Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Record spinning | Main | Fracking for heat »
Wednesday
Aug082012

A voice from the ivory tower

Take a listen to Professor Steve Jones on the BBC radio show (link below), The Life Scientific. Discussing his role as head of the BBC Trust's review of the corporation's science output, Jones demonstrates that he has his head well and truly embedded in the sand, arguing, hilariously, that scientists rarely mislead. The occupants of the ivory tower, he would have us believe, are a kind of superbeing above the flaws and tendency towards self-interest that afflict us all.

Hard to credit, isn't it?

Steve Jones on BBC review

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (42)

Maybe he just assumes that since he knows everything about everything, is completely noble and selfless, is kind to subordinates, is worshipped by his peers, is honest as the day is long and kind to kittens (and snails), that every other scientist is just like him?

Aug 8, 2012 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

That would explain why, in his review, he missed the fact that the BBC was taking free programmes from green groups.

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Problem is though, it wouldn't explain my pointing out the CMEP seminars to him. That was a lack of integrity issue.

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Lies are truth, cheating is integrity, the BBC wrote the Bible.

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

I think it's the corrupting influence of the lure of money, fame and honours.

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip Bratby : - 'I think it's the corrupting influence of the lure of ... honours.'

Well, most of them are Counts anyway!

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

"...arguing, hilariously, that scientists rarely mislead..."

In 1912 the Geological Society of London announced a major paleontological discovery. A fossilised skull found at Piltdown in Sussex gave conclusive proof that early hominids evolved an increased brain capacity before any other body changes. The British Museum enthusiastically welcomed this find, in spite of complaints from a few scientists that the find looked suspicious These misgivings were brushed aside, particularly when further finds were made in the same area a year later, and by then the world's scientific establishment, including the Royal Society and the American Museum of Natural History unquestionably accepted the skull as genuine. Opponents gradually gave up and conceded that they were wrong.

It was termed Homo Piltdownensis, and became an established marker in evolutionary science, with a significant impact on early research on human evolution. Notably, it led scientists down a blind alley in the belief that the human brain expanded in size before the jaw adapted to new types of food. Discoveries of Australopithecine fossils found during the 1920s in South Africa were ignored owing to Piltdown man, and the reconstruction of human evolution was confused for decades. The examination and debate over Piltdown man caused a vast expenditure of time and effort on the fossil.

Eventually, advances in technology enabled the skull to be identified as a forgery. Though various earlier reports had indicated major problems with the find - for instance in 1925 Edmonds had reported a major Piltdown geology error - these reports were just ignored. Only 40 years later, in 1953, was it finally accepted that the whole episode had been an error. But the error had been driven and compounded by the actions of the world's establishment bodies, who attacked and actively suppressed all questions regarding the skull's authenticity.

If you look at the story of scientific advance, from Galileo onwards, the idea that the world's scientific establishment represents the culmination of rational thought, and that nobody would waste time and money on a mistaken theory, starts looking a little strained. Though the eventual story presented in the textbooks glosses over mistakes and purports to show truth triumphing over falsehood, the reality is that humans frequently follow mistakes blindly, and ignore proofs 'staring them in the face' if they do not support their current beliefs. And establishment bodies do this more often that not, since they have invested a huge weight of time and reputation in their pronouncements. There have been many such instances - Wegener's continental drift and Warren and Marshal's duodenal ulcers, to name a couple.

But few have resulted in such a misuse of time, effort and hard cash as the AGW hypothesis. Interestingly, if you look at the Wiki entry on Piltdown, comments on the fact that it illustrates establishment support of scientific fraud for over 30 years are rigorously suppressed....

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

True, we probably do have another Piltdown scandal. It's because most of the modelling is fine except for the choice of the boundary conditions and the Big Mistake with the IR physics which the IPCC was warned of in 1993 when Will Happer resigned rather than lie about it for Gore. This creates the imaginary CO2-AGW despite MODTRAN showing it cannot exist for a water planet**, then multiplies it with the imaginary positive feedback***.

**http://notrickszone.com/2012/08/07/epic-warmist-fail-modtran-doubling-co2-will-do-nothing-to-increase-long-wave-radiation-from-sky/

***By assuming black body up and down IR at the surface, also DOWN emissivity =1 at TOA, they increase net IR UP by a factor of 5. This is then offset by exaggerated cloud albedo in the hind-casting giving the impression of correct average temperature but the sunlit oceans evaporate like mad!

Aug 8, 2012 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Believing oneself to be part of a superior group is a defining trait of narcissism:

'Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);'

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

True, we probably do have another Piltdown scandal. It's because most of the modelling is fine except for the choice of the boundary conditions and the Big Mistake with the IR physics which the IPCC was warned of in 1993 when Will Happer resigned rather than lie about it for Gore. This creates the imaginary CO2-AGW despite MODTRAN showing it cannot exist for a water planet**, then multiplies it with the imaginary positive feedback***.

**http://notrickszone.com/2012/08/07/epic-warmist-fail-modtran-doubling-co2-will-do-nothing-to-increase-long-wave-radiation-from-sky/

***By assuming black body up and down IR at the surface, also DOWN emissivity =1 at TOA, they increase net IR UP by a factor of 5. This is then offset by exaggerated cloud albedo in the hind-casting giving the impression of correct average temperature but the sunlit oceans evaporate like mad!

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

They told us it would be hot and dry but instead it Pistdown Mann.

I'll get my coat.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuncan

Duncan

They told us it would be hot and dry but instead it Pistdown Mann.

Magic, pure magic LOL!

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:10 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I don't know about Jones but I am sure that very many scientists think like German physicist and meteorologist and Klaus-Eckard Plus used to:

"Ten years ago I simply parroted what the IPCC told us. One day I started checking the facts and data – first I started with a sense of doubt but then I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements. To this day I still feel shame that as a scientist I made presentations of their science without first checking it. The CO2-climate hysteria in Germany is propagated by people who are in it for lots of money, attention and power."

http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=10060&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ClimaterealistsNewsBlog+%28ClimateRealists+News+Blog%29


And he was working as a physicist and meteorologist - about as close to being a climate scientist as it gets!
Arrogantly, scientists even further away from the crime scene and having done no real reading on the subject feel free to sneer at sceptics who are far more clued up on the subject.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

He is almost as loathsome as Dawkins. And I don't think very bright. Wow an expert on snails....why that's improved our lot in life.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Scientists would never mislead.....unless there is a pile of grant money involved.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

All Steve Jones ever wanted was to be appointed as a fellow of the Royal Society.

He will happily sell his soul to the BBC Trust or parrot any nonsense whatsoever so long as it pleases Sir Paul Nurse and his Royal Society cronies.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave

"Well, most of them are Counts anyway!": Ian E

Ahh...a Guardian reader, methinks...

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Strange thing. A year ago there was an article by Steve Jones in the Telegraph, (which was pilloried in the comments) where he argued precisely the same thing,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/steve-jones/8675729/Scientists-always-anger-those-who-prefer-the-Earth-to-be-flat.html

and we also had a kind of open blog entry here where we were wondering whether or not 'patrickmoore' in the Telegraphs comment thread (near the top) was Sir Patrick, or the ex-Greenpeace gentleman of the same name.

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/8/7/climate-cuttings-57.html#comment14613636

Said gentleman obviously returned with another comment a month or so later, which I had missed, stressing the importance of water vapour as opposed to CO2.

I still think it was Sir Patrick himself, and it is interesting to see the latest notrickszone piece that spartacusisfree just posted the link for, about back radiation or lack of it versus humidity.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:53 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Whenever I see something written by Steve Jones, I observe 'familiar' strings.

E.g. Jones has an article or talk here: http://archive.planet-science.com/about_sy/events/pdfs/Steve_Jones_Transcript.pdf, which contains all the typical phrases one sees in pop-science about an individual's DNA being able to 'stretch to the moon and back 8000 times'. If you put that string into Google books (or whatever) you see that pop-science authors have been repeating this particular happy phrase for a couple of decades, at least.

Just one trivial example - there are many more - Mashey would enjoy researching Jones' many plagiarisms.

Jones is essentially a lazy regurgitation machine. You feed text into him - and sometime later - it reemerges. He would have made a good climatologist.

Aug 8, 2012 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

He killed thousands of snails to do something with genetics that some guy did with peas. Isn't he related to someone in the BBC? Now that has something to do with nurture, nature, associatiation, enviroment and self preservation. Or am I being mislead?

Aug 8, 2012 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

ZT

See Stephen Jay Gould's essay The Case of the Creeping Fox Terrier Clone.

Aug 8, 2012 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Life in academia in the UK is hard, I started in the mid 80's on something like £9000 a year, 5 years later it was around £14000. Professors were on £30000. The AUT were experiencing aperplexia. My Profs were sounds guys, in it for the right reasons and maybe that spawned the problem. During my time up until I defected to industry things obviously changed. The pressure to get to consultant/professor/sage attracted those who required such status and the games began. When the goose lays those of moderate morals will find some way of bending reality. I still work with some of my old Profs (pro bono publico) who work in fields where there is little possibility of any sort of gain. Most universities I'm told limit the private income to a percentage of their wages. These guys I understand, they do it for the 'publico' part. Shame the dough corrupts.

Aug 8, 2012 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidCH

It's worth reading Thomas Sowell's book The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

He explains how the ruling elites in modern countries base their worldview not on facts or rational plans for action - but on narcissistic self-regard. Often these views are purely circular: "nice people (us) like these policies so they are nice policies so people that like them are nice people"

Aug 8, 2012 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

DavidCH

It is but life, all will try. We used to have "rat catchers" but their actions were decried resulting in appeasement. A situation only accepted by one species on this planet - homo sapiens and one of its major failings as history ably demonstrates.

Aug 9, 2012 at 12:17 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I heard: climate scientists have gone round the bend.

;-)

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMickey Reno

I've listened to the Life Scientific quite a few times now and it just seems to be an excuse for Jim Al-Kahlili to invite his AGW friendly chums onto the radio to spout nonsense. It's a shame because when it comes to physics he really knows what he's talking about. How can he be so silly?!

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Here's a complete transcript of The Life Scientific with James Lovelock, back in May:
https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20120508_jl

Aug 9, 2012 at 6:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

It started with self congratulation about the BBC's impartial political coverage, then a blessing from Saint David Attenborough, and it was all downhill from there...

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

I gave up listening to the programme after the first few, for the reason mentioned by Robinson at 1:17AM. There was worse this week, though, on Monday - "Greening the Military". I always thought that demolishing other people's environments was what the military were for, but maybe at sixty-something I'm just not "post-normal" enough.

I always rather liked surrealism, but not to live in.

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve C

Robinson asks: "How can he be so silly?" Quite.

I'd like to expand on that question. How can a scientist whose own field depends on falsifiability fail to apply it to another field which he sees fit to comment on? How, in commenting on Climatography, can he not point out the need for clear pass/fail criteria? Can he not see that cod-science is bringing the whole profession into disrepute?

Another media luvvie, Prof. Brian Cox, in his book "Why Does E=mc^2?" wrote cogently about unfalsifiable theories. Something like, "Anybody is entitled to advance a theory but if it is immune to being disproven it is not 'useful science'; it will not enter the corpus."

I suspect that what's going on here is inadvertant double standards: they've both caught religion; they've both suspended their critical faculties on the subject of climate. How strange. If the controversy were about Cold Fusion I'm sure they'd have shot it down with ruthless and accurate fire.

Question: How do rational people go about discrediting a religion given that its adherents have, by definition, suspended their rational faculties?

Aug 9, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

' "Well, most of them are Counts anyway!": Ian E

Ahh...a Guardian reader, methinks... Aug 8, 2012 at 9:51 PM | Snotrocket '

.

That had me puzzled for a while - perhaps you refer to a possible typo?

[p.s. I regard the GroanAid as only somewhat less awful an institution than the BBC - since we are not forced to pay for it. ]

Aug 9, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

How patronizing.
"speaking or behaving towards someone as if they are stupid or not important"

I am surprised that he didn't trot out the "If you had cancer" analogy.
Sickening.

Aug 9, 2012 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

@Aug 9, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Brent Hargreaves

Saving the planet is the most noble thing you can do and if you have to close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears to do it you are still saving the planet.

The money helps as well.

Aug 9, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Well, I still think Steve Jones is a nice guy and a smart guy. Yes, it makes me sad.

Unfortunately, I think he probably also suffers from laziness [so do I] as an earlier post suggested. My guess about scientists is that 97% of them either don't have the time, or won't make the time, to devote even 3% of their intellect to spotting the flaws in cAGW.

The BBC, we already know about. They always have been one arm of the establishment, and the establishment has never much been into science.

As far as UK academics go, it's worth remembering how relatively poorly paid they are. They are often very able people who see their "not-quite-peers" from school days earning so much more in Law, Accountancy, Business etc. I think this can inflame pre-existing superiority complexes even more, leading, paradoxically, to even greater arrogance and self-belief, in contradiction of what they are actually supposed to practice in their professional lives!

Recognition and honours from the establishment and media may be all that can be salvaged from what they may come to see as a wasted career.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Well, I think there is some truth to the idea that scientists rarely mislead.
That's what makes the climate science fiasco so shocking.
Even more worrying is the fact that so few have spoken out or tried to blow the whistle.
And even more worrying than that is the fact that as a result of this, people are drawing the apparently logical conclusion that scientists just can't be trusted.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:09 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

In France the TV licence is included in the taxe d'habitation unless you sign a declaration on your annual tax return to say that you do not possess a TV set.
Terry S's interpretation is the correct one. It's the possession of an apparatus capable of receiving TV broadcasts that makes the household liable, and not only in the UK.
But then, why let the facts get in the way of a good urban myth?

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:25 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

In Germany there is the GEZ (= Gebühreneinzugszentrale (fee collection center of public-law broadcasting institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany)). The licences fees in Germany for Radio, TV and the New Media amounted to € 17,98 per month. For radio reception alone, the monthly fee is € 5.76.

Most of what they broadcast is to me, err, well - actually I don't like the word, but - some kind of brainwashing from Bilderbergers, or the pro-EU-advocats, the NATO, the UNO and so on.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

Zed and follow-ups removed.
That's enough about the TV licence, thanks.

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

That's enough about the TV licence, thanks.
At least it might stop the usual suspects from dragging up this old canard every time they show their faces.

Aug 9, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

@Ian E

"...[p.s. I regard the GroanAid as only somewhat less awful an institution than the BBC - since we are not forced to pay for it. ]"

Er... we do, actually. The Grauniad is heavily financed by government advertising - it is the major provider for government jobs. If that was pulled, the Grauniad would fold. And, of course, this is taxpayers money...

Aug 9, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

BH hope you don't mind as this is OT but this may help understand our friend Zed, the second half of the article is about internet trolls so may be of interest to people.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/disinformation-how-it-works

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

Thanks Shevva for that reference, even if it is a bit depressing.

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>