Hat tip to JB, who points me at John Beddington saying:

“We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality…We are not–and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this–grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method,”

It gets better: Beddington also had harsh words for journalists who treat the opinions of non-scientist commentators as being equivalent to the opinions of what he called “properly trained, properly assessed” scientists. “The media see the discussions about really important scientific events as if it’s a bloody football match. It is ridiculous.”

So, all good stuff, and would indeed be nice to see, but about as likely to actually happen as a Christian government obeying the Ten Commandments (no, not the one about Adultery, its the one about Not Killing People that is the obvious problem. Although they tend to find Not Bearing False Witness tricky too). What would happen to the mighty War on Drugs if it were subjected to rational analysis? Or indeed the War on Terror (aka the campaign to spread fear). Beddington has wound up fools like Delingpole, which is fun I suppose, though it doesn’t look like winding him up is much of a challenge.

[Update: and perhaps speaking of which, I note Fooled again (Tamino) commenting no How easy it is to get fooled (RC), which is about the Legras et al. 2010 (A critical look at solar-climate relationships from long temperature series (Climate of the Past, 6, 745-758, doi:10.5194/cp-6-745-2010) critique / demolition of Le Mouël et al. (2010, A solar pattern in the longest temperature series from three stations in Europe, J. Atmos. Solar-Terr. Phys., 72, 62-76, doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2009.10.009)]

Refs

* Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science (Robert L. Park, Ph.D) ht JB.
* Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Video) – strictly irrelevant, but wonderful.
* Ethics of science communication on the web Maxine Clarke, (Nature) Ethics Sci Environ Polit: Preprint, 2008.
* Fooled Yet Again – Open Mind.
* E&E threatens a libel suit
* Deltoid “The Bureau of Meteorology fights back” ripping up Plimer.

Comments

  1. #1 David B. Benson
    2011/02/20

    Beddington aids:

    Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway
    Merchants of Doubt
    http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

    Massimo Pigliucci
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    University of Chicago Press, 2010.

  2. #2 Clam
    2011/02/21

    Sir John’s got it right, though sciencepunk thinks he’s wrong:
    http://scienceblogs.com/sciencepunk/2011/02/does_science_need_intolerance.php
    – but then, I doubt if he has to put up with the uneducated, loud-mouthed anti-vaxxers, anti-AGW, anti-immigration, anti-Europe anti-everything Little-Britainers who inhabit the comments columns of the Daily Telegraph.

  3. #3 Douglas Watts
    2011/02/21

    Slagging on women or people of non-white color now carries a serious social and economic stigma to those who say it, especially journalists. That level of fear of social stigma has not reached where science and scientists can seek protection under its umbrella. Well, it has, in terms of the ‘science’ of eugenics or feeding kids lead paint chips. But isn’t that what proponents of AGW are ultimately advocating? So, yes, you’re right. Bashing science for the pure sake of bashing science still does get a bye. So long as no one provably gets hurt, which can only be proven after the fact.

  4. #4 Douglas Watts
    2011/02/21

    Oops. By ‘proponents of AGW’ I mean those who welcome it or simultaneously deny it while welcoming it.

  5. #5 J Bowers
    2011/02/21

    I think government has to step up to the plate and heighten the standards, and giving most creedence to the peer reviewed literature would be a start. That would not exclude those who run contrary to the mainstream (actual sceptics who are willing to do the science, not just blog science), but at the end of the day the government is acting for the people, and the people deserve the best there is. I know William, I’m being a tad idealistic, but it is a test of reliability, and I say that as a layman.

    I see Beddington’s outspoken comments in the same vein as Nurse’s Horizon documentary which I urged my folks to watch. Prior to watching it they were pretty sceptical of AGW, but afterwards were suprised at a what a bunch of “know nothings” amd wazzocks the sceptics are, and thought Nurse was incredibly clear and made a lot of sense. At least Beddington’s comments getting more exposure could make a lot more people think about the subject, rather than just let the lies flow into the brain from an often partisan media pundit. I see Delingpole’s response as a knee jerk reaction by someone who’s very worried that he’s been exposed for the charlatan “interpreter of interpretations” that he is. The more of this kind of thing from the likes of Beddington and Nurse the better IMHO. They are, after all, our most senior scientists, their opinion is one of the things they were appointed for, and when they confront issues it forces the Crazy Eddies on the defensive. That defence might take the form of their usual offensive, but they’ll have to start justifying their position more in order to retain any credibility given by the average person on the street. The Crazy Eddie’s mistake is in assuming that they represent the views of the majority; a Munchausen type of fantasy, when the reality is that they only preach to a mostly predisposed ~25% or ~30% (depending on country and current gate-du-jour) who are mistrustful of science to begin with.

    This is also worth a read: Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science
    http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/signs.html

  6. #6 crandles
    2011/02/21

    “”I really would urge you to be grossly intolerant…We should not tolerate what is potentially something that can seriously undermine our ability to address important problems.”

    So where to start? Perhap consider:

    http://climaterealists.com/attachments/ftp/WANews10No37ESSENCEOFWINTER2010-11Forecast.pdf

    “and is nothing to do with CO2, will encourage politicians to get a grip on reality and end their support for the CO2 ‘hypothesis’ of man-made climate change which is failed science based on fraudulent data”

    Where should, and where would, the relevant advertising standards authority place the burden of proof?

  7. #7 Hank Roberts
    2011/02/21

    > encourage politicians

    Pertinent link from the sidebar:

    Our Real (Adult) Educational Crisis: The Ongoing Failure of Our Political Press Corps(e)
    http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2011/02/our_real_adult_educational_cri.php?

    That’s the problem
    — a piece of pseudo-science is given a place in a political party platform
    — that notion is thereby immunized from criticism by the press
    — “political ‘scientists'” then paint any scientist criticizing the nonsense as a partisan therefore unscientific.

    The trick is to anoint the pseudo-woo as a political position before it’s ever scrutinized, giving it protection sometimes for decades: http://www.google.com/search?q=“anti-vax”+teaparty

    If it can be promoted to being an actual party’s platform it can be enacted into law.

    Once protected: “Law has its own tests of what is law, and those tests validate much that is immoral and illogical.”
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/the-champion/#comment-48581

  8. #8 Hank Roberts
    2011/02/21

    dang, I broke the ‘no more than one URL’ rule again, didn’t I?
    Just leave’em in the bin, I’ll learn eventually or give up.

  9. #9 RickA
    2011/02/21

    “(no, not the one about Adultery, its the one about Not Killing People . . .”

    It is my understanding that a proper translation of the original is “murder” – as in Though Shall Not Murder.

    Quite a difference really.

    [Only if the subtlety is present in the original Hebrew. I see God up their thinking to himself: “Bugger it all! I told you not to kill and you spend your time killing people and weaselling about the meaning of words. You’ll be redefining the meaning of torture next… oh, wait…” -W]

  10. #10 Lars Karlsson
    2011/02/22

    Directly following Delingpole’s indignation piece is another piece with the header “Why do I call them Eco Nazis? Because they ARE Eco Nazis”, featuring an image with the caption “Himmler: he loved nature, furry animals and organic food”.

  11. #11 Jesús R.
    2011/02/22

    The problem is that zero tolerance for pseudo-science is perceived as intolerance towards opinions. It’s important to make clear that denialists are not denigrated because of their opinions but because of their dishonest methods.

  12. #12 Martin Vermeer
    2011/02/22

    > its the one about Not Killing People that is the obvious problem

    or the one about bearing false witness (no. nine, or no. eight, depending). But that inevitably begets the killing-people problem, I agree…

  13. #13 Dunc
    2011/02/22

    It is my understanding that a proper translation of the original is “murder” – as in Though Shall Not Murder.

    Not much use as a commandment though, is it? I mean, the definition of murder must come from some kind of legal code, so if your supposedly foundational commandments are simply going to re-iterate ideas already expressed elsewhere, what’s the point? You might as well boil the whole lot down to “Thou shalt not break the law”. Which is, of course, logically empty…

    I wonder why it’s always this particular commandment that people get all rules-lawyerly about the translation of? You don’t hear anybody carefully parsing the exact meaning of “honour” in “Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother”, do you? Nor hair-splitting over what exactly constitutes “covetousness”…

  14. Quite a strong argument I think – just because science isn’t a group of people (obviosuly scientists are!) I think people think they can get away with being ignorant!

  15. #15 snide
    2011/02/22

    Why would you like a band that can’t even play in time?

  16. #16 David B. Benson
    2011/02/22

    Regarding the OT topic of kill vs. murder.

    The oldest extant bible is written in ancient Greek of the Hellenistic era. It is not clear that the distinction existed in that language; an attempt yesterday failed to find an difference.

    Checking modern Hebrew does no help either because the legal distinction now exists. I was unabhle to find an online translation service for ancient Hebrew. However, in the modern Hebrew translations, there are several possible translation of each word; some of those translations are identical. Based on that, I’ll opine that ancient Hebrew made no distintion between the two concepts; premediation appears to be an unknown idea at the time?

    [I’m fairly sure the kill / murder distinction is a spurious one invented by Christian apologist to justify state subsidies – you can’t be the State Religion unless you approve of what the State does and the State is going to have an Army, i.e. be prepared to Kill People, so your State Religion is goig to have to approve of the State Killing People. There really is no way out. Other than morality, of course, but a State Religion doesn’t get that choice. You funny US colonial types pretend not to have a State Religion of course, which makes for hollow laughter all round -W]

  17. #17 andrew
    2011/02/22

    Drifting ever more OT, a discussion of the kill/murder distinction can be found in G.E.M. Anscombe’s pamphlet “Mr Truman’s Degree”, online here:

    http://www.anthonyflood.com/anscombetrumansdegree.htm

    The author was professor of philosophy at Cambridge, and also a rampantly hard-line papist – probably more Catholic than the pope.

  18. #18 andrew
    2011/02/23

    “I’m fairly sure the kill / murder distinction is a spurious one invented by Christian apologist to justify state subsidies – you can’t be the State Religion unless you approve of what the State does and the State is going to have an Army, i.e. be prepared to Kill People, so your State Religion is goig to have to approve of the State Killing People.”

    Absolute horseshit.

    The very idea of a “State Religion” is a quaint idea invented by you funny Pommy types so that Henry VIII could get his end away.

    I’m a fan of David Hume in matters of religion, but I think that there is a lot to think about in the writings of the likes of Anscombe on war – also her essay “Modern Moral Philosophy”.

    [Err, people have had state religion for rather longer than that. Ever since they have had states in fact -W]

  19. #19 andrew
    2011/02/23

    “Err, people have had state religion for rather longer than that. Ever since they have had states in fact”

    I bow to your superior historical knowledge. What was the first state, and what was its state religion? And every state since then has had a “state religion”?

    [Babylon. Ur. Who knows which was the first? -W]

    But if Christian apologists invented the spurious kill/murder distinction, how did people justify “state subsidies” before Christianity?

    [Religions before Christianity tended not to have the “thou shalt not kill” edict, so lacked the basic contradiction -W]

  20. #20 P. Lewis
    2011/02/23

    Er, andrew, it’s not too difficult to find out. Google is your friend on ancient state religions, and on the distinction between state church and state religion (further up page).

  21. #21 Paul Kelly
    2011/02/23

    The commandment “Thou shall not (insert proper English translation of a Greek translation of a Hebrew transcription of an oral tradition)” long predates Christianity. Christianity has two commandments, love God and love your neighbor. It is not much practiced.

  22. #22 J Bowers
    2011/02/25

    Heads up. H/T to Michael Tobis:

    Inspector General’s Review of Stolen Emails Confirms No Evidence of Wrong-Doing by NOAA Climate Scientists

    Report is the latest independent analysis to clear climate scientists of allegations of mishandling of climate information

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20110224_climate.html

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2011/02/climategate-yet-more-bupkis.html

  23. #23 andrew
    2011/02/26

    “Babylon. Ur. Who knows which was the first?”

    Not me. But I feel that if you’re going to say things like this: “Err, people have had state religion for rather longer than that. Ever since they have had states in fact” then you should know which was the first state, and be able to show that it had a state religion.

    “Religions before Christianity tended not to have the “thou shalt not kill” edict, so lacked the basic contradiction ”

    I’m pretty sure that Exodus Chapter 20 tends to have the “thou shalt not kill” edict, and pre-dates Christianity. What basic contradiction is it lacking?

    [You’re right about that. Though I was thinking about Ur and Babylon -W]

    P. Lewis, thanks for the reference. Since Wikipedia is Never Wrong, I am forced to admit that I was mistaken. Even though I still prefer my version of the origin of state religions.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as tetchy. I live in NZ and this discussion is a welcome distraction. Even though you’re all talking bollocks.

    [You have my sympathy for that -W]

  24. #24 David B. Benson
    2011/02/27

    Already in Ur, murder was a capital offense:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Ur-Nammu
    i.e., thou shalt not kill.

    This was long and long (~800 years) before
    “According to Jewish tradition the Torah was revealed to Moses in 1312 BCE at Mount Sinai…” from
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah

    [I think you are mixing civil and religious law. Any civil society I can think of is going to have some kind of rule about not killing its own citizens. But a religious rule forbidding killing non-citizens is different -W]

  25. #25 Jay B.
    2011/02/28

    Sudden weather changes, floods, earthquakes and many other disasters can cause poverty of crops to feed people and animals. What do you think, what will follow? So, if scientific data cannot prove the Climate changes those situations definitely can do that.

  26. #26 David B. Benson
    2011/02/28

    William — As you yourself pointed out, back then there was no distinction between church and state.

    Further, the Hebrew prohibition against killing does not appear to extend further than other Hebrews, at least in time of conquest or other war.

  27. #27 Eli Rabett
    2011/02/28

    If the Juju had meant us not to eat people, he wouldn’t have made people of meat!

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