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More Steve Jones

Tony at Harmless Sky has penned further thoughts about Steve Jones' BBC report. Tony doesn't sound too amused to me, particularly in relation to this part:

A submission made to this Review by Andrew Montford and Tony Newbery (both active in the anti‐global‐warming movement, and the former the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science) devotes much of its content to criticising not the data on temperatures but the membership of a BBC seminar on the topic in 2006, and to a lengthy discussion as to whether its Environment Analyst was carrying out BBC duties or acting as a freelance during an environment programme at Cambridge University. The factual argument, even for activists, appears to be largely over but parts of the BBC are taking a long time to notice.

Tony's response is this:

...can anyone explain to me why Andrew and I might choose to write about the global temperature record to a geneticist who is conducting a review of journalism for a broadcaster? Apparently Professor Jones thinks that is what we should have done. And he also seems to think that because we didn’t do this, we must think that the debate about the science of climate change is over. That is just plain silly.

And it's hard to disagree. I think this part of Jones' report tells us a great deal about the kind of person he is.

On related matters, one of Tony's readers points to an article in, which contains this

The BBC’s proposals are bad news for the public’s understanding of science but more welcome for all those academics needing to show that their research is getting airtime in the media.

Which seems about right to me. The BBC's objective is to recreate something like last night's Book Festival debate but on a grander scale: lots of "experts" sounding forth in glorious harmony with factoids galore but with nobody to question them.

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Reader Comments (15)

Biased Broadcasting Company.

Does anyone recall the episode where they pulled out all the stops to go against the consensus of the scientists and against the unequivocal evidence (according to the politicians) and asserted their right to broadcast minority views despite the fact they contracted the weapons scientists?

But, that was when the Biased Broadcasting Company supported those who were sceptical of the (weapons) scientists, those who did not believe the evidence supported WMD in Iraq. Now the Biased Broadcasting Company are on the other side and want to force the "consensus" of the "scientists" and their "unequivocal" evidence down our throats ... suddenly there's no way the biased broadcasting company could possible report the masses of evidence against the "consensus".


Aug 23, 2011 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Re: Jones, I suspect many would feel that a blinder was played.

Aug 23, 2011 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

Research indicates that Prof. Steve Jones is either a Markov text synthesizer ( or a plagiarist, with suspicion resting on the latter, as some effort is required to press the correct buttons on the Markov text synthesizer.

Incidentally, I ran the Jones text above through this synthesizer, and produced essentially the same information content. Does this make me a climatologist or a 'fantastically shallow' popular science writer?

Aug 23, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Jones doesn't do feedback...he will always remain stupid

Aug 23, 2011 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Michael Tobis says

The only way to simplify ourselves out of the present mess is by cutting our population 80%, unfortunately.

Individual actions are well and good, but as Gore said in his Noble lecture, and as Obama sed about his lightbulbs, they aren't enough. Not even close.

Aug 23, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I had a listen to the Today programme an hour ago, to see if they had any first-hand reportage from Libya. There was some reasonably good stuff on that - and then it was all about the biodiversity crisis, which is, remarkably, much worse than we thought, in fact much worse than climate change. Lord May is about to be wheeled out to tell us how. Don't miss it!

In fact, Evan Davies (I think it was) sounded suitably dubious when the comparison with climate change was attempted. We've been round this circus before. I think a lot of decent BBC journalists feel like this.

And yes, Lord May is on right now!

Aug 24, 2011 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

It was actually quite an amusing segment, with nobody taking it too seriously. We still have no idea how many species (even in Norfolk, as someone texted). But worth trying. Can't disagree with that.

Aug 24, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

A commenter on the Harmless Sky piece, Patrick Hadley, quotes from a letter he received from the BBC Trust in response to his complaint about Prof Jones’ use of ‘denier’ in the report. That is exactly the form of words used in the Trust’s response to my complaint. The Trust also offered me an apology for the delay in replying, so I imagine that there has been much time-consuming discussion behind closed doors on how to deal with the fallout. Although the removal of the contentious sentence about Lords Lawson and Monckton is the only public sign of the BBC Trust’s discomfiture, there must be a few at the Trust who wished they had commissioned someone else for this job. I don’t think they had reckoned with the prospect that scientifically literate citizens would challenge the pronouncements of a Professor.

Aug 24, 2011 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterIsis

"I don’t think they had reckoned with the prospect that scientifically literate citizens would challenge the pronouncements of a Professor."

they really do have their heads firmly in the sand: they STILL - after all this time - think that all sceptics are simple creationist anti-science morons.

Aug 24, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Pedant-General


they really do have their heads firmly in the sand: they STILL - after all this time - think that all sceptics are simple creationist anti-science morons.

That's what happens when you believe your own propaganda. Some of them have the excuse that they don't realise that it's propaganda.

There's a certain je ne sais quoi about people with arts degrees and essentially no numeracy (everyone at the Beeb) accusing another group of being anti-science or religious zealots for looking into details.

Aug 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

There's an interesting point in the comments at Harmless Sky: it's entirely possible that the Jones report, in calling sceptic "deniers", is libellous.

Since the BBC Trust can CERTAINLY pay costs, might it be time to call Carter-Ruck?

Aug 24, 2011 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

Paul Ehrlich, in 1981, predicted that by the year 2000 half of the earth‘s species would be extinct and all would be gone by 2015. Why anyone should go on listening to such a person after that remains baffling, but they do.
The trouble is that these figures were simply plucked out of the air. Norman Myers, author of The Sinking Ark (1979), started this particular scare. His argument was bizarre. He asserted that until 1900 one species went extinct every four years. Then, quoting a 1974 conference in which a 'guess was hazarded‘ that extinction rates had reached 100 a year, he arbitrarily decided that this figure was still too low. He suggested that 100 species a day would be a better figure or about 40,000 a year or 1 million in 25 years. And that is the whole basis for the scare. It starts with an estimate and then this is multiplied by 160,000 and we are told we face disaster. It makes for good headlines, of course, and lots of funds for environmental organisations.
(HT Lomborg Skeptical Environ.)

Aug 24, 2011 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Biased BBC has a new post on the Steve Jones review

Aug 24, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Thanks Philip for the story and the numbers. I must look up Lomborg on it again some day.

Back to the original post, Tony Newbery gets it absolutely right. I didn't have much time to read Steve Jones and when I hit this paragraph about Montford and Newbery I just went "Huh?" I knew it wasn't remotely right, I remember reading the submission and thinking it was a good job. Bit life is sometimes too short to work out just how dim some professors can be in the pay of our state broadcaster.

Now I know. It's very, very poor, isn't it? But, as I intimate above, I think we should look for an outright rebellion from decent, thinking BBC journalists as and when they come under pressure never to have a dissident climate or energy policy opinion represented intelligently. Because that is the battle, as you can see from the report. What Jones wrote implied you guys were idiots. But only by ignoring what you'd really said. It's becoming very important to the status quo not to have any obviously intelligent opposition on these matters. And that's because the orthodoxy is by now more full of holes than Gaddafi's golf buggy.

Aug 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

You can't blame the BBC (Much) they are just using post modern science where if the world isn't going to end then it isn't science.

Aug 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

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