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A media love-fest

This is a guest post by Richard Drake.

Three minor things went wrong when I attempted to take part in a debate called Has the media failed science? at Imperial College London last Thursday, as advertised on Bishop Hill six days before. One was that the event ran for two hours, not one, as advertised. This helped to make interaction feasible but had a bad impact on what I'd planned for the rest of the evening! Second, no wireless internet connection was provided for those not at the university or in UK academia generally. Third ... well, the third was quite amusing and humour may be in short supply here so it'll keep for later. There were more serious flaws, the biggest of which was that the debate was not a debate. It was a media love-fest, as one of the audience rightly said in the Q&A.

Talking of the audience, I'm bad at estimating these things but I'd say five hundred bowled up. (It was much more than 50 and less than 5,000, to give it a climatic type of confidence interval.) The vast majority were students, the three older people I talked to apart from Richard Black being parents or relatives of students. Putting two and two together, the organisers weren't expecting a vast influx of outsiders but it was a major student event. My own goals in attending were twofold: to take the temperature (yeah) of where one important London slice of academia and media are up to with climate change and to chip in with at least one question that would cause people to think more deeply about the issue. I've no doubt that I achieved both. This report then is partly therapy - to try and come to terms with what I learned about the first - and partly an account of the one brave man who tried to take a different line. (So the second part is probably therapy too!)

Richard Black was an excellent chair, in that he made some genuinely witty remarks. Given the turgid nature of most of the rest, this was essential for sanity. The best presenter by far was Simon Singh. I didn't agree with everything he said about climate, surprise surprise, but there's no doubting his presentational skills. Various of the panel mentioned climate science in passing in their presentations, the four of which took up about 65 minutes, leaving 55 for the Q&A, but it was Singh who really put the boot in, with his amusing and trenchant critique of The Great Global Warming Swindle, made by Martin Durkin and shown on Channel 4 in March 2007.

Singh also had a go at a BBC2 science documentary which had shown a woman in the far east having heart surgery without general anaesthetic, fully conscious, using acupuncture. It's worth I think telling the latter story first, because I totally trust Singh in the criticisms made: namely, that when he checked the story, the woman had also had both local anaesthetic and three of the strongest painkillers known to man coursing through her body. The acupuncture therefore was irrelevant - but it was the only so-called painkilling measure mentioned by the programme. He was rightly having a go at this sensationalist, sloppy and misleading journalism. And wouldn't we climate sceptics be the first to say amen to that?

What was troubling throughout was not what Singh said but the way he and others found laughs so cheaply by making disparaging remarks about the climate numpties (a phrase that happily was not repeated on this occasion). Of course one can have no idea what every student's private thoughts were but the sense that all criticism of climate science was the work of nutters was strong. It was, to be honest, very discouraging. But there's no winning the battle without knowing where the enemy is situated. And, fortunately, I met one student at the end whose attitude was clearly very different. I won't rehearse Singh's arguments against Swindle. I'd forgotten that he'd been copied in on the email to Durkin from Dr Armand Leroi, also at Imperial, criticising the programme, so that he received the famous reply “You're a big daft cock.” One has to admit that's funny and in Singh's narrative it didn't do Durkin any favours. I laughed away with everyone else at that.

Where I made a point of shaking my head in disagreement (I was about four rows from the front and felt morally obliged to do so by this stage) was the old saw about MIT professor of oceanography Carl Wunsch being misrepresented by the programme. (Lubos Motl made some good points about how conflicted Wunsch was, at the time, if anyone's interested.) This was clearly going to be a hard place to ask the right question. But I felt I had a good chance of being selected, because I'd had a word with Richard Black before proceedings began, explaining that I'd heard about the event from Bishop Hill, that Simon Singh had recently called me a climate numptie (I had to clarify this wasn't in a face to face interaction!), that I'd particularly appreciated Black's article on Arctic ice melt in September, which was heavily criticised by Joe Romm (I'd spotted and appreciated its measured tone well before Romm fell off his trolley), and that I used to know Roger Harrabin in my days in Gospel Oak. It was a friendly chat and I felt sure Richard would give me one chance on behalf of the sceptics. Indeed, the moment I put my hand up I was chosen, the fourth questioner, moments before the great Mr Singh had to leave (which was very early - possibly he had also been told it was only one hour!) What would you have asked?

I decided on two prongs: question and recommendation. The recommendation was that anyone interested in climate and new media should take a look at Judith Curry on Hiding the Decline, a professor of climate science whose blog had just gone nuclear. (This line of thought led me to write Five Minutes on Hiding the Decline on my own blog yesterday, as an introduction to last week's debate for the absolute newcomer. Feedback very welcome.) The question clearly wrong-footed Singh and the others. It wasn't a direct attack on the warmist position or a defence of Durkin. It was based on the conclusion to Matt Ridley and Nick Lewis' article in The Spectator last week on the Antarctic warming controversy:

Science as a philosophy is a powerful, but fragile thing. In the case of climate, it is now in conflict with science as an institution.

I asked whether such a situation, where science as philosophy was pitted against science as institution, wouldn't make the job of a science journalist very difficult indeed? Nobody answered this question - because to admit the possibility that in climate real science is in conflict with the institutional kind would be tantamount to er, institutional suicide. But everything went a bit quiet. I knew I'd achieved something when Singh was reflective, I think partly wondering who I was, and didn't immediately launch an attack on the numpties, though he talked for long enough, avoiding the question, to end up with a cheap jibe about The Spectator being liable for a bad science award. One of the BBC guys then did say, to his credit, that there needed to be more emphasis on uncertainty in reporting the climate area. And then the embarrassing moment was over. I'd never kidded myself that I would get a second bite of the cherry. Shouting out "Have you even read the article?" to Singh was I felt only going to confirm the widely-held nutter hypothesis.

Climate was then barely mentioned, until one very strange incident towards the end of the Q&A. A student in a mauve t-shirt asked a good question about the importance of science blogs, where you could actually interact with the host and others. The information you picked up on these was often better than the mainstream media, he felt. Couldn't disagree with that. And then he mentioned a few of his favourites, ending with Ben Goldacre's Bad Science and Climate Audit. Wow. Now that was a combination for the freethinker. I was impressed.

After the event I waited to speak to the student in the mauve t-shirt. But by this time his thoughts had moved on from science blogs to the much more important theme of snogging his girlfriend, very publicly, just outside one of the entrance to the auditorium, on the way to the rather nice buffet provided for attendees. This went on for more time than I'd assumed likely, as I lurked further down the concourse. Eventually I couldn't stop myself, walked up and tapped the amorous fan of Steve McIntyre on the shoulder - only to discover that he had obviously got completely the wrong name; he meant RealClimate. It was not only his embarrassment but the slight whiff of fear at this point that was not the high point of the evening for me. It sounded as if such a terrible public mistake could have been costly.

Happily I later made contact over a glass of wine with a delightful group of three, student, father and uncle, the father involved in reservoir model building for the oil industry and a genuine admirer of McIntyre. It was very good to share impressions there. But until that friendly and intelligent conversation I have to say I found proceedings discouraging. We have a way to go. It makes me value everyone on blogs such as this who is fighting for 'science as philosophy' in the face of such propaganda from so many of our most previously cherished institutions.

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Reader Comments (48)

Richard, this was an interesting an amusing contribution. I had hoped to attend myself but a fall down the stairs 2 days earlier meant I was feeling rather fragile. Imperial College is my alma mater and for those interested I am down to give a seminar to the Earth Science and Engineering Department during the summer term. I haven't the finalised dates yet and don't know if members of the public will be allowed in. Whilst I am sure a few would be allowed in I need to check first.

Whilst I haven't finalised the talk yet it will be on the Earth's climate on a range of time scales from the Phanerozoic to the more recent past and how developments of a new palaeothermometer based on the ordering of carbon and oxygen isotopes in carbonate minerals (so called clumped isotopes) might allow us to define an unambiguous palaeothermometer.

Feb 28, 2011 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Great review, many thanks. And talking of snogging, you should book tickets for the Hertetic now before it gets sold out.


Feb 28, 2011 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I suspect your question was a little above their heads. It would take some thinking about (not to mention soul-searching) and quite a while to answer.

Institutions, including institutional science, are always forces for stultification, conservatism and self-perpetuating self-interest. Always have seen - just read any biography of Richard Owen.

Among those self-serving institutions we can count, not just the Royal Society, but also the BBC and the Green lobbies.

It is no surprise at all then that the struggle for climate clarity is being conducted largely outside institutions and by individuals without institutional affiliations, some of whom are scientists, some science writers and some simply capable of weighing arguments on their merit.

Feb 28, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterO'Geary

The Green lobbies have lost their appeal in Ireland.

Feb 28, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

Thank you Richard.

Imperial College is also my alma mater, but I haven't been back there since interviewing students many years ago. My opinion on "Has [sic] the media failed science?" is a definite YES. Hardly anything I read, heard or saw in the media corresponded to my knowledge from my field of expertise. Generally speaking it always had a clear bias which seemed to be the consensus opinion of the particular medium. Thus I have never taken anything I read, hear or see in the media (including magazines such as New Scientist) with a large dose of salt. Most journalists and reporters do not (or in the case of many, are incapable of) looking behind the headlines and press releases and winkling out the truth. I mean who in the media would mindlessly think that the hockey stick, which completely turned on its head everything that everybody who had studied the historical record had accepted till then, should be taken as gospel without doing a proper bit of due diligence into what it was concluding? Seems like all of the media did.

The media journalists and reporters have to report what the bosses want, regardless of the science. Yes, the media have most definitely failed science.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Like many, my only interaction with the host at RealClimate is to have my polite comments rejected: I guess I failed peer review.

Climate Audit on the other hand seems a genuine forum for the "gentleman scientist".

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Philip, I agree with everything you say. My own experience with the media (Guardian) last February only demonstrates how lazy, vacuous and duplicitous they can be. They are not interested in the science but an on board message.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

Richard, spot on and hilarious as well. In fact I found your review of the debate rather more entertaining than the debate itself….just love the image of you lurking around to speak to the amorous free thinking student who then turns out to have got it ever so slightly wrong. Bless.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterH


I think there is a particular problem with the Guardian or, more precisely, with GuardianEco.

See here.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Excellent question indeed.

But maybe we can expand the flavour even further. Are we looking at a conflict between the discpline of academia and the institution of academia??

Exhibit A:

A video showing leading academics at the London School of Economics, lavishing praise on the Libyan dictator, promised to intensify the row over the college's close association with the Gaddafi dynasty.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

I expect many readers will have already seen this, but Delingpole had a good piece on the 'soft sceptics' like Singh who are sceptical about things which are easy to be sceptical about, such as homeopathy and God, but can't bring themselves to question the climate concensus.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

Richard Drake, it was a wonderful read, Sir. Thank you very much. I had many LOL moments, and felt I was there in spirit.

Your Grace, as you can see, the plebeians can do as well if given the podium. I'd still count on your judgment in choosing what's good for us to read, but, you know, you have to think more about the masses.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx


From that article in the Telgraph:

A spokesman for the LSE Students Union said: "LSE students are angry and upset that university officials are using degrees at the LSE to raise vast sums of money.

Now that wouldn't be the same LSE that raises vast sums of money from Grantham would it?

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I don't blame the media, sure they're lazy and sensationalist, but that's because they want eye-catching copy to lure the readers. The readers fall into three general categories the gullible, the knowledgeable, and the sceptical/synical.

The gullible themselves fall into two sub-classes, those who are predisposed to believe the reports because they support some life view of their own. And those who don't have any life view and believe that politicians/civil servants/'academics etc. are beyond reproach.

The knowledgeable are those who have experience/pre-knowledge of the contents of the press reports, they are in most cases astounded at how little truth there are in these reports. This is on almost any topic, journalists aren't scientists, engineers, doctors or of any other profession, they don't have, or want, a deeper understanding of the issues other than one that can side with the political/social position of their newspapers. The knowledgeable are the most like to splutter toast crumbs across the breakfast table.

The sceptics themselves fall into two categories. Those who have thought the problem through and investigated the issues with which they find fault, on all topics they are generally amazed at press bias. The second group is my favourite, it's the great unwashed, who despite being fed media propoganda on all topics read the articles and say,"Pull the other one", and move on. Theirs is a voice seldom heard because they keep their opinions to themselves, but they are the people we trust on juries, an institution that has stood the test of time, and which while not infallible, continues to treat the evidence they're presented with and make reasonable judgements on it.

These latter are the natural enemies of the metro-elite. They are almost beneath contempt for the Guardian reading lifestyle clique because they eschew pseudo education for their own knowledge and experience of the world. They thumb their noses at their betters in the metro elite, and are now defecting in droves into the sceptic side of the climate debate. Where they go Murdoch will follow, as will the politicians. They may save us from these awful eco-jihadists yet.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Thank you, Richard, for this excellent account, especially for the descriptions of the atmosphere. I confess I opened my eyes wide when you described that student in a mauve T-shirt mentioning CA. I'd have assumed that mauve and CA were unlikely bed-fellows, so I'm glad it turned out he mis-spoke.
I bet that snogging was meant to discourage anybody from asking him about this, as you did!

It would be interesting to know how many students from the Natural Science departments were present. I suspect, not very many, which would have had an influence on the questions asked.

Thanks again for braving a surt of lion cubs' den.

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Dear Professor Dennis, your announcement:

"Whilst I haven't finalised the talk yet it will be on the Earth's climate on a range of time scales from the Phanerozoic to the more recent past and how developments of a new palaeothermometer based on the ordering of carbon and oxygen isotopes in carbonate minerals (so called clumped isotopes) might allow us to define an unambiguous palaeothermometer."

made me sit up straight, because it looks like a brilliant piece of science - something which has been sorely lacking.
I cannot come to London, so am unable to attend your lecture. Is there a way to make it available to a wider audience, perhaps by posting it here, or linking it?
After the lecture, naturally!!!

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Nice jolly piece, thanks.

I'd have said something like... now everyone with any shred of credibility has recognised the hockey stick is a false idol, and that a huge question mark hangs over dendrochronology for temperature reconstructions, what paper does the panel think should be the new mainstay of the IPCC hypothesis. :^)

Feb 28, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Thanks for the article Richard. Interesting reading. It says a lot about the difficulty of getting heard if you have a contrary view.

Part of the problem (a large part in my view) is that most of the media are uneducated in science. They don't know enough to know they should be asking questions. The media struggles with simple science, and are all at sea when it comes to complex multi-disciplinary fields such as climate science. The same can be said of most politicians in most countries - science and engineering are typically under-represented to the point of zero. I won't go into the issue of left-wing bias in the media, as this is probably getting a bit too far OT.

A review of the background of Australia's top 40 politicians in last weekend's newspaper indicated the most common professions were lawyers, union organisers, political staffers / advisers. Plus a musician (Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil fame), a fisherman and a policeman, but none with qualifications in technical areas.

(And I may as well own up as others have - I am also an Imperial alumnus, but consider myself first and foremost a graduate of Adelaide Uni).

Feb 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe S

I have only really noticed Ben Godacre and Simon McSingh recently, my daughter bought me Godacre's book for Christmas. Having poked at their output I at first found it odd. The first thing about it was that the targets of their opprobrium seemed to be people who everyone and his mate in the great unwashed (see above) thinks are odd. It is surely very difficult to be angry with people who believe the Earth was made in 7 days by some supreme being, or that diluting away the medicine will have an efficacious effect on the patient. People who don't believe tobacco causes cancer aren't doing me any harm, and if they so chose could point out that the times when smoking was heaviest recorded the fastest increase in life expectancy in history (I'm not making their case by the way), but whatever their views they are a small minority with no ability to get their message across to the general public. Same thing with people who don't believe HIV causes AIDS, a small non-vociferous group of people who are completely ignored by the aforementioned great unwashed. (Although I do think that Sir Paul Nurse might have made his case a little better if he hadn't have interviewed a man who didn't believe HIV caused AIDS who was still alive, I believe, thirteen years after he'd been diagnosed with it). There are many more out their, mostly harmless and without a voice to spread their views.

Why then, if they won't do you any harm, and they are effectively denied a platform to spread their views anyway, do people like Singh and Godacre (joined by a comedian now, David Mitchell) feel the need to big up their opposition to these groups. Oh, I forgot to mention climate sceptics on their list of humans to be scorned.

Whenever I look for motives I go back to the schoolyard, it always surprised me in later life how many of us remained the same person as the child in the schoolyard. If you do that and remember the bullies, those who tormented others for no reason, but who were able to strut across the schoolyard insulated from punishment for their crimes. Well there were another group, not so obvious, those without the courage to bully, they wanted to for sure, but were scared of the consequences, both physical and moral. Bingo!

You find a minority group, whose opinions are held as "cooky" by the general population, and you bully them. Your schoolboy dream of being able to strut across the schoolyard untouched by the frightened victims, and feared by the by-standers have been enacted. And no one will question your moral right to do so, these people are, after all, not mainstream, and like all bullies you won't challenge anyone you believe will fight back. That's how I view Godacre and McSingh, they won't challenge climate science because they would have to face the backlash of their metro elite and eco friends, so they put out brave signals to these friends that they are tough guys by calling climate sceptics "Numpties".

Schoolyard bullies masquerading as scientific debunkers.

Feb 28, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Viv Evans, and others please feel free to email me at p dot dennis at uea dot ac dot uk and I'll happily send you some more information.

Feb 28, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

At the risk of this becoming an alumnus-fest, I must also 'come out' as an Imperial man (Chemistry). An excellent account Richard, enjoyed your writing.

Feb 28, 2011 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

RD, " I knew I'd achieved something when Singh was reflective, I think partly wondering who I was, and didn't immediately launch an attack on the numpties, though he talked for long enough, avoiding the question, to end up with a cheap jibe about The Spectator being liable for a bad science award. One of the BBC guys then did say, to his credit, that there needed to be more emphasis on uncertainty in reporting the climate area."

Perhaps the reason they didn't answer the question was because they didn't understand it.

Singh's problem is that he sees himself as a champion of refutting bogus scientific claims whilst holding dear his faith in climate pseudo-science. He is no different from those who express both faith in god(s) and the scientific method.

Max Plank, the famous German physicist, once said that science and religion, together, waged war against sceptics and dogmatists, unbelievers and the superstitous. Simon Singh is in good company being able to hold two opposing views and being faithful to them both.

In an amusing anecdote Simon Singh once showed how confusing mathematics with biblical morality can prove anything you want;

Step 1.The teletubbies are a product of time and money so… Teletubbies = Time X Money

Step 2.And since time is money… Teletubbies = Money X Money or Teletubbies = Money^2

Step 3.However since money is the root of all evil then… Teletubbies = Evil

Simon Singh in describing CAGW sceptics as eco-numpties has made an example of himself in trying to apply logic to his own misplaced climate theology. He is no champion of science.

Feb 28, 2011 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Richard Drake

Thank you. Lucid and informative. Conclusion unsurprising though. Opinion formers and the bien pensants know that the science is settled.

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Interesting report. I'm an Imperialist too (physics). Maybe we should start an alumni sceptic group ;-)
I doubt Oxburgh will want to be a member.

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

Hell's Bells "Fred"... I reckon we've got them outnumbered!! :-)

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPogo

You could call yourselves the Empirical Imperialists.

At the risk of lowering the tone, but broadening the demographic, could I just say Scumbag College?

(I did get a first though).

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Thanks Richard

Like others, I have been recently introduced to the Simon Singh/Ben Goldacre brand of scepticism recently. But my introduction has been via this forum (for which I am very grateful), I didn't know anything about these swollen heads before. We sure are talking about them frequently.

Singh is still trapped in the period when he tried to take on Martin Durkin and got his thing handed back to him?

If you are a famous person (with a big ego), you *will* become a warmist if a skeptic dishes it out to you like that. Must have really affected him.

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Shub - that's a good explanation, it's certainly difficult to find much scientific rationality in Singh's stance.

I'd like to see the lot of them (Singh, Goldacre, Beddington, Nurse, Oxburgh et al) sit down and watch Prof Muller's take on climategate - - to see if they would still defend the pseudo-scientists.

Feb 28, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Piers Corbyn could be the alumni sceptic group leader.

Feb 28, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Thanks for all the feedback, especially you Imperialists. No time now to respond - but will later this afternoon. The schoolboys who weren't brave enough to be bullies strikes me as way too close to the mark geronimo. But some are genuinely misled. For their sake we need to keep our nerve.

Feb 28, 2011 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks for an excellent post and likewise comment thread. From another reprobate from IC.

Feb 28, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

I dropped out of Imperial. does that count?

Feb 28, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Yes, excellent review, thank you Richard. Amusing as well as informative.

Impressive to see the number of Imperial College alumni commenting. A grouping of sceptical alumni is an interesting idea, and Empirical Imperialists not a bad title. I'm afraid that I'm a Cambridge man myself (maths, and some physics).

I note that Simon Singh made "a cheap jibe about The Spectator being liable for a bad science award". I wonder what 'bad science' he thought there was in my and Matt Ridley's 'Breaking the ice' article?

Feb 28, 2011 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic Lewis

Yep! Once you're in, you're an Imperialist for life.

I did go somewhere more ivy-covered afterwards, but I still retain a soft spot for Imperial. I especially like the fact that it's not a stuffy pretentious place.

Feb 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

@ Fred

You mean while there you didn't carry a teddy bear around, wear a beige cotton suit and observe the world from beneath a floppy fringe?

Feb 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Maybe, and I am just guessing here, SS was referring to JD's article on homeopathy which was in the same issue.

You are so right!

Feb 28, 2011 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

Nic Lewis

Do please get in touch with Singh and ask him to clarify where exactly the 'bad science' was. Really.

If you would be kind enough to post his response (with his permission, of course) I'm sure there would be widespread interest here.

For now, I am as puzzled as you are. I have read your and Ridley's piece on Steig and O'Donnell, but perhaps I missed something. Or perhaps Singh is so very much more knowledgeable than either of us that we both did.

Feb 28, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Nic: I don't think from his demeanour that Singh (or any of the panel) had read your article. That's part of what caught him off guard. One thing I didn't say was that in his initial response he made a point of saying that he wasn't an expert in climate science (or in a number of other fields). I felt at that point that I'd convinced him that I knew more than he did. (We can all play at that game!) Later, as he realised he was appearing rather weak to his gathered fans he groped for the right putdown and talked of a bad science award which might apply to the Spectator - not definitely. I mentioned both you and Matt but (without respect!) it would have been Matt's name that registered with these guys - and they know Ridley is not an idiot. They would feel superior to Delingpole and I agree with Fred that Dellers was probably seen as the easy target, whether for his take on homeopathy or earlier stuff.

It's important because, dealt with in the right way, you could generate more interest in your article, which I think was brilliant - presumably a combination of Cambridge maths and journalistic savvy. Thanks for the inspiration when I most needed it!

Feb 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

And I’m sorry, but homeopathy just ain’t that big a deal.

Feb 28, 2011 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I confess too - I teach a little bit as a guest lecturer at Imperial College in the Earth Science and Engineering Department.

Paul Dennis - I would be very interested to know when you are going to present in the summer term as I would like to attend.

Feb 28, 2011 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist


Paul Dennis provides the key information you need at 10:35am above.

Feb 28, 2011 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"I don't blame the media, sure they're lazy and sensationalist, but that's because they want eye-catching copy to lure the readers. The readers fall into three general categories the gullible, the knowledgeable, and the sceptical/synical...".--geronimo

Eye-catching copy? What could be more eye-catching than "GLOBAL WARMING REVEALED AS HOAX OF THE MILLENNIUM." No, I think the problem lies everywhere else, as do the media.

Feb 28, 2011 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Good thread for this interested reader. Here are four items that interest me:

The big cock. For avoidance of doubt this was Durkin's verdict on his friend Dr. Armand Leroi. Simon Singh was copied but no implication can be drawn that his cock was judged to be as big or as daft. Knowing men, this may indeed have been the problem.

Argument from authority. My question worked because it aimed straight at this and I only just realised, I'm that slow. But it's worth thinking about. Much was said by the panel about the vast majority of climate scientists, blah blah, as always. Didn't want to bore you with that. But Ridley and Lewis' ending aims right for the vitals on this and scores a direct hit.

Homeopathy. I'm 100% supportive of Delingpole on this. In fact it has become for me a defining issue of the new libertarianism. First do no harm and leave the harmless be. But be clear what great science is, for it will continue to do a great deal more good, if human freedom is our watchword. Your thoughts on this are an inspiration, geronimo, including the key point that Murdoch follows the great unwashed, not the other way round. Hannah Devlin needs to get with that programme - a good start would be to learn more from a exemplary journalist, Jonathan Leake, in the News Corp stable.

God. We're going to have to get our thoughts together on scepticism more generally, on how we combine the meek of the earth, as someone just put it on another thread. Delingpole rightly touches on the self-superiority of the enemy - their weakest spot. Houghton and Dawkins together. Interesting. Again, more thought required.

The combination of good science and attention to detail in Ridley and Lewis and the honesty - vulnerability even - of Delingpole in the same issue of the Speccie is striking. Great journalism. But then I seldom buy the thing.

Feb 28, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks for an entertaining read.
Prof Dennis is likely to find more than a full house if 'interested outsiders' are allowed in. Hopefully,
the lecture(s) can be made available to a wider audience - here perhaps.
I attended some lectures recently at Imperial and, judging by the 'notices' around the place, it seemed to be hotbed of 'warmist' propaganda.

Feb 28, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Yes, I meant to say like G.Watkins, I'll be there when Dennis is, like many others, if permitted. The inaugural gathering of ... whatever?

Feb 28, 2011 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The Franconia
Dockside once at Southampton.
Is that close enough?

Mar 1, 2011 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I have only just seen your post in which you modified your comment about Simon Singh in relation to Matt Ridley's and my Spectator article to:

"Later, as he realised he was appearing rather weak to his gathered fans he groped for the right putdown and talked of a bad science award which might apply to the Spectator - not definitely."

On the back of the comment in your original post, I had already emailed Simon Singh asking him to explain what 'bad science' he saw in our article. I've no idea if he will reply.

Thanks for your kind words about the article. I'm glad it proved helpful to you.

Mar 1, 2011 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic Lewis

I too was at the media love-in that night. II was the chap who asked about so many brilliant science programmes on TV being scheduled after the watershed when my sons ( who would love a good science documentary) are already in bed.
I liked your question - it really did seem to phase the panel. Like you, I thought there was going to be a real debate, not the mutual admiration session it turned out to be.
I was sat near the guy in the purple shirt and was going to speak to him afterwards about his admirable mention of Climate Audit, but was put off by the heavy petting he was so enthusiastically enjoying. It's a shame to now find out he meant Real Climate. Despite trying hard, RC have never let any of my sceptic comments past their moderators.

Mar 3, 2011 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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