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« Gagging the sceptics | Main | Days of yore - Josh 113 »

A quote for Paul Nurse

I came across this quote in the transcript of the Guardian Climategate debate last year. It's McIntyre's summing up of the importance of the failure of the inquiries to address the allegations made about the CRU scientists.

If climate scientists are unoffended by the failure to disclose adverse data, unoffended by the `trick' and not committed to the principles of full, true, plain disclosure, the public will react, as they have, by placing less reliance on the pronouncements from the entire field.

The thought struck me that you could delete the word "climate" at the start and the whole thing would stand quite nicely as a message for Paul Nurse, spelling out his responsibilities to science as a whole.

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Reader Comments (35)

One day this will be listened to. The person on whose watch that is will be great.

Jul 17, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I don't think you'll get through to Paul Nurse with anything. I know I shouldn't be perjorative, but he seems an incredibly stupid man to me. He did a horribly unsophisticated Horizon programme purporting to be a programme about science being attacked, when no such thing is happening, climate science is being challenged, not attacked. But then, Sir Paul hadn't done any homework and assumed that the people challenging the climate scientists were stupid/right wing/uneducated, take your pick, but anyone with half a brain would have checked out the position of those challenging the science before making a TV programme. He accepted a gross untruth, i.e. that humans were putting seven times the co2 in the atmosphere than is put there by nature, again showing that he'd made the programme without any research whatsoever, and then finally he tried an incredibly childish trick on Delingpole, asking him if he had an illness whether he'd consult the best knowledge available, or some such rubbish. One is left to assume that Sir Paul thought that was a clever ploy, else he wouldn't have tried it. Again he showed a remarkable lack of insight into the debate, and, as I've said before, conflating challenging science with attacking science. No, not likely to be swayed by anyone outside of the scientific community. If he was a clever man he'd have spent some time with the sceptics in the scientific community, trying to understand their views before dismissing them on the basis that the IPCC is the authoritive voice of climate science when it is merely the authoritive voice of climate politics.

Jul 17, 2011 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


On the nail ! Nurse has done neither himself and, much more importantly, the Royal Society any favours by his crase behaviour. If this does all crash and burn it will be extremely difficult for the RS to regain any semblance of respect.

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

As I said back in February

The decision to hide the decline, and the dogged refusal to admit that this was an error, has endangered the credibility of the whole of climate science. If the rot is not stopped then the credibility of the whole of science will eventually come into question.
I really do wish that Paul Nurse would start to realise quite how risky his current approach is.

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Jones

Perhaps if more scientists than just jonathon and judith and Paul wrote to Sir Paul, he might listened. They can't all keep their heads down for ever can they. Ultimately the politicians and media will blameALL scientitst. Lest they get blamed themselves

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Well, I guess this falls into the category of non-disclosure

CERN chief forbids “interpretation” of CLOUD results

"The results will be published shortly. I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters. "

The results must be favourable for Svensmark or there would be no such anxiety about them.

CERN has joined a long line of lesser institutions obliged to remain politically correct about the man-made global warming hypothesis. It’s OK to enter “the highly political arena of the climate change debate” provided your results endorse man-made warming, but not if they support Svensmark’s heresy that the Sun alters the climate by influencing the cosmic ray influx and cloud formation.

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

CERN chief forbids “interpretation” of CLOUD results

Absolutely mind boggling. Thank you Matthu

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I have also submitted a comment to Sir John Beddington's blog wondering why his examination of risks posed to the UK over the next 30 years did not consider the import of the recent results coming out of Aarhus university (when scientists first substantiated the connection between the sun’s magnetic activity and the Earth’s climate) or the possibility of these results being supported by those coming out of CERN Cloud experiment.

It seems to me that ignoring the impact of these results on the validity of the 'enhanced' greenhouse warming theory is non-disclosure at best. I am assuming of course that Sir John keeps himself abreast of these things.

Jul 17, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

There has been a lot of really stupid commentary lately about how the public should defer to climate scientists as experts. But the public should never defer to a group of people who have proven themselves, repeatedly, to be untrustworthy. What Steve Mc says is absolutely right. Even before the revelations of Climategate, the hockey team had proven that it's members were unworthy of trust by their refusal to accede to even a minimum standard of transparency or accountability. When the rest of the climate science community joined with the hockey team and failed to stand up for accountability they rendered themselves untrustworthy as well.

You cannot be considered moral or ethical if you use your authority to try to scare the hell out of the world to spend enormous sums and yet refuse even the slightest standard of transparency or accountability. These people are untrustworthy. They have utterly failed to conduct themselves in an ethical manner. Their refusal to police their profession, to stand up for minimal standards of quality, at a time when their profession was demanding dominance of policymaking around the world, not only demonstrates how untrustworthy they are, but also calls into question their basic competence.

Jul 17, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

It does not apply only to climate and science, but to everything. It applies to day-to-day business/issues and more in particular to politics. If they are committed to the principles of full, true, plain disclosure, the public will be more willing to accept difficult decisions. If not, governments have to impose more and more harsh measures until the public doesn't accept it anymore. And history will repeat itself.

Jul 17, 2011 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTimo van Druten

“I don't think you'll get through to Paul Nurse with anything. I know I shouldn't be perjorative, but he seems an incredibly stupid man to me”.

I’ve got quite good at countering most warmist debating points, but the one which always floors me is: “So, I suppose you think you’re cleverer than the President of the Royal Society?” What can one say except “Actually, yes, I do”?

Jul 17, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


Suggested response -- "I have no idea if he is clever or corrupt or what. I do know a little about the scientific method and basic quality control. When scientists fail to employ either, the question is no longer how clever they or their supporters are. The question is whether their work is trustworthy. And the answer is no."

Jul 17, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

BTW -- on the issue of transparency and accountability

Climate science is all politics, all the time. In the US, we are presently watching Obama try to sucker Republicans in Congress into letting him increase the limits on his credit cards without agreeing to any real spending reductions. To that end, he has announced to his friends, the news media, that he has offered meaningful spending cuts. The problem is that he won't tell anyone what cuts he has agreed to, not even the Republicans to whom he supposedly made the offer.

It seems that the hockey team and their friends on the political left all play by the same playbook --
1) make dramatic claims,
2) refuse to document those claims,
3) rely on the news media to repeat and defend the claims over and over and over in hopes the public will be fooled into believing them.

Jul 17, 2011 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

@Stan - you are so right.
"Climate science is politics" as Lord Oxburgh said in 2009.

Thomson Lecture and Gold Medal 2009
Climate change is politics. That was the conclusion of Lord Ron Oxburgh when he delivered the Institute’s Thomson Lecture, ‘Climate – where science and politics meet’, at the Royal Society recently. He explained that climate change is the politics of applying scientific innovation to developing options for energy, the politics of big business and government in developing frameworks to encourage environmentally friendly technologies and the politics of international relationships in helping emerging countries to embrace clean non-polluting technologies. The lecture was followed by a lively discussion on energy security and saving the planet.

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

"...Ultimately the politicians and media will blame ALL scientitst..." --Barry Woods

Yer spelt 'scientwits' rong. Or dijjer mean those who, as Matthu put it, "keep abreast of these things."

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

oh the joys of typing on a tiny smartphone keyboard.. ;)
Or indeed, maybe a subconcious slip - scientits ;)

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I googled the title of Lord Oxburgh’s Lecture “Climate – where science and politics meet” and it took me to a lecture by Sir Crispin Tickell in 1998 with exactly the same title. Is Oxburgh’s lecture available anywhere?

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


I’ve got quite good at countering most warmist debating points, but the one which always floors me is: “So, I suppose you think you’re cleverer than the President of the Royal Society?” What can one say except “Actually, yes, I do”?

How about "so you think you're cleverer than Freeman Dyson?"


"are you even stooopider than Prince Charles?"


"Nurse has made great achievements in a specialised field: genetics. He has no more expertise in weather forecasting than Wayne Rooney"

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

@ geronimo: I'd like to think you were right about Paul Nurse in relation to his Delingpole set-up. Sadly however, google 'James Delingpole' and these two appear as the 5th and 6th links respectively:

'The TV interview that tied James Delingpole's tongue' (Guardian)


'Denier James Delingpole admits he can't do science' (

Seen in that light, perhaps not that stupid after all. Seems every other day on here there is something along the lines of 'surely they can't get away with that!'. Well, apparently they can...

Jul 17, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

My tuppence worth,

Nurse is a lost cause I'm afraid. He's hoisted his flag to the mast of Global Warming and he is not going to back down, no epithany is in the offing, no matter how many 'messages' are directed his way.

Being a Nobel laureate is not what it was, it's become a sort of 'turner prize' for silly movies (Al Gore) or non achievement (Obama) - I know these were 'Peace Prizes'. The award itself is contaminated by such things.

I have little knowledge of Nurse in his prior ( pre RS) life, he may have been a competent lab technician, but he doesn't come across as being particularly strong now.

He's had ample opportunity to redeem himself as a champion of the integrity British science- instead he's chosen to excuse/defend/cosy up with the worst offenders. Know a man by the company he keeps.

Jul 17, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

My article at Watts Up, demonstrates how Horizon and Paul Nurse set up James Delingpole..
Take particular note of the tone and content of letter from the BBC producer to James Delingpole..

How could James refuse an interview, he would have been accused of being scared of Paul Nurse.

I interviewed James for this article and he explained in detail ALL the informations that Paul Nurse did not comment on and the BBC left out.

Thus Paul Nurse, is not an innocent here.

Jul 17, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

CERN CLOUD EXPERIMENT- (Acronym- Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets- Project 2008 CERN/FP/83591/2008 )

'I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them.'
Allegedly a quote from Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN.

'In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.'
George Orwell

Jul 17, 2011 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

@geoff chambers

I can't find a record of the talk online either. Presumably the Institute of Measurement and Control, to whom Oxburgh gave the lecture, didn't publish it.

Jul 17, 2011 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Geronimo - you make some good points but would disagree with you that Nurse is a stupid. To my mind his weakness is not lack of intelligence, but that he has allowed his left-leaning political beliefs to prejudice any ability he may have for critical thinking. As you say he has evidently not done any homework on the basics of the carbon cycle, but to do this wouldn't have even occurred to him, as his views on climate science are evidently from a political rather than scientific perspective. To put it in a nutshell, I suspect he naively associates all sceptics with the very small minority who may have had a tenuous connection to the oil industry or Bush era Republican party - classic Guardian mythology - and one which should not be acceptable for the president of the Royal Society.

Jul 17, 2011 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

"So, I suppose you think you’re cleverer than the President of the Royal Society?"

Heh. Which one?

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." Richard Feynman.

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." Galileo Galilei

"It vexes me when they would constrain science by the authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider themselves bound to answer reason and experiment." ibid.

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice." Einstein.

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field." Niels Bohr.

"The first is, to allege the opinions of men, whose parts, learning, eminency, power, or some other cause has gained a name, and settled their reputation in the common esteem with some kind of authority. When men are established in any kind of dignity, it is thought a breach of modesty for others to derogate any way from it, and question the authority of men who are in possession of it. This is apt to be censured, as carrying with it too much pride, when a man does not readily yield to the determination of approved authors, which is wont to be received with respect and submission by others: and it is looked upon as insolence, for a man to set up and adhere to his own opinion against the current stream of antiquity; or to put it in the balance against that of some learned doctor, or otherwise approved writer. Whoever backs his tenets with such authorities, thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause, and is ready to style it impudence in any one who shall stand out against them. This I think may be called argumentum ad verecundiam." John Locke.

or just, "Nullius in Verba".

Jul 17, 2011 at 11:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Iapogus: “[I] would disagree with you that Nurse is a stupid. To my mind his weakness is not lack of intelligence, but that he has allowed his left-leaning political beliefs to prejudice any ability he may have for critical thinking”.
I share the same left-leaning political beliefs as Nurse (and Sir Martin Rees and George Monbiot for that matter) but I can tell the difference between science and fiddling around with graphs on a computer. What’s wrong with these brainy people?
George Orwell, who got quoted above, said something to the effect that only an intellectual could be stupid enough to believe in fascism. Environmentalism is not fascism, in the way that a kangaroo is not a sheep, but it seems to fill the same ecological niche.

Jul 18, 2011 at 3:34 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

I took the liberty of cross posting this on Judith Curry's Climate Etc. blog where she has a discussion going on the role of trust in climate communication.

Jul 18, 2011 at 5:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterRayG

Geoff - Environmentalism is not fascism, in the way that a kangaroo is not a sheep, but it seems to fill the same ecological niche.

Good point. I should have said that I too lean more to the left than right on most issues, so you are not the only leftie sceptic on here. I made this point on here last week, that I think the sceptic arguments generally have more resonance when they are made by lefties and environmentalists, as there is no political baggage in the way to inhibit rational thinking. Too bad there are only a few of us!

By the way it is lapogus with a small L not a capital i. (As in grouse). You are not the only person to read this wrong but that's not surprising considering it is impossible to tell these letters apart in a few typefaces.

Jul 18, 2011 at 7:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

lapogus: You are falling into the trap of conflating lack of intelligence with stupidity. Intelligent, or clever people, have the ability to understand, remember and investigate facts or events. While intelligence is desirable in making decisions or taking actions it is clever people who make the right decisions and take the right actions. There is a massive body of work showing that intelligence and cleverness are totally disconnected, it's called "The Apprentice".

Neither are stupidity or lack of intelligence connected. I well remember telling one of my staff who was trying to bamboozle our not very bright boss to beware, "...just because he's thick doesn't mean he's stupid."

Jul 18, 2011 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

lapogus: "I think the sceptic arguments generally have more resonance when they are made by lefties and environmentalists, as there is no political baggage in the way to inhibit rational thinking. Too bad there are only a few of us!"

What political baggage to do right-leaning sceptics have that inhibits their rational thinking?

Jul 18, 2011 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Like Geoff Chambers and lapogus, I tend toward small s socialism for my own belief system but I have loyalties to neither the political Left or the Right after exploring both. I have also explored religion quite thoroughly, but 'crowd' mentalities tend to make me nervous and to make me shy away from them. The most important lesson I learnt at university and in life after that is that many that have high profiles in various communities are not actually terribly clever in that they do not seem able to work stuff out for themselves but are carried along on a popular tide, which is not always a tide of popularity. I learnt very young that true believers of anything tend to be dangerous and that honest scepticism is a good survival mechanism.
Paul Nurse appears to personify a fairly typical university/research establishment success story, in that he led a team of researchers in a particular area and was handsomely rewarded for his team's success, success due, no doubt, in very large measure to the work of unsung but very intelligent junior staff. Like most team figureheads, they tend not to realise their own limitations but happily take all the praise and benefits their team has earned as their personal due.
I could be quite wrong; Nurse may have been a brilliant solo research scientist, but the quality and tenor of his public statements in the area of science and his behaviour in the Dellingpole interview persuades me that he is a shallow political chancer who has built his reputation as a scientist largely on the work of unidentied others. I would prefer to be proved wrong about him, but I have seen and been bruised by too many with similar profiles in the past.

Jul 18, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

to answer your question to lapogus: it’s maybe not so much ideological baggage as a natural tendency to go for the political option which favours the least political interference. In the US, I suspect the right tends to be sceptical of AGW, not because of their superior insight into climate science, but because they are opposed to government interference in their lives, especially if it involves higher taxes.
In Britain, the right are divided. There are big advantages to landowners in windpower, and there’s the class issue - a cultural tendency to look down on the unwashed masses with their polluting ways and their uncontrolled breeding habits. (Until recently, many of them used to work in factories which produced CO2, or even -horror! - dug coal from the earth!)
Of course, we lefties have our ideological baggage too, including a desire to be seen to be righting injustice everywhere on the planet. What better way than in controlling the constituents of the atmosphere?

Jul 18, 2011 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Thanks Geoff, you make some good points, in fact I'm astride the political divide finding myself sometimes in agreement with the left and sometimes with the right. I'm probably more Frank Field than anyone else. I'm also against government interference, strongly for the ECHR, but not the HRA in the UK, which I know for sure does not reflect the intentions of the original drafters of the EHCR which was totally focussed on protecting the citizens from governments. I read the Guardian, and if you believe that being on the left relieves you of political baggage that enables you to have greater insight into events from the articles written therein you're off your trolley. I believe Monbiot's a bit nuts to be honest, nice enough chap and all that, but inclined to jump to conclusions too quickly. He was mightily caught out by climategate when he condemned the UEA, presumably his rational thinking was inhibited by a right wing view that the perpetrators of what is a scientific scandal would be brought to justice. Me, with my lonng experience of the way religions protect their own, and will allow anything for the cause, I wasn't so sure that they'd be found guilty by the establishment. And I was right.

Anyway I read an article by someone I rarely read on Sunday, it was by Janet Daley in the Sunday Telegraph have a gander at it if you can find it. It neatly encapsulates lapogus' view that he has no political baggage to inhibit his thinking, whereas right leaning people are unable to tell their arse from their elbow. Anyway we're off topic so I'll drop it.


Jul 18, 2011 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Geronimo - I know what you are getting at wrt lack of intelligence and stupidity, and don't disagree. But you have completely misunderstood what I was trying to get at wrt the idealogical baggage. (I maybe didn't explain very well - apologies for any confusion).

What I was trying to get at is that a leftie sceptic will find it easier than a rightie sceptic to convince a leftie warmist, even if they both use the same rational scientific argument. Why? Because the chances are that the <u>leftie warmist</u> has the ideological baggage and will not agree to anything put forward by a rightie sceptic, for political reasons, irrespective of the validity or strength of the science. That said I am sure that righties have some ideological baggage also, but that is not what I was suggesting or implying, and I sure as well wasn't suggesting that I don't have any ideological baggage. Everyone does to some extent, the key is to know or be able to judge when it gets in the way of rational analysis, and in my experience the majority of those on the left in the UK and in the USA are totally clueless - hence they glibly go along with the alarmist assertions that a little extra CO2 causes more droughts/floods/heatwaves/cold spells etc, rather than confront the reality that they are gullible fools who have been duped by the right-on Monbiots and Goldacres of this world.

Jul 18, 2011 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

I have just re-read my original and clearly ambiguous comment. Here's a revised version, with additions in bold:

I made this point on here last week, that I think the sceptic arguments generally have more resonance when they are made by lefties and environmentalists, as there is no 'left verses right' political baggage in the way to inhibit rational thinking (amongst those on the warmist side) . Too bad there are only a few of us!

Geronimo - I liked your example of the Apprentice - I have only seen one episode this series (thank feck) and I was gobsmacked.

Jul 18, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

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