Thursday, 18 August 2016

James Delingpole does what he's good at: looking stupid

Far be it from me to lecture a graduate in English from the prestigious Oxford University but....

That's just what I am going to do.

James Delingpole, stick to something you actually might know something about, like writing novels that my local Waterstones doesn't stock because, frankly, they're meddling at best.

Steer clear of science. Because you really haven't got a clue about science. Not a single clue.

Not that such an obstacle is one you are not prepared to ttackle. Instead, you are the Eddie the Eagle of climate science. Giving it a go but not just pants, naff as well.

You have chosen to demonstrate your latest episode in scientific ignorance via the electronic pages of President Unelectable's Donald Trump's handler's 'news' website, Breitbart.  I have archived your spew (http://archive.is/0M71w ) it will be of use to the historians and sociologists of science and the philosophers of knowledge for centuries to come.

I will explain why. Your first substantive paragraph is this billious one (the preceding paragraphs are equally dyspeptic and, frankly, envious - Professor Cox has much that you don't, such a visibly huge success, the word Professor in front of his name in a difficult subject that you probably couldn't cope with at school, and he is more than just a science nerd):

Australia’s ABC is so nakedly biased it makes the BBC look like Fox News. Presenter Tony Jones doesn’t even pretend to be neutral, as he showed in his handling of a question on climate change, which had clearly been set up in advance in order to make a fool of the only climate sceptic on the panel – Federal Senator Malcolm Roberts. We know it was a set up because Brian Cox had come armed with a sheaf of relevant papers – graphs and data – which he could pull out with a flourish at the appropriate moment to create a “gotcha!” scenario for Roberts. Roberts clearly hadn’t been expecting this underhand trick (I’ll explain why it is underhand in a moment) but recovered well and did about as well as you could possibly do in a situation where the presenter, all four of fellow panelists and the entire audience have drunk the Kool-Aid. (Memo to all the smartarses in the comments section of Watts Up With That who think you could have done better: no actually you couldn’t – try doing live TV sometime instead of bloviating from the comfort of your armchairs)

I guess you watched the programme with a packet of Tums to hand, munching away on the fruity ones, as Professor Cox countered wingnut nonsense  with, shock horror probe, evidence. You know, evidence in the form of graphs of data of the sort that you couldn't cope with at school because you don't understand even the most basic things about science and Maths although you think you do because your equally wingnut followers pat you on the back in the comments sections even though they know an equally minimal amount of science as you do.

Underhand, my elbow. Cox did his homework and could come prepared. Roberts is famously nutty on these matters and if he were made to look foolish, it is because he is foolish. Any eleven year old who has read a science book could manage it. You obviously can't but that's because you've climbed into bed with the man who is currently climbing onto bed with a man with famously small hands, thin skin and no science knowledge either.

Your next acidic paragraph has the heading about Richard Feynman being a real scientist, yaddah.  When playing science denier Scrabble, you should understand that invoking Richard Feynman without understanding two things ensures a low score. It's like the diving at the Olympics. Feynman is a low level of difficulty because all denier have heard of him and know a few quotations. But what the denier don't know is that Feynman worked in a field where data might be very elusive and confirmation of his ideas (models really but you wouldn't have a clue on that) and had a very clear understanding of the nature of scientific data. He also knew that a scientific theory would be worthless unless it were accepted by the scientists working in that field. They need to be convinced by the argument, equations and evidence. And when those scientists are convinced we end up with a, wait for it, consensus.

So science does not proceed by consensus but that is what is produced when the science is correct but if you do not agree, you are entitled to argue that the consensus on the idea of gravity is wrong by trying you luck on the ten metre board in Rio.

Anyway, this is your nonsense:
As Eric Worrall has rightly noted, this was Roberts’s most telling point. Cox began his spiel with the usual weary arrogance we have come to expect of the climate establishment: the tired old line that the vast majority of the world’s top scientists all agree etc. To which Roberts replied: “I’m absolutely stunned that someone [Brian Cox] who is inspired by Richard Feynman, a fantastic scientist who believes in empirical evidence, is quoting Consensus.” Well, indeed. Cox’s entire case rested on his lazy and unscientific assumption that the case for man-made global warming is proven and that even to question it puts you on the maverick fringe. As Feyman could have told Cox, this is a quintessentially unscientific position: “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

Feynman also said "I'm smart enough to know I'm dumb". That doesn't apply to you, does it?

James, you should know something. You are dumb, at least as far as science is concerned. More than that you know, because it has been pointed out to you time and rime again, where you are dumb.  This next paragraph demonstrates the mendacity that you have used in your science denial career:
When Cox whipped out a graph marked Global Land Temperature Index apparently demonstrating a spectacular upward trend in global warming, the parti-pris Q & A audience whooped their approval. Why? How could they be sure that the chart was trustworthy? How could Cox, either, given that climate change is not his field and that he quite clearly isn’t abreast of the nuances of the climate debate? The reason that this gesture was underhand is that Cox provided no supporting information as to its provenance or its reliability. As Roberts was absolutely right to point out, there are many question marks over the Global Land Temperature index, whose raw data has been the subject of unexplained revisions by the politicised climate gatekeepers at institutions like NASA and which has been corrupted by the Urban Heat Island effect. Had he been forewarned, Roberts could easily have come up with a chart showing more accurate satellite data which would have refuted Cox’s chart. It was extremely dodgy – and quite against the spirit of ABC’s supposed obligations towards neutrality – that Q & A should have encouraged Cox to pull this stunt. But what’s even more dishonourable is that Cox, who as a reputable scientist ought to be above such knavish trickery, should have acceded to participating in it.

Just about everything you say here is nonsense. The revisions to the data record are explained (have your chums Spencer and Christy explained theirs yet?), the Urban Heat Island effect has been dealt with (and is part of the reason for the revisions, and while we're on it, have you any idea what's happened to Anthony Watts's magnum opus? Me neither.). Roberts got owned by Cox and you don't like it but are not grown up enough to admit it.

But your pathetic attempt at looking clever gets worse when it descends into ad nominee stew (I will grant that you admit this but in that Donald Trump way you have adopted here):
I’ve encountered this behaviour all too often myself from Cox’s pals – the ex-Royal-Society president, ex-Socialist-Worker salesman Sir Paul Nurse; the ‘comedian’ Robin Ince with whom Cox presents a radio show; etc – and it stinks. If, as they appear to imagine, the case for man-made global warming theory is such a slam dunk, well fine: just go ahead and demonstrate it, chaps, as proper scientists have done for centuries, through the medium of falsifiable evidence. I happen to think all three of the above are talentless, overrated, low-grade, lefty-activist tossers. But I’m sufficiently well versed in the rules of rhetoric to know that this is merely ad hom – a gratuitous playground cheapshot which though fun to toss into the mix contributes absolutely nothing to the scientific and political issues at stake. What disturbs me about Cox and his alarmist cronies – most of them heavily bigged up by the BBC, which treats them as unimpeachable authorities – is that they have become too grand to bother with the science any more and seek merely to belittle and marginalise their opponents. The worst example of this on the Q & A show was when Cox cynically and crassly sought to ridicule Malcolm Roberts by giving the impression that his arguments were so absurd as not to be worth debating. This ugly technique – the demagogue playing to the mob – is what Jo Nova calls Argument from Incredulity. Here’s what Cox said in response to Roberts’s – correct – suggestion that NASA’s data had been manipulated:
By who?    NASA?   The people the…  Hang on a minute.   No, no, see this is quite serious.    But can I just – just one thing. NASA, NASA…     The people that landed men on the moon?
Even more disgustingly Cox went on to suggest that Roberts probably didn’t believe in the moon landings either.
Actually, James, the Argument from Incredulity is one commonly deployed by denier, like yourself, and is not used here by Professor Cox. Cox did debate Roberts's ideas (I'm being generous using that word) by producing a sheath of data. It is Roberts who is incredulous, not believing climate change is the result of human activity because he looks out the window and can't believe it.  So if you can't get that right, what chance is there on the little matter of hard science.

And how you get to calling Roberts a moon landing denier, please explain because the chain of logic has one daisy in it.

There is one, fantastic, punching to come. Apparently, Professor Brian Cox doesn't understand basic scientific processes. You don't know how rich that is coming from the interpreter of interpretations himself. And using Jo Nova as an authority makes the audience who know about these things roll around in the aisles clutching their sides, wetting themselves with laughter. It really is pathetic and if I could muster a molecule of empathy I would let you have it but I can't. Why on earth should I? Your whole hatchet piece is not only deeply unpleasantly nasty from start to finish, but is also riddled with ideological pins designed to inflict a modicum of pain. You failed, totally and miserably.

You failed because your ideology doesn't allow you to examine these matters critically. It is like a flea trying to steer an elephant, a minor irritation that the elephant swats off its arse with its trunk and carries on regardless. There is no argument over the data or the conclusions, there are only fleas like Roberts, Monckton, Worrell, Watts and you, little Jimmy Delingpole, who try to steer the elephant because they think they have the power to do so. Those fleas sometimes have real power, sitting on the houses that government mighty countries, and the suicidal UK, abusing their power by harassing scientists who follow the scientific method even when they hear the squeaky flea voices, and who check and recheck their calculations and explain it all in the scientific literature so that other elephants can examine their work and, if necessary, change the direction of the herd, based on the available evidence.

Two hundred years of evidence that supports itself like the iron-work of the Eiffel Tower give scientists to confidence to have a consensus. This is not ideology or money or politics. It is science, that thing you proclaim expertise in but which merely demonstrates your complete ignorance.

If your article had been handed to me, I would have told you to take it home and feed it to your dog. Wait two days, collect the droppings and bring me those. They would be more worthwhile.
 

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