Monday, January 31, 2011


Last week the BBC aired a documentary on global warming, hosted by geneticist Paul Nurse, titled "Horizon: Science Under Attack." James Delingpole, perhaps Britain's most prominent anthropogenic-global-warming skeptic (his posts typically draw more than a thousand comments each), was interviewed for the show. As one might expect with such a program on that network, Delingpole came off badly. Simon Singh, who writes books and produces shows on math and science (including for the BBC), Tweeted this:
Sorry, but @JamesDelingpole deserves mockery ‘cos he has the arrogance to think he knows more of science than a Nobel Laureate
On his blog, Delingpole responded:
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. . . .

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.
(Singh responds here to Delingpole's post, mainly to a paragraph I haven't quoted. Singh is right that Delingpole caricatures certain of Singh's views, but otherwise Singh's post is dishonest in important ways, especially in its pervasive appeal to authority, and its deliberate mischaracterization of Delingpole's argument. Delingpole slightly overstates his case, but makes it; Singh is too slippery to trust.)

A bit later: As to the question of consensus on AGW, the first eight minutes or so of this video is worth watching:

(Edited since originally posted.)