Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sir Paul Nurse – saviour of the universe!

James Delingpole

As regular readers will no doubt be aware, Sir Paul Nurse is easily my favourite Nobel-prizewinner after Yasser Arafat, Al Gore and Barack Obama. All right, so he got his award for genetics rather than (as the others did) services to world peace. But in no wise does this diminish my respect for the many wondrous things he has achieved, not just in medical science, but also in the fields of political activism, self-promotion and tendentious TV documentary making.

Which, of course, is why I have been so concerned these last few months for the state of Nurse's reputation. First, of course, there was that string of boo-boos he made in his BBC Horizon documentary, Science Under Attack,  in which he set out to make fools of people he branded "deniers" only to end up proving himself significantly more ignorant of the complexities of climate science than the "deniers" were. Then came Andrew Montford's devastating report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation on how Nurse (and his two predecessors Lord Rees and Lord May) had destroyed the integrity of the once-great Royal Society by transforming it from a scrupulously neutral scientific body into a "policy-driven quango." To add insult to injury, poor Nurse was dismissed thus in an introductory essay by Professor Richard Lindzen:
The presidents involved with this issue (May, Rees and Nurse) are all profoundly ignorant of climate science. Their alleged authority stems from their positions in the RS rather than from scientific expertise. This is evident in a variety of ways.
That's why I was so delighted to learn that Nurse had been given the chance to rescue his tattered credibility by giving this year's Dimbleby lecture. And sure enough he managed to do so, with all the deftness of Paul Daniels doing a card trick (in his pre-bandsaw days), nay with the dazzling legerdemain of a balloon dancer hiding her rude bits at Madame Jo-Jos.

Here's how he did it. (H/T Neil Craig who has also noticed at this blog, most disrespectfully titled Sir Paul Nurse slithers) He cunningly pretended that instead of being one of those political activist scientists who had aggressively pushed the threadbare theory of man-made global warming onto an unsuspecting, gullible audience who thought men with Nobel-prizes and white lab coats could be trusted, he had in fact been a scrupulously neutral party all along.

The key passage is this one:
The majority of expert climate scientists have reached the consensus view that human activity has resulted in global warming, although there is debate about how much the temperature will rise in the future. Others argue that warming is not taking place at all or that it will happen in a catastrophic way, but they have failed to persuade the majority of climate experts, who have judged the scientific arguments made to support these more extreme views as being too weak to be convincing.
Can you see what he's doing there? Blink and you'll miss it. So let me explain. Nurse is ingeniously mischaracterising the debate on AGW as being one between two extreme parties: on the one hand are these imaginary people (anyone know any? I certainly don't) who argue that "warming is not taking place at all" and on the other are these ones who believe that this anthropogenic warming will happen "in a catastrophic way." And somewhere in the middle, apparently, is balanced, reasonable Nurse.

Well, I hesitate to accuse a man whose integrity I admire so greatly of lying, but, isn't he being a little – ahem – economical with the actualite here?

I mean if, as Nurse is now suggesting, the scientific mainstream understanding of global warming is that it's happening but that it's open to debate how significant it is then doesn't this completely contradict pretty much everything he, the Royal Society, and its two previous presidents Lords Rees and May have been doing this last decade or more to stoke up the Anthropogenic Global Warming scare for all they're worth?

After all if the "science" of AGW were still, so to speak, "unsettled" then clearly it would be madness, not to say despicably irresponsible, of organisations like the Royal Society to urge policy prescriptions in order to deal with a problem which may actually not even exist.

It would be nice to think that having narrowly escaped being written off by future historians as yet another of those junk science eco-loons who helped foment what I describe in my book Watermelons as "the biggest and most expensive outbreak of mass hysteria in history", Nurse will now stick to what he knows best: proper, falsifiable, empirical science – as opposed to post normal science and left-leaning activism.

But this paragraph of his speech persuades me that he may not have learned the error of his ways just yet:
Today the world faces major problems. Some uppermost in my mind are food security, climate change, global health and making economies sustainable, all of which need science. It is critical for our democracy to have mature discussions about these issues.
"Making economies sustainable", eh? As Homer Simpson might have said: "Nobel-Prize-winning geneticists: is there ANYTHING they can't do?"

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