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« Connect the dots - Josh 163 | Main | World series »

Strange fellows

 Via Leo Hickman I note a list of new fellows of the Royal Society. Familiar names are:

  • Paul Ehrlich, best known for his hopelessly incorrect predictions of famine
  • Steve Jones, familiar to readers here for writing an integrity-free report about science at the BBC
  • Ralph Cicerone, also familiar from his role in trying to save the Hockey Stick for the IPCC.

It really confirms the case I made in my GWPF report on the Society's decline into a rather grubby advocacy outfit.

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  • Response
    Response: Royal?
    Those who have been following its descent into CAGW hystericism know that the "Royal Society" has long been, in Bishop Hill's words this morning, a rather grubby advocacy outfit. Nevertheless, kudos to the Bishop for noticing three grubby advocates who have recently become fully signed up Royal Society Grubby Advocates, i.e. ...

Reader Comments (72)

If you click on the link to the RS site, the first thing you see at the top of the page is a mug shot and a link with the the caption “Read about our President, Sir Paul Nurse”.

(And the first hundred readers to click on the link get a signed CD plus a free ticket to his next concert...)

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The Royal Society: now recruiting Malthusians. No previous experience of making testable scientific hypotheses necessary.

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

When I first read Paul Ehrlich many years ago, I calculated the theoretical maximum human population of the Earth if all the sun's energy was dedicated to the support of human life. At 100W/person, the theoretical maximum is in the quadrillions, approximately a million times the present population. Of course, this is practically impossible, but the point is that a tiny increase in the efficiency of our use of the sun's energy, a la Norman Borlaug, would allow the sustenance of a larger human population in a style to which would all like to be accustomed. I've not even considered harvesting solar energy from space, technically feasible now.

These Malthusian pessimists primarily lack imagination.

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Steve Jones is understandable for his snail work. Cicerone is just a standard science politics reciprocal love in.

Ehrlich is truly embarrassing, but he seems to be part of a vast swathe of theoretical biologists being honoured this round.

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:47 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

It's like electing Andrew Wakefield to the GMC council for work promoting vaccination.

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Organisations behave consistently.

Apr 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Sic transit gloria mundi.
When an institution with the grand ideal of Nullius in Verba gets taken over by those suffering from alarm over CO2, we must expect them to value the words of such as those on your list over the data that has been obtained from the climate system. For that data does not support such alarm, and in this circumstance, solidarity amongst those delivering or condoning words of alarm is no doubt highly attractive to them.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

What is 'grubby' is your continual sliming of people because you disagree with their conclusions on climate change. Your implication that no-one draws these conclusions unless they are 'integrity-free' or corrupt is fatuous (and wrong). And then you have the chutzpah to claim that your scepticism is not at all ideological or dogmatic. Oh no, not at all.

Keep it up though - it is clear whose reputation will survive this skirmish better.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Thats what the £45 million a year the government gives the RS, buys them.

There was a time when the scientific method included tesring theories against evidence before accepting them.AQs Andrew points out none of these have ever produced a successfully rested. Nowadays one only has to test theories against whatever the government fu jour wants. I wonder if Lysenko or Madame Blavatsky can be postumously elevated to the RS?

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Frank, chill out. There's nothing wrong in disagreement. There is a whole lot of wrongness on having an institution whose motto is "Nullius in Verba" making sheer endorsements over apocalyptic predictions which are based mostly on the fear of the unknown.

This turns a scientific institution into a doomsday cult institution. This is worrisome for all those of us who may even agree with having a concern regarding global warming, but who have this basic insight that "worry" is not a scientific endeavour. Every time concern trolling and politics enters the arena of "science", science gets shoveled itself unto a very deep black hole. And that seems the path that the Royal Society is happily following.

Count me out.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

What worries me more is that apart from the seismic study they did on fracking by Blackpool, the Royal Society is supposedly doing a study on all the risks (not just seismic) which will probably drive government policy.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterKriek

Jonathan Jones (Apr 20, 2012 at 10:47 AM)

Steve Jones is understandable for his snail work.
Maybe, but he was no slouch when it came to crawling to the BBC with the report on science reporting which they wanted to hear.

Frank (Apr 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM)

What is 'grubby' is your continual sliming of people because you disagree with their conclusions on climate change.

The sliming was done by Steve Jones on Andrew Montford and Tony Newbery when they offered their services.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


Jones treated the evidence by Tony Newbery and me in a biased and insulting fashion. That's why I refer to his report as integrity-free.

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Ehrlich has been colossally and demonstrably wrong on so many issues that one loses count.

However, he still continues to be a big draw on the "I can top your catastrophic scenario" circuit so popular with "environmentalists."

It would be fun to see him on stage with Hansen..... "So you think that's bad for the human race! Well, let me tell you.... "

Apr 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Isn't it time that honest scientists broke away from the Royal Society and started a new organisation, with the scientific method, transparancy of methods, and open and honest debate as the core principles it works towards? The Royal Society is being run into the gutter by men and women who no longer follow the scientific method.

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBorges

Agree with Jonathan Jones I think it is Ehrlich that is the true stand out wierd and astonishing thing here. I read their entry blurb to see the justification. After mentioning some work of his on butterflies that maybe that alone is RS worthy on its own and if they left it there then I wouldn't comment but they insist on going further about what impresses the RS that includes every aspect that doesn't impress me:

In addition, he has not only pioneered the formal study of the interface of population, consumption, resource-use, and the state of the natural environment, he has also clarified their interrelationships for the general public. Those writings have had a profound influence on those mainstream economists who have developed the concept of sustainable development. His writings on cultural evolution, especially with respect to environmental ethics are likely to have an equally significant influence on scientific thinking and public policy. If his influence on ecology and applied evolutionary biology has been profound, his influence on ecological economics has been of no less significance. Ehrlich has brought ecological economics into the mainstream by his tireless engagement with economists concerned to bring two historically antagonistic disciplines together.

To me they are just essentially admitting that the RS is fully signed up to the alarmist scaremongering of the ends justify the means in policy influence now. It is a political science body now.

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Political Junkie; were you thinking of the lyrics of "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better"?

Anything you could do, I could do better
I can do anything better than you!
No you can't!
Yes I can!
No you can't!

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

I used to like Harry Enfield and the FAST show; he should have stuck with comedy rather than moving into tragedy. This new FAS show (Fellows against Science) of his needs new scriptwriters. Cameron, Clegg, Millipede and Huhn are just not up to the job.
What was wrong with Paul Whitehouse?

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

When the head of the RS seems to have 'issues ' with its own motto of 'take nobodies word for it ' and would prefer to see it changed to 'trust me I am scientists. You can see why people like this are welcome with open arms by the RS

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

With the addition of an apostrophe "take nobodies' word for it" is wonderfully apt as a motto for the new-look Royal Society

Apr 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Ben Pile:

The Royal Society: now recruiting Malthusians. No previous experience of making testable scientific hypotheses necessary.

Ouch. That hurt even me :)

I think both our host and Jonathan Jones are right about Steve Jones. Unlike those receiving this honour Andrew and Tony Newberry weren't paid a penny for their passionate interest in better science on the BBC and all that it would lead to in public awareness and better policy making. They are sore about how they were treated and rightly so. But the snails have their place. (Hale and Pace flit past as pun or spoonerism, I'm not sure which.)

There are many other new fellows but these are deeply symbolic. The shocking role of Ehrlich's Population Bomb in the 60s in influencing international bureaucrats to quickly phase out DDT, leading to millions of preventable deaths of the world's poorest from malaria, as detailed by Donald Roberts and Richard Tren in The Excellent Powder, cannot be covered up with any number of gongs. The shame.

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Do they award posthumous fellowships? I'm thinking of von Daniken and Lysenko.

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Jesus, this hurtling downhill has happened so quickly. Awfully sad.

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Regarding the report from Steve Jones, I believe that the bigger issue is why the BBC Trust would ask someone like Jones to do the review. Imagine if the Trust wanted to review the BBC’s reporting on, say, business, and it asked a businessman to do the review. That would be unreasonable: a proper review should be done by a panel, which should include both business people and people who do not have a vested interest in positive reporting on business.

Why would the Trust appoint only a scientist to review the BBC’s reporting on science?—such a person clearly has a vested interest in positively-biased reporting. Either the Trust has no clue as to what it is doing OR the Trust was staging a set up. Which is more plausible?

The report from Jones can be synopsized as follows.

The BBC’s reporting on science is generally very good. Occasionally, however, the BBC criticizes science. Criticism of science is extremely improper, obviously. The BBC should take steps to insure that such criticism does not reoccur.

That is essentially what would be expected a priori.

I think that Steve Jones was merely a useful idiot. The real criticism should be directed at the Trust.

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

The BBC Trust trumpeted Steve Jones report as independent I queried this and of course the usual mumbo jumbo.

I did ask how much Jones earned from the BBC and I'm still waiting for an answer?

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

One of these blokes is now Prsidents Obamas Scientific advisor

Think any these idiots have got an account at Bet

Not on the Stock Exchange hopefully

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Doug: very pertinent and very funny. You have to be right that the BBC Trust was the main culprit.

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

IIRC the original RS was a boys' own popularity club too, so this would be a return to the good old days.

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

John Harrison was also sidelined by the Royal Society even though there was probably no one else who did more to create the modern world as we know it.

He not only gave us accurate time, he also gave us the means to navigate safely, to map the world, yet the Royal Society fraudulent denied him money.

Has anything changed?

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Would Caroline Aherne mind if it was called the Royle Society?

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I told you so, and told you again, and told you again: All of our authoritative institutions have been suborned by an incompetent climate consensus (runaway global warming), and more deeply, by an incompetent paradigm (undirected evolution of all that scientists observe in the world) that has brought about false theories at the heart of all the physical sciences. It is of course no coincidence that Malthusians are being elevated to high status now--Darwin based his theory upon Malthus's, and laid upon science the dogma of "competition among species" and "survival of the fittest", which are fearful lies, not verified science (just like "runaway global warming"). The fever over false dogmas is rising ever higher, and only a general return to dispassionate reason and the simple acceptance of an inherently stable (by design) natural world, or another world war, can quell it.

Apr 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Harry Dale Huffman, I'd like to distance myself from your post and its gentle conflation of AGW skepticism with creationism. I am now starting to take Richard Drake's ideas about deep trolling seriously.

Apr 20, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


Apr 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Frank...'And then you have the chutzpah to claim that your scepticism is not at all ideological or dogmatic. Oh no, not at all.
Keep it up though - it is clear whose reputation will survive this skirmish better...

Yes Frank, those who have chosen to remain anonymous will never have to face any issue about reputation.

Apr 20, 2012 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony Hansen

Given how many seem to be added, maybe the "Big Society" ?

Apr 20, 2012 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Paul Erlich is a complete joke. But you'd never think so looking at his bio on the RS site. His entry on Wikipedia is pretty damning. The RS site promotes him as a pioneer of 'sustainable development', which, from his writings, involves wiping out half the world's population. Nice one.

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

This makes Prof Richard Lindzen's observations in his foreward to the Bishop's Nullius in Verba report even more cogent and uncannily prophetic.

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:49 PM Mike Haseler

"John Harrison was also sidelined by the Royal Society even though there was probably no one else who did more to create the modern world as we know it."

Isaac Newton, FRS?

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I'm in the middle of reading The Dig Tree, by Sarah Murgatroyd (2002) about the Burke and Wills 19th c expedition across Australia. The involvement of the Melbourne Royal Society and the ludicrous decisions they made about the organisation of the expedition were harshly criticized on a number of occasions. The book includes a cartoon of RS members with the comment that the Royal Society (in Oz) was often lampooned by satirists sceptical of their scientific credibility.Plus ca change [sorry, can't do cedillas....]


Apr 20, 2012 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Apr 20, 2012 at 2:49 PM Mike Haseler

"John Harrison was also sidelined by the Royal Society even though there was probably no one else who did more to create the modern world as we know it."

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:14 PM Martin A Isaac Newton, FRS?

What exactly did isaac Newton do except steal ideas from Hooke and Leibniz?

John Harrison designed instrumentation which allowed the British Navy a technical superiority which made Britain the world power. This in turn meant that English, the Greenwich meridian, GMT etc. all became defacto standards.

The modern world as we know it: he allowed us to map the globe, he gave us global language, he enabled safe transport and trade by British ships.

And what did Newton give us? A few regurgitated ideas taken from others which the bum-chum culture of the RS allowed him to claim as his own.

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Harry Dale Huffman

Thank you for your post - my thinking exactly

We now live in a Malthusian world - a very negative place to be

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered Commentersankara

Messenger: It can be done! Plus ça change!. I got it there by cutting and pasting.

About Ehrlich (you missed an 'h', by the way, Bishop): The process for electing Fellows can be read about here: and there are also lists of the committees that review and rank nominations discipline by discipline ( As noted by The Leopard earlier this afternoon, Ehrlich's election statement makes a lot of his doom-mongering (though without using that word, perhaps not so strangely). It does not make it clear which committee would have recommended his election. The rules, by the way, require only that 2/3 of the votes be positive for the candidate to be elected - so it does not appear that the 43 rebels would have been able to prevent his
election, had they so wished.

[Spelling corrected, thanks. BH]

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:39 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

"And still, at present we could, allocating 2 square feet per person, have the entire human race stand on the island of Zanzibar."

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

I think that Steve Jones was merely a useful idiot. The real criticism should be directed at the Trust.
Apr 20, 2012 at 1:47 PM Douglas J. Keenan

There is a rule of management that you only ask in the consultants who will give you the answer you want. In other words, the role of the consultant is to find ways to prove the decision (which has already been taken) was the right one.

Steve Jones wasn't so much an idiot as a useful poodle whose views were already known to match those of the BBC management.

But a far more pertinent point is that it really didn't matter at all what Jones said, the charter doesn't say: "impartial ... except when a consultant says its OK to be partial".

Steve Johns, was trying to defend the indefensible: that only one part of society has a valid viewpoint.

His argument (unstated) was that scientists based what they say on evidence, and only views based on evidence should be broadcast.

Only two problems ...
1. There views are not based on the evidence but as we all know largely contradict what is happening.

2. The charter doesn't say anything about only covering viewpoints based on evidence ... if it did, no politician would ever get on the BBC.

In my view, if we sceptics had the money to fight it, this BBC decision wouldn't even get to court because no lawyer could advise the BBC had a chance of winning a legal case on it.

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Mike, try not too much to be funny. There's this thing called Poe's Law that stops me from taking from granted that you are, in fact, joking.

Apr 20, 2012 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

Layor Society, pronounced 'Liar'.

Apr 20, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Mike Haseler: "And what did Newton give us?"

He gave us the best example that science could not only be done (others had proposed that) but also be accepted and applauded based on logical fallacies. The inductive method, affirming the consequent, and all that stuff. And that very Enlightenment idea that there are such things as universal laws (by which I mean that the laws themselves are universal entities rather than convenient fictions). He gave us a refined method of trickery foisted upon the world by Galileo, and the idea, current to this day, that his scientific method is unassailable as the best. Finally, he stands as a perfect example of how laudatory and sycophantic we can be toward his celebrity, for his tomb states "Mortals! rejoice at so great an ornament to the human race!", and the poet Alexander Pope wrote "Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night; God said, Let Newton be! and all was light."


Apr 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

The BBC chose Jones to write the report because they knew he would give them they wanted without being told.

Apr 20, 2012 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

All this hatred towards Newton is what is indeed ghastly. Are really the netizens so clueless to the godlike achievements of that otherwise crazy strage man?

Apr 20, 2012 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

Best Ehrlich quote is:

We must realize that unless we are extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years

from an infamous 1972 publication. I guess we got lucky. Or Ehrlich deserves his FRS for devising a theory that makes it possible for that to happen.

Apr 20, 2012 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

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