both worshipped Goldfrapp and naturally we bonded instantly. Even though we probably haven’t spoken more than a couple of times since, I like to think (and it may be that Ben thinks differently) we have an affection for one another which transcends our ideological differences.

The biggest of those ideological differences has to do with Anthropogenic Global Warming. In a nutshell, I think it has been greatly exaggerated by a number of special interest groups with an axe to grind: scientists in pursuit of the trillions of dollars worth of funding; eco-charities who depend for their donations on scare stories; leftists using environmentalism to further an anti-capitalist agenda; deep greens who believe man is a blot on the landscape and that he should be punished through tax and regulation; governments and NGOs who see it as a way of raising taxes, increasing control, and being seen to be addressing popular concerns; cynical corporations who wish to “greenwash” their image or make easy money through taxpayer funded scams like wind farms; and so on.

This, essentially, is what this blog is about. I write about all sorts of other stuff too, as regular readers will know. But mainly I see myself as a combatant in an ideological war in which I’m fighting against the tyranny of Big Government and fighting for free markets, small government, openness, honesty and personal liberty.  One way I can do this, I believe, is by exposing the lies and inconsistencies of those who claim the case for AGW (and related eco-perils) is stronger than it actually is. And also by relaying such new pieces of scientific research in this field that sound interesting. None of this involves scientific research, for I am not a scientist and have never claimed to be. Nor does it involve lying or making stuff up because frankly there’s no need. Yes I am polemical, yes I can be abusive, but that’s because I think righteous rage is a useful weapon in a war where so much is at stake: ultimately the freedom for us all to live our lives as WE choose rather than as the fascistic control freaks of the environmental left would prefer us to live.

Goldacre, on the other hand, takes a rather different view. I don’t wish to caricature his position and I’m happy to make corrections where I’m wrong. But I believe he remains committed to the idea that the scientists informing the IPCC’s assessment reports are decent men of integrity; that the computer models showing that man made CO2 is contributing to significant and potentially catastrophic global warming are reliable; that the massive and hugely worldwide costly action being taken to deal with this threat is justified. Ben, in other words, is a true believer in Al Gore’s “consensus.”

Here though, is what puzzled me – and has for a long time about Goldacre’s work. He has put his scientific training as a doctor, and his loose, readable, acerbic, funny writing style to excellent use, first with a popular Guardian column, then with a bestselling book called Bad Science. Goldacre’s schtick is scepticism. He looks at the facts and the evidence behind the junk science that so often appears in newspapers and makes fools of the charlatans behind it. Among his targets, much to my delight, has been a successful nutritionist whom I have always loathed because when I met him he was unconscionably arrogant and rude to me. Many of Goldacre’s campaigns I support. I like and admire what he does. But where I don’t respect him one jot is in his views on ‘Climate Change,’ for they jar so very obviously with supposed stance of determined scepticism in the face of establishment lies.

Whether Goldacre chooses to ignore it or not, there are many, many hugely talented, intelligent men and women out there – from mining engineer turned Hockey-Stick-breaker Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick to bloggers Donna LaFramboise and Jo Nova to physicist Richard Lindzen….and I really could go on and on – who have amassed a body of hugely powerful evidence to show that the AGW meme which has spread like a virus around the world these last 20 years is seriously flawed. And that, what’s more, there has been what amounts to a mass cover-up by most of the mainstream media – in the case of the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent for ideological reasons, in other cases through a mixture of ignorance, or “noble cause corruption.” This is empirical observable reality, grounded in much solid evidence. It is not something James Delingpole, rampant self-publicist made up to get a few extra hits on his tawdry blog. Even if James Delingpole were to stop ranting hysterically about these embarrassing truths they would not go away. They are here to stay and they are growing more apparent by the day. It’s something a man like Goldacre ought to be aware of and covering properly.

And this is what I mean when I talk of Goldacre’s intellectual and moral cowardice. It is certainly very true that the majority of his audience comprises left-leaning Guardian readers, predisposed to believe in the line – heavily promoted by the activist journalists who write for the Guardian’s environment pages – that AGW is a fact and that anyone who disputes it is evil. But stating something violently, aggressively and continuously – as the Guardian and its soulmates at the BBC and Independent do – doesn’t make it so. Nor does citing big names, like the Royal Society or NASA make something necessarily true either. This is a dishonest rhetorical technique known as the Argumentum ad Verecundiam: the appeal to authority.

There was a good example of the appeal to authority on TV last night. Some people may have seen it. It was a Horizon documentary in which a man named Sir Paul Nurse, by dint of the fact that he’d shared a Nobel prize in genetics, and that he was the new president of the Royal Society, was given carte blanche by the BBC to make several unproven assertions on climate change and global warming. One of them was to declare that the scientists exposed behaving badly in the Climategate emails were almost entirely innocent – just decent men getting on with their job. Another was to lend his weight to the idea that journalists and bloggers who have criticised these “Climate Scientists” are simply irresponsible “deniers” guilty of harassment and that they should be ashamed of themselves. Sir Paul will no doubt be delighted to hear that this message – which he helped promulgate in mob-stirring post in the Guardian’s environment pages – was angrily relayed back to me by many of his fans via poisonous emails today. The top bloke from the Royal Society essentially validated the view that Climate “deniers” are just ignorant, trouble-making scum. And his rentamob believed him.

But let’s return to Goldacre’s “penis” tweets. The reason he made them – credit where credit is due -was partly to point out to his fans that he thought the fuss over Nurse’s documentary had been somewhat exaggerated. Though talked up by the Guardian’s environment pages as if it represented the destruction of James Delingpole and everything he and his evil denier chums believed in, what it actually consisted off was this: Paul Nurse puts to Delingpole a slightly odd, unexpected analogy about Climate Change; Delingpole after an awkward pause says he doesn’t think much of the analogy; and, er, that’s about it.

Or, as Goldacre puts it in his tweets, relayed during the programme (H/T Bishop Hill)

delingpole clearly a penis, and he’s citing it for wrong reasons, but “peer-to-peer” review is not an insane idea

god, i’m really sorry, i like Nurse, but this is kind of slow, feels like a bit of a duty watch.

[Delingpole] is absolutely a dick. but that was weak, and if it was their killer moment, makes the press activity of today a bit ugly tbh

well, sorry, delingpole didnt do brilliantly on a question, and fumbled, but they say they interviewed him for 3 hours. thats the killer mo?

if that was the killer delingpole moment that the bbc have been crowing about all day then i’m actually quite unimpressed

I’m grateful for Ben’s honesty in this regard. But I think to cover his back and show he was “down with the kids” by calling me a “penis” was symptomatic of the moral cowardice I find in his writings on Climate Change generally.

Taking the standard BBC/Guardian/Independent line on AGW (and related eco-threats) is a very safe thing to do if your target audience is young and hip and instinctively green/liberal-left. It requires no effort, no thought, and certainly no courage.

If  Goldacre really wants to stick his neck out, why doesn’t he try arguing against a rich, powerful, bullying Climate-Change establishment which includes all three British main political parties, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the President of the USA, the EU, the UN, most schools and universities, the BBC, most of the print media, the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, CNBC, ABC, the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, most of the rest of the City, the wind farm industry, all the Big Oil companies, any number of rich charitable foundations, the Church of England and so on?

I do, almost every day. Not because it makes me money or gets me lots of high-fives from right-on Guardian fans. But because I believe in the truth.

Related posts:

  1. The problem with God is He thinks He’s Bob Geldof
  2. What BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans thinks about global warming
  3. Does even Ian McEwan know what Ian McEwan really thinks about ‘Climate Change’?
  4. What exactly has the world ever done for Britain?

38 thoughts on “If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him?”

  1. Stuart Naylor says:26th January 2011 at 8:27 amAfter the horizon program I am so happy, as it was enough for my long term Telegraph parents to switch papers. No more Telegraph and now a Guardian house.
    Keep it up James your doing a brilliant job.

    PS Ben Goldacre is just so right, I think its the shape of your head.

  2. Don Stuart says:26th January 2011 at 10:15 amStuart, when you grow up and become a big boy wearing long trousers you will look with disdain at your Grauniad and switch to the Telegraph.
  3. John Sturman says:26th January 2011 at 4:49 pmBen is spot on. James – leave true science to those that really understand it, keep quiet in your armchair and don’t be so naive to believe the tiny minority of mostly self interested economists and non specialist ‘scientists’ who try to tease out minor bits and pieces of research/statistics to refute the anthropogenic contribution to global warming. The OVERWHELMING body of global scientific research supports anthropogenic global warming. You are arguing that they are ALL wrong! The cost of doing nothing is MUCH greater than the cost of reducing man’s impact. You are also quite literally playing with peoples lives as the increasing regularity of extreme weather events brought on by global warming will kill people. Sadly, you seem the kind of person who can sleep soundly at night with this on your conscience. You may also have lost the future respect of your children as it is they who will suffer the majority of the consequences should we fail to act now.
  4. Owen Kirton says:26th January 2011 at 6:26 pmJames, I think that your response to Goldacres infantile name calling “sticks and stones will break my bones…….” was measured, fair and intelligent. I admire your patience and resilience in what must be constant attacks from the self righteous warmists. I am with you on everything you say on AGW and I urge you to continue saying it. It is only a matter of time. There are for more people with common sense than indoctrinated evangelists. We will prevail.
  5. Dom says:26th January 2011 at 10:13 pm“If Ben Goldacre thinks I’m a ***** what does that make him?”

    At the risk of stating the obvious… “correct”.

  6. Martin Lack says:26th January 2011 at 10:51 pmJames,

    As you have not responded to my email (submitted via your website “Contact me” page), I am forced to try this avenue to elicit a response… As you yourself admitted on the BBC’s Horizon programme this week, you are not a scientist; you are merely a self-appointed critic of science. Compared to this, even Tony Blair’s appointment as UN Middle East Peace Envoy seems sensible!

    Although it pains me to massage your ego in this way, I do feel you ought to take more responsibility to research facts (as they are) rather than just regurgitate disinformation (as the oil companies want you to)… Those who warn of serious environmental consequences for planet Earth if humankind does not radically change its ways are not trying to spoil anyone’s fun or freedom; they are merely pointing to the truth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (i.e. that energy cannot be created nor destroyed) and the reality of Entropy (i.e. that energy conversion leads to increasing disorder in the Universe).

    You and your kind could do a lot worse than start by reading “The Betrayal of Science and Reason – How Anti-scientific Rhetoric Threatens Our Future”, by Paul and Anna Ehrlich – see

    Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it!

  7. Nigel Kirkby says:27th January 2011 at 4:26 amIs that John Sturman as in Commercial Director at Bee Green Energy Ltd ?
  8. Martin Lack says:27th January 2011 at 11:05 amNigel Kikby: “Is that John Sturman as in Commercial Director at Bee Green Energy Ltd?” Even if it is, how about refuting arguments rather than making lame accusations of bias or vested interest (I think the oil companies are the really guitly party in that respect).

    I am no friend of the Catholic church but, when you find yourself arguing against them AND the scientific consensus (including bodies such as the Royal Society), it is time to re-think your position – or renew your subscription to the Flat Earth Society.

    The fact that climate change deniers cannot agree who to pin their consipracy theories on demonstrates how much they are like those who insisted the Earth is flat; then insisted it is only 6000 yrs old; then insisted that it is orbited by the Sun. In each case, their position eventually became untenable and had to be abandoned…

    Just how much climate change will it take to make you refusniks to come to your senses? John Sturman is absolutely right; I do not think your children will be at all proud of you.

  9. Nathan Perrin says:27th January 2011 at 1:47 pmWere you bullied at school, James?
  10. Chris P says:27th January 2011 at 4:31 pmJames just does this for the money. He sees the likes of Glen Beck, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin making millions of dollars saying absolutely stupid shit that is totally wrong yet appeals the ignorant and gullible.

    It’s what the religious crazies do. He will never change because he can make money off this scam.

    He is to be despised for his negative contribution to people on this planet.

    Libertarians are like that. Selfish.

  11. London Calling says:27th January 2011 at 7:46 pmJust checking. Nothing of any significance to be found from the professional trolls who hover around JD’s excellent blog. Really, why do you bother (apart from for the money)?
    Myself, I couldn’t give a t0ss if there are 1,000 comments rubbishing Dellers. Do you think that’s how people make their mind up on issues – from troll-posts? What a waste of protoplasm you are Chris P.
  12. Groper says:28th January 2011 at 8:05 amBlogs are what they are? Nothing of scientific value can be found from a man who openly admits he doesn’t have time to read scientific literature yet feels he can ridicule scientists. But what can you expect from a libertarian denialist? Except to get “intellectually raped” when confronted.

    So next time Jimbo, stop believing what you write and try reading a little before you start debating. You might fair better than a lemming with its brain removed.

  13. dee says:28th January 2011 at 12:54 pmI’m a little confused.

    1. Do you have any time for AGW or not?

    This from your piece – “Anthropogenic Global Warming. In a nutshell, I think it has been greatly exaggerated by a number of special interest groups with an axe to grind” – would suggest that you do, but you’re saying is that certain groups and individuals are milking it for gain. Or do you really think that AGW is rubbish?

    2. Is it OK to appeal to authority on the issue of AGW?

    When Ben Goldacre and the chap on the Horizon prog do it, it’s questionable.
    When you do it in your article, to support your view that AGW is exaggerated, then it’s fine.

    An appeal to authority is fine if the authority is legitimate, of course. What makes your authorities OK and Ben and Nurse’s dodgy? The UEA lot are just a tiny number among thousands, and I don’t think their data can be written off entirely; how they presented it is the questionable aspect. It seems that some scientists are dumbing down their findings in order to make science more accessible to the public.

    I feel (because I don’t have any data to prove it) that AGW is exaggerated by some, because they benefit from doing so. It’s possible. People are like that. Equally, some may say that AGW is rubbish for the same reason.

    To suggest all the groups you mention in your article are lying, cheating and self-serving is a huge sweeping statement. Where’s the evidence? Your certainty worries me. Unfortunately, you look and sound too much like a ranting conspiracy theorist. It’s a shame, because we need a variety of intelligent, measured views from scientists and non-scientists. At least, I think so.

    Perhaps you just want to encourage debate. Well, you’ve done that, although there’s an awful lot of name calling on both sides, sadly. Must the argument be so polarised and adversarial? Do you think this approach will get to the truth?

  14. James Delingpole says:28th January 2011 at 1:10 pmDear Denise, thanks for your email but I don’t think you quite understand what “appeal to authority” means.

    As I thought I’d explained in my piece, it’s a rhetorical cheat whereby, for example, you say: “Well Sir Paul Nurse is a Nobel prize laureate and president of the Royal Academy and if he says it it must be true.” This was essentially the technique used throughout the documentary: he goes to NASA, is convinced by the glitziness of their equipment and the scienceyness of their credentials; he goes to the UEA and because Phil Jones is a fellow scientist, Nurse accepts on no evidence other than Jones’s say-so that his version of events is correct.

    Can you not see why this might not be damaging for the cause of truth and openness and scientific integrity?

    At what point do I cite anyone as an authority so superior it trumps other authorities? I don’t. All I’m asking is that when research is revealed to be flawed, the scientists defend themselves through open debate rather than bullying and cover ups and – yes – appeals to authority like the one we saw on Nurse’s disgraceful, dishonest hatchet job.

    How exactly is that unreasonable?

  15. Chris P says:28th January 2011 at 4:24 pmWhy should scientists defend themselves against a clueless journalist who can’t and won’t read graphs? Someone who is deliberately biased and confused about facts that are staring him in the face. You wouldn’t understand what they were saying if they tried to explainit to you. And, yes, science makes mistakes occasionally – that what science is all about.

    We don’t “debate” creationism because creationists do the same thing – they quote a stream of unsupportable garbage and expect the scientists to refute every clueless thing that comes out of their mouths. When the scientist refutes the first stupidity they come out with yet more crap.

    N0 – get your own freaking proof that global warming isn’t happening – collect your data give us graphs and explain how the atmosphere really works. With a libertarian brain like yours I’m sure you come out with something in ten seconds.

  16. Frank Tavos says:28th January 2011 at 9:27 pm@Chris P

    It’s clear that you haven’t the faintest idea of what the scientific method is. It’s up to the AGW alarmists, who are purporting to explain how earth’s climate works, to prove their theory. IT’S A THEORY. Get it? It hasn’t yet been proved. Read your Karl Popper.

  17. Seanos says:28th January 2011 at 11:06 pmYou agreed to go on the telly to talk about how science works with the President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse and it turns out he knows more about it than you.

    So you look a bit silly in the programme and then you complain that you’ve been stitched up.

    Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

  18. James Wilks says:29th January 2011 at 5:42 pmThe sad thing about this situation Mr Delingpole is you just don’t get it, do you? if Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh say its right, it simply must be right by virtue of the fact they have said it is, forget evidence. This reflects to my mind a stance, which seems to be simply one of intolerance to any other opinions, views or even an acceptance that we have an ability to analyse and in fact rationalise any information on our own. We must agree or be ‘punished’, which is a bit Orwellian I think. I get the impression that in the world of the Singhacre Skeptics, there is no place for disobedience by having an opinion that contradicts their own.

    I think the real reason of the abusive smokescreen is that they must attack loudly and vehemently in a manner, which will hopefully prevent fair-minded people seeing that they are as fallible as the rest of us. I remember reading on a blog once where a guy was advised to be wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers, as they are either ignorant, arrogant or stupid, either way it was alluded that these people were dangerous to themselves or others. Does that apply here, who knows?

    PS, I have never read the Telegraph as until lately I had always taken the Guardian, but I must say having read some of the nonsense that’s been published lately, its time for a change. You have a new reader!

  19. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 7:14 pm“… wisdom itself cannot flourish, and even the truth not be established, without the give and take of debate and criticism. The facts, the relevant facts … are fundamental to an understanding of the issue of policy.”

    – J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1950

    “Fascism is not a doctrinal creed; it is a way of behaving towards your fellow man. What, then, are the tell-tale hallmarks of this horrible attitude? Paranoid control-freakery; an obsessional hatred of any criticism or contradiction; the lust to character-assassinate anyone even suspected of it; a compulsion to control or at least manipulate the media … the majority of the rank and file prefer to face the wall while the jack-booted gentlemen ride by.”

    – Frederick Forsyth, 2005

  20. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 7:16 pmI’ve just revised my video about the trifling little flaws in Sir Paul’s Horizon documentary:

  21. Chris P says:30th January 2011 at 1:21 amFrank Tavos is clueless about science. Theory has two meanings – in the “theory” of evolution it means the consensus facts that are true.

    You people are just as clueless as creationists – you use the same old twisted words game.

  22. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 12:55 pm“Theory has two meanings – in the “theory” of evolution it means the consensus facts that are true.” – Chris P.

    “What is truth?” – Pilate.

    Chris, did you copy that straight from Orwell’s “1984”? Doublethink is: “to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies … knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it … to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed.”

  23. Seanos says:30th January 2011 at 4:45 pmNigecook

    Thanks for the definition of ‘doublethink’. Here’s the definition of ‘scientic theory’, which is indeed different to the definition of ‘theory’ which is in general useage:

    Frank Tavos is indeed clueless about science, as are you. Did neither of you stop to consider that you might not know what you were talking about before wading in?

  24. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 10:51 pm“A scientific theory comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.” –

    Seanos, Wikipedia is itself a consensus effort. Did it not occur to you that a consensus effort would be likely to produce a definition of science that is biased in favour of consensus?

    It fails to distinguish between the political abuse of “science” by authority which deliberately ignores, covers up or otherwise (perhaps using “peer-review”) renders effectively secret vital facts (“hide the decline”) and a theory which considers all of the evidence. It fails to cover the problem of anomalies. The definition of scientific theory is actually a big discipline all of its own, running from Occam’s Razor to Susskind’s fairies.

    The definition of a scientific theory as one which is “useful” to the scientists crops in in superstring theory, where it’s useful to investigate a 10/11 dimensional M-theory theory with its 10^500 different metastable vacua, since it’s impossible to experimentally disprove them all during your career.

    Like climate theory, superstring theory is here “useful” not in the experimental sense, but in the political sense. Ivor Catt makes the cynical-sounding but all too true observation that groupthink science is very easily corrupted, because scientists don’t live on air.

    ‘The President put his name on the plaque Armstrong and Aldrin left on the moon and he telephoned them while they were there, but he cut America’s space budget to the smallest total since John Glenn orbited the Earth. The Vice-President says on to Mars by 1985, but we won’t make it by “stretching out” our effort. Perhaps NASA was too successful with Apollo. It violated the “Catt Concept”, enunciated by Britisher Ivor Catt. According to Catt, the most secure project is the unsuccessful one, because it lasts the longest.’

    – Robert P. Crossley, Editorial, Popular Mechanics, Vol. 133, No. 5, May 1970, p. 14.

    E.g., compare the Apollo project with the Vietnam war for price, length and success. Both were initially backed by Kennedy and Johnson as challenges to Communist space technology and subversion, respectively. The Vietnam war – the unsuccessful project – sucked in the cash for longer, which closed down the successful space exploration project!

    Scientist even in pure science have to ensure that whatever they do will not result in a P45. If that means building a theory that’s complete rubbish by the use of so-called “peer-review” as censorship of critics, then they’ll do it to survive, just as when the chips go down most people will fight for survival. Ethics are important, but they come lower down the Maslow’s list of human priorities than putting bread on the table!

  25. Seanos says:30th January 2011 at 11:24 pm“Seanos, Wikipedia is itself a consensus effort. Did it not occur to you that a consensus effort would be likely to produce a definition of science that is biased in favour of consensus?”

    Logic and comprehension aren’t your strong suit are they? The wiki article is a perfectly simple and straightforward explanation of what a scientific theory is. Here, read these:

    So we’ve now established that scientists use the word ‘theory’ in a very specific way and this is different to its collquial use, can we agree that no ‘doublethink’ is involved and that making posts without having any real understanding of what you are talking about is a spectacularly idiotic thing to do?

    I skimmed through the rest of your post because it looked like bullshit. If you actually have a point could you please try and make it succinctly?

  26. Nige Cook says:31st January 2011 at 8:52 amSeanos,

    ‘Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.’ – R. P. Feynman (quoted by Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, 2006, p. 307).

    “Groupthink is a type of thought within a deeply cohesive in-group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. It is a second potential negative consequence of group cohesion.

    Irving Janis studied a number of American Foreign policy ‘disasters’ such as failure to anticipate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941); the Bay of Pigs fiasco (1961) when the US administration sought to overthrow Cuban Government of Fidel Castro; and the prosecution of the Vietnam War (1964–67) by President Lyndon Johnson. He concluded that in each of these cases, the decisions were made largely due to the cohesive nature of the committees which made them. Moreover, that cohesiveness prevented contradictory views from being expressed and subsequently evaluated. As defined by Janis, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action”.” (your beloved consensus-based wikipedia is EXCELLENT when it defines groupthink, which is consensus).

  27. Seanos says:31st January 2011 at 8:49 pmIf I were you Nige I’d have a long lie down.
  28. Frank Tavos says:31st January 2011 at 10:07 pm…and if I were you Seanos, I’d fuck off.
  29. Tim says:1st February 2011 at 8:38 am
    Seems the trolls here all have a vested interest in fleecing the taxpayer
  30. Seanos says:1st February 2011 at 10:50 am…and if I were you Frank, I’d learn what scientists mean when they use the word ‘theory’ before spouting off about in public, to avoid coming across as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.
  31. Bernie says:1st February 2011 at 8:47 pmThe only proper response that I can think of is that it’s time for you to call the guy a doo-doo head. Let’s this debate onto a higher plane.
  32. Frank Tavos says:1st February 2011 at 10:08 pm@Seanos I’d have to try a lot harder to come across as ignorant and idiotic , yet pompous and full of himself, as you do. Thanks for the advice, Mr. Science!
  33. DaveDude says:2nd February 2011 at 4:39 amFrank, try and understand, Einstein’s theory of relativity is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the world of the large. Quantum theory is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the world of the very small. Darwin’s theory of evolution is just a theory, but it goes a long way in explaining the creatures we see today. Just as AGW theory goes a long way in explaning greenhouse gases and climate. Scientists like explaining the world in theories, but it doesn’t mean it’s all wrong. So get your science right before debating.
  34. Nige Cook says:2nd February 2011 at 2:27 pmDaveDude, the “greenhouse” analogy is false! When did you last see a “greenhouse” which had sunlight-reflecting clouds in it, formed by the evaporation of an ocean that covered 70% of its surface?
  35. Frank Tavos says:2nd February 2011 at 7:50 pm@ DaveDude. Alright, already! I meant “AGW hypothesis”, not “theory”. Enough with the semantics. The point I was originally trying to make way up above is that it’s up to those claiming that the hypothesis is supported by sufficient empirical evidence to demonstrate its predictive value.

    In the case of AGW, the “evidence” has been demonstrated to have been either falsified or massaged or cherry-picked in such a way that no rational person would trust it. Not only that (and this relates to my Jan 28 admonition to Chris P to “Read your Karl Popper.”) but the AGW hypothesis is a moving target. Every time the evidentiary basis of AGW is knocked out from under it, its proponents simply change the name (e.g.: “Global Warming” becomes “Climate Change”) or the predicted effects of AGW (“the earth’s temperature will rise by X degrees” becomes “the earth’s temperature will maybe rise or fall by X degrees”). If it can’t be disproven or if it purports to explain everything that occurs, regardless of what happens, it is what is known as pseudo-science. AGW is no different than dialectic materialism (a.k.a. Marxism) or astrology, or even Christianity. It can’t be disproven because it does not adhere to the scientific paradigm.

    So, no, AGW does not go “a long way in explaning greenhouse gases and climate”. It may go part of the way to saying that earth’s climate is changing, but so what? That’s no surprise. The very nature of climate is that it never stays the same. It is in constant flux as a perfunctiory examination of climate history tells us. But the most important thing that theAGW hypothesis fails to to do is demonstrate a link between human-produced CO2 and climate change.

    So what it has become is a convenient tool for governments to justify to the gullible, the ignorant and the lazy their attempts to wield more power and take away human freedoms. I don’t know why any sane and rational person would chose to believe the AGW hypothesis unless they have somnething to gain from it; be it grant money or control over the levers of society and the economy or support for their socialist world view. Which one are you DaveDude?

  36. Nige Cook says:2nd February 2011 at 8:39 pm“The very nature of climate is that it never stays the same. It is in constant flux as a perfunctory examination of climate history tells us.” – Frank Tavos

    Spot on! We’ve been in a warming period for 18,000 years. The whole holocene, during which humanity thrived, has been a period of climatic change.

    Much of the Sahara desert was a tropical paradise a few thousand years ago, and it wasn’t destroyed by humanity. The last ice age is still receding. What the natural climate change deniers insist, by lying, is that the climate is a delicate equilibrium, critically controlled by CO2 levels. In fact, the relative influence of H2O, plain old water vapour, is a bigger greenhouse gas.

    However, as always, the eco-evangelists misunderstand this, claiming it has a positive feedback on CO2, e.g. see where James Frank on 2 September 2010 falsely claimed:

    “Studies show that water vapor feedback roughly doubles the amount of warming caused by CO2. So if there is a 1°C change caused by CO2, the water vapor will cause the temperature to go up another 1°C. When other feedback loops are included, the total warming from a potential 1°C change caused by CO2 is, in reality, as much as 3°C.”

    This is what the IPCC computer models say, and is precisely why they’re wrong.

    I blogged about the error over a year ago,

    Summary: NASA scientist contractor Dr Ferenc Miskolczi of AS&M Inc on 1 January 2006 resigned with a protest letter about being censored out, stating:

    “Unfortunately my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science can not coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climatic change related scientific results. … I presented to NASA a new view of greenhouse theory and pointed out serious errors in the classical approach of assessment of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas perturbations. Since then my results were not released for publication.”

    His theory is described by his research associate Dr Miklos Zagoni, see the paper

    NASA effectively banned its publication through the peer-reviewed literature, just as it had used groupthink fear to censor out the effects of low temperatures on making the rubber Challenger O-rings brittle, so they leaked during a cold morning launch, causing the 1986 space shuttle explosion. (This was the big cover-up that Feynman famously exposed with the cup of iced water and a rubber O-ring during a TV news conference, as part of the Rogers’ Commission report into the disaster, which NASA astronaut Niel Armstrong failed to spot: .)

    Basically, Dr Ferenc Miskolczi’s life as a NASA climate research scientist was made hell because he discovered that the extra water vapour being evaporated is not having a positive-feedback (increasing the CO2 warming effect by absorbing more infrared from the sun), instead it is going into increased cloud cover, which reflects incoming sunlight back to space. So it has a negative-feedback effect, not a positive-feedback effect. NASA’s climate computer models all have not merely a quantitative error in the effect of H2O on climate, but an actual qualitative error. They have a plus sign where the sign is really negative.

    Dr Miskolczi’s evidence is that, as stated on page 4 of Dr Miklos Zagoni’s paper , “During the 61-year period [since 1948] … the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent.”

    That shocked me, and made me really angry that nobody is reporting this in the media, and just coming up with straw-man “sunspot” stuff (no offense to Lord Monkton, but that’s astrology).

    “Since the Earth’s atmosphere is not lacking in greenhouse gases [water vapor], if the system could have increased its surface temperature it would have done so long before our emissions. It need not have waited for us to add CO2: another greenhouse gas, H2O, was already to hand in practically unlimited reservoirs in the oceans.” – Dr. Miklos Zagoni.

    The only media report on this scandal is a terribly written story by Dianna Cotter of
    Portland Civil Rights Examiner, “Hungarian Physicist Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi proves CO2 emissions irrelevant in Earth’s Climate”, 12 January 2010, see

  37. Seanos says:2nd February 2011 at 11:26 pmActually Frank you old charmer, I think I will fuck off.

    Being exhorted to read Popper by a man who doesn’t understand what a scientific theory is surely has to be the comedy high point and things can only go downhill from here, so I’ll leave you little Einsteins to it. Adios!

  38. Frank Tavos says:3rd February 2011 at 6:38 pm@Seanos – You’re right, things would go downhill from here for you – because I just obliterated your side’s weak arguments with my last post. You realized that you had absolutely no chance of refuting my argument, so you gave up. Good for you. I like a person who knows when he/she has been soundly beaten. Adios, loser.

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