Monckton submits this rebuttal argument to the piece in the New Scientist Stamp out anti-science in US politics here. He doesn’t expect his rebuttal to be published.
Background: Paul Nurse is a Nobel prizewinner and Royal Society president.
Stamp out anti-science in UK science
By Christopher Monckton
It is time to reject UK political movements that masquerade as scientific societies while turning their backs on science, says former adviser to Margaret Thatcher FRS Christopher Monckton
IF YOU respect science you will probably be disturbed by the following opinions.
On climate: true science may be found in “the consensus opinions of experts” , we can “say with assurance that human activities cause weather changes” , recent variations are not “natural, cyclical environmental trends” , the manmade CO2’s contribution to the annual carbon cycle is not the 3% imagined by the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, but 86% , “anthropogenic climate change is already affecting every aspect of our lives” ,
On freedom of information requests asking publicly-funded scientists for their data: the requests are “a tool to intimidate some scientists” .
On a sceptical interviewer: the force of Sir Paul’s replies had left him “tongue-tied” and had compelled him to stop the cameras on several occasions, when the interviewer had in fact told Sir Paul he suffered from hypoglycaemia and needed to take regular breaks to maintain his glucose intake .
On US politics: voters should not choose Republicans .
You would probably be even more disturbed to be told that these are the opinions expressed not by some climate scientist or politician but by Sir Paul Nurse, the geneticist who heads the world’s oldest taxpayer-funded lobby-group, the grandly-named and lavishly-grant-aided Royal Society.
It’s alarming that a country which leads the world in science – the home of Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin and James Clerk Maxwell – might be turning its back on science. How can this be happening? What can be done?
One problem is treating scientific discussion as if it were political debate. When some scientists try to sway public opinion, they employ the tricks of the debating chamber: cherry-picking data, ignoring the consensus opinions of experts (who, in the peer-reviewed economic literature, are near-unanimous that it is cheaper to pay for the damage arising from any global warming that may occur than to spend anything now on attempted mitigation), adept use of a sneer or a misplaced comparison, reliance on the power of rhetoric rather than argument. They can often get away with this because the media rely too much on confrontational debate in place of reasoned discussion.
It is essential, in public issues, to separate science from politics and ideology. Get the science right first, then discuss the political implications. Scientists also need to work harder at discussing the issues better and more fully in the public arena, clearly identifying what they know and admitting what they don’t know.
Another concern is science teaching in schools. Is it good enough to produce citizens able to cope with public discussions about science? We have to ensure that science is being taught in schools – not pseudoscience such as a one-sided belief in the more luridly fanciful claims of climate extremists. With the rise of politicized science in the UK, measures need to be put in place to safeguard science classes. This has been difficult to maintain particularly in the US.
We need to emphasise why the scientific process is such a reliable generator of knowledge – with its respect for evidence, for scepticism, for consistency of approach, for the constant testing of ideas. Everyone should know and understand why the processes that lead to astronomy are more reliable than those that lead to astrology, or the wilder conclusions of the environmental propagandists adopted as though they were science by the IPCC and naively but profitably parroted by the likes of Nurse.
Finally, scientific leaders have a responsibility to expose the bunkum, not to perpetuate it. Scientists have not always been proactive about this. They need to be vigilant about what is being said in the public arena. They need to be vigilant about what scientific societies are publicising about science in their name, as four Fellows of the Royal Society did recently in forcing a complete and now largely sensible rewrite of the Society’s previously extremist statement about climate science. They take on the Paul Nurses when necessary. At elections, scientists should ensure that science is on the agenda and nonsense is exposed. If that nonsense is extreme enough – as Sir Paul’s ill-informed statements on climate science have been – then the response should be very public.
If scientists and scientific societies in the UK are anti-science and are allowed to carry the day it will ultimately hurt the British economy. The best scientists will head for the established leaders of science, such as the emerging powerhouses of China and India, whose leaders have realized that the climate scare has been more than somewhat oversold. But beyond that, the Royal Society’s present leadership will damage the UK’s standing in the world. Who will be able to take those leaders seriously? Scientists may not care, but they should.
Science is worth fighting for. It helps us understand the world and ourselves better and will benefit all humanity.
We have to hope that the people of the UK will see through some of the nonsense being foisted on them by vocal minorities. It is time to reject – and to de-fund – political movements that pose as scientific societies while rejecting science and taking us back into the dark rather than forward into a more enlightened future.
Nearly all of this article was written by Sir Paul Nurse and published in New Scientist on September 14. With remarkably few changes, the present article comes to a legitimate conclusion opposite to that of Sir Paul. The New Scientist will not print it, of course.
- Nurse, P, 2011, Stamp out science in US politics, New Scientist, November 14, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128302.900-stamp-out-antiscience-in-us-politics.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news
- Booker, C, 2011, How BBC warmists abuse the science, Sunday Telegraph, January 29, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8290469/How-BBC-warmists-abuse-the-science.html#dsq-content.
- Motl, L., 2011, BBC Horizon: president of Royal Society defends AGW ideology, The Reference Frame, January 25, http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/01/bbc-horizon-president-of-royal-society.html
- Jha, A., 2011, Freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists, The Guardian, May 25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/25/freedom-information-laws-harass-scientists.
- Delingpole, J., 2011, Sir Paul Nurse’s big boo-boo, climaterealists.com, January 30, http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=7127.