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« What is Truss being told? | Main | Open advocacy »
Thursday
Jan082015

Blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas

There are people who are willing to tough it out in the marketplace of ideas and there are people who are not. Charlie Hebdo and the violent attempts to silence dissent apart, in recent days I've noticed other bits and pieces that touch upon the same issues, albeit in a less violent way, but perhaps in a more insidious one as well. 

A couple of days ago I noticed a geography teacher asking for help in finding someone to put the pro-fracking case in a school debate - the chief executive of iGas had dropped out. The panel already featured no less than three greens as well as an academic (with no particular expertise in unconventional oil and gas), so I raised an eyebrow at a reply from Chris Vernon, a PhD student and one-time contributor to the Oil Drum blog.

 

 

As an example of the sort of casual, unthinking challenge to the free exchange of ideas it's hard to beat. Three environmentalists seem perfectly acceptable to Vernon, but the idea that someone should speak up for the interests of their shareholders is anathema. And has he considered that the livelihoods of some of the other (green) speakers are a function of their positions on fracking? Presumably he also thinks that if someone were to consider throwing him off his PhD course we should ignore his protests on the grounds that he was motivated only by money.

Then there is the Green Party's outrage today that they have not been awarded "big party" status by the Ofcom and will not therefore be able to take part in televised debates. The more opportunities there are to expose the insanity of the Greens the better as far as I am concerned, but it's still hard to have much sympathy with Ms Bennett et al, who have worked pretty hard to ensure that their opponents' arguments are never heard at all. Purges of those who hold dissenting views and their removal from the airwaves, as advocated by the Green Party, are just Vernon's casual intolerance writ large.

This behaviour is familiar. I certainly can't forget Lord Deben's complaints about my being allowed airtime on the BBC. It's pervasive in academia too. We read that nearly one in four social scientists would not recruit someone of conservative views to their department. We have people like Bob Ward trying to ensure "consequences" for those who disagree with him on a daily basis.

So at a time when we are all reeling in horror from violent attacks against free speech and attempts to stifle the free exchange of ideas, it's worth noting that there are plenty of other people blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas. Their use of less violent methods does not excuse them.

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Reader Comments (59)

'Pro-fracking', or at least 'science-led progressive' is represented by BGS, Geological Society and even the Royal Society. Each has downloadable reports on their websites reviewing the risks, and concluding they are all manageable, except perhaps for the risk fracking's CO2 emissions will contribute to the End of the World.

Jan 9, 2015 at 4:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterOakwood

Green/climate fanatics are not rational, not friendly, not interested in either rational or friendly. They are the modern secular form of Bible thumping fundamentalists: Ignorant bigots wrapped up in self-declared enviro-righteousness.

Jan 9, 2015 at 7:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Perhaps not so much a debate as a briefing was intended? The habit of seeking to prevent your critics from speaking, or indeed of holding a one-sided 'debate', is a hallmark of the fanatic. If it goes ahead in that fashion, and especially if schoolchildren are present, I hope at least a good few of the audience will take pains to point out the situation they find themselves in.

Jan 9, 2015 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Perhaps also Chris Vernon thinks that a see-saw would function perfectly well with one person sitting on the left hand side and the other sitting on what would normally be the point of balance in the centre.

Jan 9, 2015 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I am with the Bish on the issue of turning up there and arguing your case against a bunch of green fanatics who will cheerfully assert the dangers without the slightest evidence to support their case. However, it is my view that most people don't understand exactly what the fracking process is and believe that there is a continued pumping of water to extract gas/oil. In reality a field of 20 fracking wells with a combined life of 200 years of gas/oil (assuming 10 years/well average) will be fracked for between 20 and 100hrs, or to put it into perspective between 1/3650 and 4/3650 the life of the well. (although there may be the odd re-fracking) the point is that the "fracking" the greenies are frightening people with takes a very short time in the total lifetime of the well.

Jan 9, 2015 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Fairness of the debate depends on the moderator
A deceptive moderator can manipulate the debate and cut people off etc.
Whereas a good moderator allocates the timing so that everyone first gets a slot, then gets a chance to rebutt their opponents then get a chance to rebutt t the rebuttal & so on..so no one can do nasty tricks likes slinging in heavy smears right at the end cos they know when the end is coming

Jan 9, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Ken Cronin of the UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) is extremely well informed on the subject of fracking and is also the industry representative for the onshore exploration and production companies. He would be an ideal person for this role.

The website can be found at http://www.ukoog.org.uk/ and contains accurate, well researched information as well as highlighting the role of the official government agency responsibilities and regulations concerned with all onshore operations, including fracking.

James Verdon, at Bristol University, is also very well informed and I am sure would be able to put an accurate view of the pro's, cons and risks of fracking to students. His presentation at http://www1.gly.bris.ac.uk/~JamesVerdon/PDFS/Glastonbury_talk.pdf is pretty good.

Jan 9, 2015 at 1:44 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

As I understand it, Vernon has his nice, new shiny Ph.D.

http://chrisvernon.co.uk/

I wonder if he was encouraged towards his progressive views on scientific and engineering debate by Bristol University?

Jan 9, 2015 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Regarding this debate, I have heard from a “mole” (a fellow Rodent, so technically not a correct term) that there is a dark horse in the argument. It could get very interesting, as the cat is set amongst the pigeons for “Closed-mind” Vernon, opening a real can of worms for him.

(Hmmm…. any more animal analogies I could have used?)

Jan 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

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