Watch: Denier James Delingpole admits he can’t do science


by Sunny Hundal    
3:15 pm - January 25th 2011

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From last night’s Horizon programme.

James Delingpole: “It’s not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply do not have the time; I don’t have the expertise.”

He then goes on to say about his work: “I am an interpreter of interpretations”

What a ludicrous joke this man is, the biggest global warming denier in the UK.

via @leohickman

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


This is hilarious. Its high time someone called these people’s bluff. Life outside the echo-chamber, facing someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, is obviously an uncomfortable experience.

Here’s the sort of hoax that climate “sceptics” have no interest in whatsoever (apart from those that perpetrate it of course)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/25/michaels-climate-sceptic-misled-congress

I bow to no man in my Delingpole-denigration but the vast bulk of us are interpreters of interpretations. Saying one accepts a “consensus”, for example, is interpretating the interpretations of the scientists.

Um, yeah, he’s a journalist. I don’t think he actually holds himself out as a climate scientist does he?

What an awful, awful prat that man is.

I nearly feel sorry for him.

At least he’s honest.

Are you prepared to admit the same, Sunny?

A little slow but Nurse treated the issue exactly right, distinguishing between skeptics and doubters, never once resorting to ad homs or smears by association.

His main thrust was that scientists should adopt the principle of charity and address the strongest possible interpretation of their opponents case: that’s how science progresses.

Um, yeah, he’s a journalist. I don’t think he actually holds himself out as a climate scientist does he?

No, he doesn’t read any journals either. So he’s criticising the scientific establishment and the process and the consensus based on what?

“Um, yeah, he’s a journalist. I don’t think he actually holds himself out as a climate scientist does he?”

Yeah, James Delingpole doesn’t expect anyone to take him seriously! God, imagine the problems that would cause!

Sunny, are you as concerned with your own credibility as you are about the credibility of others?

ukliberty, are you still whining about the time I said police horses were ‘charging’ at protesters?

12. Luis Enrique

I don’t understand. Aren’t we all, here, interpreters of interpretations? Does anybody here understand long-range climate models well enough to assess them? I bet there are plenty of people here who are happy to talk about how modern mainstream economics is rubbish but couldn’t get past the first line of the DSGE paper. How’s that different? I’m mean fine, eviscerate him for talking rubbish. This, though, is an odd line of attack. Of course he can’t understand technical papers and relies of others interpreting them for him.

No, he doesn’t read any journals either. So he’s criticising the scientific establishment and the process and the consensus based on what?

On the interpretations of those papers by science writers? This is an impressively lame takedown even by your standards Sunny. As Luis says, you don’t feel constrained by your ignorance of theoretical economics from lambasting economists and politicians on the subject – and nor should you. A fairly common reaction to seeing a complex argument on a technical subject is to look for an interpretation of it.

Sunny, no, this latest “whine” is inspired by your article on 20 January, but it’s based on a history of articles by you that suggest you should look at that redwood in your eye.

So-called “climate sceptics” include plenty of scientists who *are* competent enough to read peer-reviewed journals, yet their opinions don’t sway Sunny either. Yet another LC red herring, it seems.

Trouble is Scooby that flies in the face of the scientific consensus and the data, as is pointed out in the Horizon documentary.

I agree with Luis.

In fairness, it is, perhaps, presumptuous of him to excoriate all those who cleave to theories of AGW as frauds and fools if he’s no grasp of the science behind them. For example, based on my interpretations of interpretations I’m sympathetic to claims that, say, parapsychology is a worthwhile field. As so many people who are (a) more intelligent than me and (b) more knowledgeable than hold different views, however, I’m not going to insist that I’m utterly right and anyone who claims otherwise is a big fat bastard.

18. Shatterface

(Parapsychology IS bollocks though)

If everyone is overdosing on humility, then that is good. But if lay people can’t be bothered to inform themselves at least a little about climate science, then what basis do we have for having an opinion on the subject whatsoever?

It’s not the X-Factor, it’s really quite important.

To consider others’ interpretations of the data is to inform oneself. Here’s a rough analogy: one doesn’t have to go to Egypt to have knowledge of it; we’ve got the accounts of other folk who’ve nosed around down there. Sure, if you haven’t been you can’t claim to be an expert on the land, its culture and its people but they’re not completely alien.

22. David O'Keefe

Is it an odd line to take? Delingpole is entitled to take an ideological position on any topic he desires, what he can’t have is his own facts. What he is guilty of is ignoring a consensus on global warming because it doesn’t fit his world view.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, what your not entitled to is your own facts. That is what Delingpole and many deniers and some skeptics are doing selecting their own facts and ignoring those that call into question their interpretation.

To summarise: Delingpole is guilty of interpretating interpretations that he agrees with and ignoring those that don’t fit his world view. That is the issue here.

23. Luis Enrique

Douglas

but informing yourself about climate science means reading (and interpreting) other people’s interpretations of it – reading articles in popular science journals and such like – it does not mean acquiring the ability to assess climate models yourself.

but informing yourself about climate science means reading (and interpreting) other people’s interpretations of it – reading articles in popular science journals and such like – it does not mean acquiring the ability to assess climate models yourself.

But he doesn’t read the journals. He doesn’t read scientific material. He reads people who fit in with his worldview and then he claims that scientists are talking bollocks. In fact he accuses them of massive fraud all the time.

If you’re going to make some big claims like that, and claim these people are “destroying humanity” or whatever, then perhaps you should read some of the material?

It’s not like he said “yeah I just don’t disagree with these people, they’re lame” – he repeatedly accuses the scientific establisment of fraud over global warming.

Just saying that’s ok because he’s “interpreting interpretations” is being disingenuous

ukliberty – oh right, so you’re now accusing me because I said the Met Police ‘lied’ about plain clothes people at G20. Do you have any evidence they didn’t? Because that’s what it clearly looks like:

You’re telling me a senior commander DOES NOT KNOW that they put plain clothes policemen at the demo, and that he should be excused for saying: “We had no plain-clothes officers deployed within the crowd. It would have been dangerous for them to put plain-clothes officers in a crowd like that.”

It’s a plain lie. He lied at the time. If you think that somehow undermines my credibility, that’s up to you. I’m not fussed.

How can anyone take this man remotely seriously. According to him, reading selected interpretations from the internet is superior to peer reviewed science. So anyone who is vaguely literate then can get a better understanding of all the scientific questions involved from the internet than scientists reading the peer reviewed work.

He claimed that consensus was the antithesis of science (and presumably scientific method) but when presented with a putative example involving the scientific consensus on cancer treatement, he tried to change the subject and told the interviewer off.

It would be laughable if weren’t so serious.

Just saying that’s ok because he’s “interpreting interpretations” is being disingenuous…

Oh, no, it’s not okay. But it’s not a problem of interpreting interpretations, it’s a problem of drawing the wrong interpretations. For example imma gunna guess that you think The Bell Curve was a load of crap, amirite? But I’d also guess you’re not acquainted with its data, you’ve just drawn interpretations from critiques of it.

28. Luis Enrique

sorry Sunny, I should have said popular science magazines – Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American – I also think reading the actual scientific material is worthwhile (you can often glean something) but let’s not pretend any of us are in a position to evaluate it. You, me and the arse Delingpole are all interpreters of interpretations.

As you say, choosing only to read those interpretations that agree with your point of view whilst studiously ignoring all those that contradict you is the mark of a 1st class moron. But that’s not what he admits to and it’s not what the OP accuses him of.

Nobody here is suggesting that accusing climate scientists of fraud is OK because he’s “interpreting interpretations”. (You do love accusing me of being disingenuous don’t you) Lots of people here are saying that the mere admission that he doesn’t read peer reviewed technical material and is an interpreter of interpretations puts him in the same camp as the rest of us.

Luis Enrique,

It’s always going to be a problem when people who know nothing are given a platform to spout their opinions though, isn’t it? Which is my point really. I don’t know whether Delingpole has expertise in anything other that being a contoversialist, but the climate skeptics / denialists are lions led by donkeys. He has hardly played the role of honest broker and has shilled for the denialists. And he admits that he hasn’t read the science?

C’mon, you might as well listen to some guy mumbling at the bus stop.

The Bell Curve was a load of crap, amirite? But I’d also guess you’re not acquainted with its data, you’ve just drawn interpretations from critiques of it.

you’d have a point if I wrote articles about the Bell Curve almost every day saying how crap it is and how its one big conspiracy.

But I don’t. I hope that clarifies my point?

Luis – I haven’t actually said much in the OP than quote him and call him a tool. I thought the point would be obvious, but I guess I still have to spell it out….

so you’re now accusing me because I said the Met Police ‘lied’ about plain clothes people at G20

No, he’s accusing you because you said that the Met Police had admitted to ‘lying’ about plain clothes people at G20, when what they had actually done was said that a previous statement had been inaccurate. The Met might well have been lying, but they haven’t admitted to it.

32. the a&e charge nurse

The analogy with medicine is not so straightforward – after decades of research experts still cannot agree even about a benefits of singe drug such as statins, or antidepressants (even though the NHS spends over a billion on them each year)
http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004816.html
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045

Now given that climate change involves multiple disciplines dealing with complex phenomena it seems to me that while consensus may be emerging amongst scientists I doubt very much if the man on the street is able to evaluate the data (not least because there is so much of it) in a way that allows any definite conclusion – other than saying, yup, those experts SEEM to know what they are talking about?
I mean look at the spectrum cited by this publication!
http://www.inderscience.com/browse/index.php?journalID=331

you’d have a point if I wrote articles about the Bell Curve almost every day saying how crap it is and how its one big conspiracy.

You write a lot about immigration often without bothering to read the figures behind it. Lets face it, we all write about things based on other people’s interpretations – often at second or third hand.

34. Luis Enrique

the fault is yours, dear reader.

It is standard policy for the right wing now to make shit up to fit in to their world view. Up is down, black is white, they just pull shit out of their ass.

The world was created only 6000 years ago and man played with the dinosaurs just like Fred Flintstone. No seriously, this is what these morons believe. And the ones that don’t are all in the pay of the oil companies.

Everybody seems to be taking it as given that it’s fine that journalists- whichever side of the debate they’re on- don’t read peer-reviewed papers. They’re certainly not something you can just pick up and understand, but I’m absolutely sure that any intelligent laymen could get to the point of being able to understand the key points and conclusions made in their abstracts, as well as having at least a tentative feel for the academic landscape and knowing to keep abreast of recent developments, after only two or three months of part-time study on the subject at most.

There are plenty of professions which involve constantly learning on the job, and I can’t accept that science journalists being able to have some rudimentary grasp on the subject of their writing is somehow beyond them.

the a & e charge nurse,

That isn’t exactly the point Nurse was making. It was to the effect that, if you had cancer, you would, in all likelyhood accept the treatment plan. You would ‘trust’ the doctor. Dellingpole appeared to concede that before realising that his point had been completely undermined. What Nurse was getting at was that Dellingpole and his ilk should ‘trust’ the scientists, which, for the sake of his income, Dellingpole can’t do. Hence the waffle….

If you are actually interested in the subject, there was a good link to some scientists talking about these things from this very site:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/01/23/understanding-climate-science-and-the-weather/#comments

Ben – Yes, but what do you gain from an abstract that you don’t from, say, a report in Nature? I could write an abstract where I claim to be the most attractive, intelligent and virile human e’er to grace the earth but if my data was a cross-breed of Fermat’s last theorem and the results of an experiment that measured the belch-rate of Luton Town supporters it wouldn’t all that reputable.

Sunny,

ukliberty – oh right, so you’re now accusing me because I said the Met Police ‘lied’ about plain clothes people at G20. Do you have any evidence they didn’t? Because that’s what it clearly looks like:

You claimed they admitted to lying but they hadn’t admitted to lying. Neither of us know the underlying truth. But we do know what they have and haven’t admitted to.

You’re telling me a senior commander DOES NOT KNOW that they put plain clothes policemen at the demo, and that he should be excused for saying: “We had no plain-clothes officers deployed within the crowd. It would have been dangerous for them to put plain-clothes officers in a crowd like that.”

It is conceivable that he didn’t know – they do get things wrong you know. I didn’t say he should be excused. This afternoon the Home Affairs Committee rightly they asked him to find out how why he was (1) misinformed and (2) not corrected.

It’s a plain lie. He lied at the time. If you think that somehow undermines my credibility, that’s up to you. I’m not fussed.

It is your inaccuracies and refusal to concede such points that undermine your credibility.

Look, I wouldn’t bother posting about it if I didn’t respect what you’ve done with LC. And I’ve defended you in comments here and on PP before. It’s just that I don’t believe you hold yourself to the same standard you apparently expect of those you criticise. If you’re not fussed about that it’s no skin off my nose. But as LC becomes more popular – and I believe it will – you face a greater risk of being called on it.

BenSix,

An abstract is part of a scientific paper. It won’t be published if it’s not all that reputable because it won’t pass peer review.

Reports like those in nature are a good secondary source, especially in terms of putting things in a broad context in relation to technology and the rest of the world. However, they really don’t give any kind of impression of the cut-and-thrust of the academic work- you can’t get any impression of sweeping trends, major controversies, arguing cliques, emerging paradigm shifts or anything else that’s vital to understand if your aim is to provide some kind of critical interpretation of the scientific work, rather than just a layman’s summary of a particular paper or group of papers. I’m also somewhat doubtful for a complicated topic like climate change that they would cover all of the vital details.

ukliberty @ 39,

I think you are posting in the wrong thread :-(

It won’t be published if it’s not all that reputable because it won’t pass peer review.

That’s assuming human processes aren’t fallible. And they are…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6n_scandal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogdanov_Affair

Sure, reading the abstracts is better than a Nature piece inasmuch as it’s a first-hand interpretation but it needn’t be a more reliable portrayal of the data.

Few of us have the time or knowledge to read primary sources of complicated, technical phenomena such as climate. However secondary sources are not all the same, I think Luis Enrique hinted as much. Anyone can read New Scientist or nature on the web and get a good idea of what the experts think. There is also the IPCC report that has a reasonably accessible summary for policymakers on their website. One would have thought an interested journalist might at least have been interested to see the advice our leaders were reading.

Of course the police wouldn’t admit to ‘lying’ in those exact terms, or I believe there would be calls for an inquiry and he’d be sacked on the spot. They’re covering their own arses. Fact is, he lied, even if he didn’t admit it. My headline wasn’t to paraphrase the police, the headline reflected my version of events on the issue.

Bensix #42 – now you’re just being ludicrous for the sake of being contrarian. Who the fuck said humans or any process wasn’t fallible?

But Dingbat Delingpole writes about climate science day in and day out. Yet he’s not even bothered to do some cursory research of his own other than interpreting other tinfoil hat wearing, frothing at the mouth dingbats who feed that prejudice.

I have no problems with bullshitters spouting bullshit whole day long to make some money. Just don’t criticise other people when they call out that bullshitter

3. BenSix:

> …the vast bulk of us are interpreters of interpretations.

It requires no “interpretation” to read and accept what climate scientists are saying. Their message is unequivocal, e.g.:

* American Physical Society: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. … The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.” http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

> Saying one accepts a “consensus”, for example, is interpretating the interpretations of the scientists.

That’s just meaningless semantics. Accepting the near-total consensus of climate scientists and total consensus of every national science academy on the planet is exactly what we do with every other subject – whether it’s medicine or aeronautics or biology. We go to experts because we know they are better informed than lay people. We don’t think we know better because we read a few blog articles by some crank.

Because of the reality of global warming and the political / social implications of mitigating it, a certain political demographic and type of person has decided they know better than the combined expertise of thousands of PhDs around the planet. It would be hilarious if the consequences of the deniers succeeding in preventing action were not so catastrophic.

Delingpole is the classic denier – an ignorant, arrogant, hysterical, wingnut conspiracy theorist. He clings to any idiocy rather than accept science.

I hardly ever read Delingpole but whenever I do he comes across as a total arse. That’s my analysis from first-hand research, not an interpretation of other people’s interpretations.

…now you’re just being ludicrous for the sake of being contrarian. Who the fuck said humans or any process wasn’t fallible?

This chap the fuck implied it…

It won’t be published if it’s not all that reputable because it won’t pass peer review.

Moving on…

But Dingbat Delingpole writes about climate science day in and day out. Yet he’s not even bothered to do some cursory research of his own other than interpreting other tinfoil hat wearing, frothing at the mouth dingbats who feed that prejudice.

I’m not denying his general donut-ness. The point is that his words don’t imply he’s “not even bothered to do some cursory research“: it’s a legitimate method that – by accident or by design – he buggers up. My concern is that this odd demand for sceptics of unpopular opinion X to grasp the specialised data that underpins it would ensure that status quos are nigh-on never overturned. One can’t always do that: there isn’t the time and we don’t have the minds.

While I would not class myself as a climate change denier, I do think it is not unreasonable to be a little sceptical about aspects of the matter, particularly when the statements of both believers and deniers often lack nuance. Specifically, my four areas of concern are:

1. Talk of consensus, even scientific consensus, brings out the contrarian in many people. And not without good reason…Remember BSE or “mad cow” disease? At the height of that well-publicised scare, senior government scientists were predicting half a million human deaths a year! The “epidemic” never materialised. And £billions were spent on the panic…And then there was the swine ‘flu epidemic that never happened, the Millennium Bug, Egg-related salmonella food poisoning, the Listeria monocytogenes “epidemic”, AIDS in the 1980s..and so on and on. Scientists — particularly in the softer, non-experimental, statistical sciences, such as climatology and epidemiology — can be influenced by selection bias, available funding, the zeitgeist, group-think/paradigms (see Kuhn’s fascinating ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’)…etc

2. Climate science is not hard science. It is as scientific as it can be; but there are no repeatable experiments in climate science, only models. And the data sets are relatively small and possibly distorted by the historic choices of location for measuring devices. As such, it is not unreasonable to be somewhat sceptical about long-term predictions about the climate.

3. Though the climate does seem to be warming globally, some are sceptical about the cause, which is not certain. Yes, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been rising; but correlation is not the same as causation. And the Earth’s climate has apparently warmed before when CO2 levels were not rising. Arguably, the role of the sun has been under-estimated (see, eg, the Wikipedia article on the astrophysicist Piers Corbyn – brother of MP, Jeremy).

4. Scepticism about the methods for dealing with climate change seems to me be fully justified. Do we move asap at huge cost to a low carbon economy? And what is the opportunity cost of doing so (ie what will we not be able to do if we spend 100s of £bns on becoming a low-carbon economy?)? And how do we become a low-carbon economy? Nuclear power or wind turbines? Or do we focus on managing the problem, as Lomborg recommends? (Global warming will have benefits as well as costs.) Moreover, are there technical fixes (eg large scale carbon capture? putting particulates into the atmosphere?)

48. paul ilc:

> While I would not class myself as a climate change denier…

Few deniers do.

> …the statements of both believers and deniers often lack nuance.

Believers? Do you mean climate *scientists*? What has “nuance” got to do with being right or wrong or about scientific evidence?

> 1. Talk of consensus, even scientific consensus, brings out the contrarian in many people.

It often brings out blind ignorance when applied to climate change. The rest of your evidence-free, rambling diatribe says nothing about climate science.

> 2. Climate science is not hard science.

Drivel. http://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-global-warming.htm

> And the data sets are relatively small and possibly distorted by the historic choices of location for measuring devices.

Nonsense. Climate change data comes from all over the planet, instrumental temperatures, satellite data, thousands of climate proxies.

> 3. Though the climate does seem to be warming globally, some are sceptical about the cause, which is not certain.

The planet is warming. There is no credible doubt. Some are sceptical about evolution, about the Earth orbiting the sun.

> Yes, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been rising; but correlation is not the same as causation.

Fortunately, basic physics means we don’t need to rely on just correlation.

> And the Earth’s climate has apparently warmed before when CO2 levels were not rising.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm

> Arguably, the role of the sun has been under-estimated…

No, it hasn’t.

> …(see, eg, the Wikipedia article on the astrophysicist Piers Corbyn – brother of MP, Jeremy).

The ‘maverick’ weather forecaster who is more often wrong than right.

> 4. Scepticism about the methods for dealing with climate change seems to me be fully justified.

Cut CO2 emissions ASAP. There is no credible doubt.

> Do we move asap at huge cost to a low carbon economy?

It’s a tiny, irrelevant cost compared to unmitigated global warming. The alternative is death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

> Or do we focus on managing the problem, as Lomborg recommends?

Lomborg: only escaped censure for scientific dishonesty by the Danish national science academy because they deemed him to be incompetent.

> (Global warming will have benefits as well as costs.)

The costs are society-ending. The benefits are tiny and questionable.

> Moreover, are there technical fixes (eg large scale carbon capture? putting particulates into the atmosphere?)

Science fantasy.

All your other denier talking points are refuted at http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

I decline the argument that human beings have caused climate change on the grounds of contrariness. Climate change (today) is about rich people in the west telling people in the east how to develop their economies.

The people who argue that mankind is destroying the planet have no understanding of human ambition. The desire for a family in India to own a a fridge. In Africa, some people seek a better cooker. And in Milton Keynes, somebody is counting the CO2 emissions from the cooker or fridge, unregarding of the benefit to the owner.

The people who argue that mankind is destroying the planet have no understanding of human ambition.

I don’t geddit. Feels a bit like saying, “People who argue that this car is out of gas have no understanding of my desire to drive it to Norwich…”

- I know it is a frivolous contribution to the debate (not that reason appears to be useful), but

Surely I was not alone in expecting the interview to finish

“Knowing Me James Delingpole, Knowing You Sir Paul Nurse – Aha!”

I don’t know if was the manner, the reasoning the desparate denouncing of discussions as they become lost, or maybe it was the drone. I thought it was a parody of BBC Radio Norwhich’s third most successful DJ.

Bluerock,

It requires no “interpretation” to read and accept what climate scientists are saying. Their message is unequivocal

Sure, and for some people that’s enough – they are willing to trust expert opinion and don’t have the time or inclination to look into it in greater detail and I don’t have a problem with that. Some of us though want to know a bit more, to try and understand the scientific arguments as best we can, and in order to do that (especially for those without a scientific background) we have to rely on people with the neccessary expertise to interpret the collective scientific literature on our behalf. So I basically agree with Luis Enrique above and reluctantly have to defend Delingpole up to a point, especially as I have probably written as much on the subject of climate change as he has and have no more scientific qualifications than him.
Having said that, when you are relying on others to improve your understanding it is important to choose credible sources who can support their claims with reference to the literature, and to occasionally double check them yourself – I may not be qualified to assess the quality of a scientific paper but I can judge whether it actually supports a particular argument. And of course this is where Delingpole falls down – witness his pushing the absurd Ian Plimer in the Spectator last year. He is clearly coming to the subject of climate change from a right wing libertarian perspective and sees it as a hoax in order to impose socialism on the world, and he chooses the particular sources which will support that contention. In fact I have not seen any evidence that he has ever made any serious attempt to understand the science at all.

Charlieman @ 50

If that is supposed to be a parody of your average fuckwitted anti science Tory, then you have got it of pat. If that represents your honest views, then you need to think that through a bit.

Are you seriously suggesting that the entire laws of physics require re-writing based on the need for a fridge? You don’t think that is a bit, well stupid?

Yes it’s a dilemma, we want CO2 emissions to be reduced globally but we also want poorer countries to be able to develop their economies – it’s not as if we don’t recognise the possible contradiction. The question of how we manage this is difficult and is the major reason that Copenhagen and Cancun couldn’t reach any meaningful agreement.
Of course “sceptics” love to affect concern for people in developing countries and of accuse proponents of AGW of wanting to keep them poor, but when proposals are made for the developed world to address this issue by giving financial assistance to developing countries then suddenly AGW is a socialist plot to transfer wealth from people in the West to those in the Third World.

BenSix,

You know, I really thought about adding a “well obviously peer review isn’t infallible but it’s the closest thing to infallible that reporters, or anybody else for that matter, have to infallible” disclaimer to my post, but then I thought nah, that’s obviously implied, it doesn’t need to be said, surely nobody would totally derail from a discussion about something with some meaning into a pointless cul-de-sac like that. Guess you showed me!

Well, okay, I should say I THINK I thought that. Otherwise you might once again ignore what we were actually talking about in favour of linking me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory_syndrome and saying that I can’t be absolutely sure that I actually thought that.

Oh, and I don’t know what “Sure, reading the abstracts is better than a Nature piece inasmuch as it’s a first-hand interpretation but it needn’t be a more reliable portrayal of the data” means. I already described why reading abstracts is important if you want to be a critical reporter of science, rather than just a summary-for-laymen generator (which, by the way, is a fine thing to be, but it’s not what Delingpole or anybody else who weigh in on climate change are), and at no point did I say anything about it being a “more reliable portrayal of the data”.

andrew adams @ 55,

Agree with that completely. James Dellingpole has admitted that he is driven by a political agenda. At least that’s honest and we are at liberty to disregard it, for it has nothing to do with understanding the issue. It is mere sophistry.

if you want to be a critical reporter of science, rather than just a summary-for-laymen generator (which, by the way, is a fine thing to be, but it’s not what Delingpole or anybody else who weigh in on climate change are)

No, he’s a polemicist (or, more accurately, a polemical journalist). And that’s pretty much all he claims to be.

Tim J,

That might be a more accurate description, I was trying to use a relatively broad phrasing which would get across the idea of a journalist who in some way evaluates the science rather than just repeating and rephrasing it. I still believe this is not something you can do credibly without reading the literature, at least as far as the abstracts.

Namesake -

Hah! Yes, that must have sounded condescending. I was using fallible – sloppily, perhaps – to mean I think it’s capable enough of letting through mistakes that it’s not enough to allow one to presume its integrity. (Or the validity of its conclusions, anyway. It’s probably safe to assume that it’s a bit more reputable than the Fermat/Luton Town example that I posited.) I’m sorry if it sounded like I thought you were attributing Godlike qualities to it.

Oh, and I don’t know what “Sure, reading the abstracts is better than a Nature piece inasmuch as it’s a first-hand interpretation but it needn’t be a more reliable portrayal of the data” means.

Simply that a journalist might be dishonest or incompetent enough to obscure a scientist’s claims. (See, The Daily Mail – every day.)

Wait a minute though. A number of contributors here are attempting to persuade us that this ‘Delingpole’ character has constructive comments to add about anything, far less climate science. This guy is not in the slightest bit interested in ‘science’ climate or otherwise. He hasn’t even got the decency to pretend any more. This is not, for him at least, a ‘science’ debate, this is for him and his fawning acolytes about attempting (and succeeding) to thwart any meaningful measures to tackle climate change, by whatever means necessary.

In recent weeks there have been some side discussions regarding whether or not terms like ‘scum’, ‘nasty’ and ‘evil’ are appropriate. There are a few examples of why the Right are simply not to be trusted. The ‘Global Warming’ is perhaps the most obvious issues that expose the Right for the pernicious bunch of wankers they are.

This guy has not made the attempt to understand the science, he is not ‘sceptical’ of the science, he is a denier of the science, not because of a flaw he has noticed, but because he dislikes the implications of the science.

This is a micro-ism of why the ideological ‘Right’ are ill equipped to do solve many of the long-term problems that the World in general and our Country in particular suffers from. They simply lack the ability to see past their considerable prejudices and get at the reality of any given situation.

Delingpole has looked at Climate Change decided that he is ‘against it’ (aren’t we all) and went out, without a single piece of knowledge on the subject, and decided to ‘disprove’ it. He has found it necessary to distort some things and make other things up, but as long as he ‘wins’ he feels it is perfectly justified.

That is how the Right Wing fuckwits tackle any subject. They start of with the answer they want, pay a ‘think tank’ to ‘prove’ their case, by whatever means at their disposal and ignore any evidence that contradicts them. That is why they think Climate Change is a tax scam. It is just completely alien to them that anyone would actually measure things on a completely objective scale and report that back to the public. In their culture you pay people to tell you what you want to hear. Among decent people, we want the truth, warts and all.

That is why we will never agree with them and they will never understand what motivates us.

BTW, I have accused of using insulting, extremists language, but what is the term for people who deliberately lie and distort the scientific information to excuse their own greed?

BenSix,

As far as I can tell, we’re talking about slightly different things here. I’m talking about necessity, and you’re talking about sufficiency. So, I’m saying that understanding and keeping up to date with the scientific literature, at least on the level of abstracts, is necessary to be credible for a journalist such as Delingpole (whether you call them “critical science reporters” or “polemical reporters” or whatever), whereas you’re saying that it’s not sufficient. Fortunately those two positions aren’t actually at odds.

As far as assuming a peer-reviewed paper’s integrity, I actually think it’s fine for a reporter to do so. Not that they should have an imperative to do so, but it is a bit much to expect them to know better than scientists in the field. Of course they should always have a measured degree of honest scepticism in the back of their mind, but I don’t think it’s fair or realistic to expect anything more.

Fortunately those two positions aren’t actually at odds.

You’re right – with the qualification below I’m not sure that I disagree with you. I think, however, that it is perhaps at odds with what Paul Nurse and Delingpole were rabbiting on about (I suspect they meant scientific papers in their totality).

Of course they should always have a measured degree of honest scepticism in the back of their mind, but I don’t think it’s fair or realistic to expect anything more.

I think it depends on how it’s couched. “Scientist X concludes Y” is perfectly fair. “Scientist X concludes Y – thus, Y” is a bit presumptuous. At that point one indeed has to interpret the interpretations: how broad a consensus is; how decentralised the understanding of the subject is and so on.

Naturally, I’ve peer reviewed my claims regarding this snippet.

Well if they were talking about papers in their entirety, then fair enough. Actually my experience is that a good proportion of the time, after looking at an abstract you’ll want to check something in the actual paper for clarification, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that’s vital to be a credible reporter. Actually, there’s a little irony in that thanks to preprint

As for your second point… I don’t know really, it does become a little difficult once you start going into too much depth. Take criminal convictions, for example. If Mr. X is found guilty in court of murdering Mr Y., it’s generally accepted that a reporter can say “Mr. X murdered Mr Y.”, rather than just “Mr X was convicted of murdering Mr. Y”. In practice, if it’s a controversial case, I imagine most reporters are more likely to use the latter phrasing as opposed to the former, compared to if it’s a case with little room for doubt. So there it comes down to a judgement call, and it’s very difficult to draw an exact line between when the language it’s couched in is “right” or “wrong”.

I can’t help but think it’s very similar in science. A reporter who writes “The Earth, which many prominent academics claim not to be flat,…” is probably fence-sitting unreasonably, but one who writes “The recently-proven phenomenon of time-travelling psychic responses to eroticism ( http://dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf ) is likely to fundamentally change our understanding of physics” is probably pushing it a bit (yes I’m being a bit disingenuous here, since the paper doesn’t claim to have proven anything, but you get my point).

So, er, I guess I’m arguing for common sense here, which isn’t actually a position at all since in the midst of something as controversial- rightly or wrongly- as climate change, common sense on the matter is probably as hard to agree on as anything else. There’s also an important difference between trusting that a paper is credible, reputable, and based on good science, and trusting that its conclusions are exactly right. Certainly there are plenty of fields that would make for a very confusing existence if you just believed whatever happened to have been published most recently in an ongoing development or debate. But I do think that, except in very extreme circumstances such as the above psi paper, the reporter should be allowed to treat a peer-reviewed paper as credible and reputable.

What Jim said @61. Bravo!

Apparently Delingpole has opined that he was intellectually raped in the Horizon programme. More like he was unmasked for the know-nothing obscurantist he so obviously is, in the same intellectual camp as believers in Intelligent Design.

53. andrew adams:

> Sure, and for some people that’s enough – they are willing to trust expert opinion

That *has* to be enough for complex scientific issues. Unless someone is prepared to spend years at college and training out in the field and in the laboratory then publish for peer review, they cannot outwit the combined knowledge of the planet’s experts – no matter how clever they think they are.

> …don’t have the time or inclination to look into it in greater detail and I don’t have a problem with that.

It’s not really “time or inclination” – it’s training, ability, experience, access to satellite and other scientific data and equipment. It’s delusional for someone believe to believe they can refute ~200 years of accumulated science because they’ve read a few blogs.

> Some of us though want to know a bit more…

There are many excellent sources for those who want to understand as much as they can, e.g. http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/ + http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml

> …we have to rely on people with the neccessary expertise to interpret the collective scientific literature on our behalf.

Yes, we do rely on climate scientists to interpret the data and the science and communicate it. However, it’s really stretching the meaning of “interpret” to say we then need to ‘interpret’ what is being communicated by the climate science community right now. It is *unequivocal*: human activity is heating the planet and bad things will happen if we do not stop as soon as possible, e.g.:

* American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Policy Statement on Climate Changes: “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.” http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2007/0218am_statement.shtml

> So I basically agree with Luis Enrique above and reluctantly have to defend Delingpole up to a point…

I see no defence for what Delingpole does. Note: what he does is very different to a charitable interpretation of what he *claims* to be doing. He does not report science, he regurgitates every bullshit claim from every bullshit blog that he can find – and pads it all out with hysterical ranting about “eco-fascists” and UN conspiracies to make us all live in mud huts.

> …witness his pushing the absurd Ian Plimer in the Spectator last year.

A prime example of someone with no interest in science given that Plimer has been debunked by multiple credible sources in multiple credible ways.

> …a right wing libertarian perspective and sees it as a hoax in order to impose socialism on the world…

That’s the façade – I’m not convinced he’s really *that* stupid. I believe he wants to be Britain’s Glenn Beck – a ranting, sensationalist ideologue who cynically plays to the wingnut, peanut gallery and rakes in the coinage as a result. If you view the Telegraph, and most rightwing rags, as more entertainment than news, this hypothesis makes sense.

> …I have not seen any evidence that he has ever made any serious attempt to understand the science at all.

Indeed.

64. Cherub:

> Of course, Lumborg’s changed his mind:

Here’s the thing everyone needs to remember about Bjorn Lomborg: *never* take anything he says at face value; *never* trust what he *says* he stands for; always look at the detail and check *every* claim he makes.

Lomborg has always said he accepts the science of global warming – and has always gone on to cherry pick the best-case scenarios or simply invent them – and then build a case for effectively doing nothing to mitigate global warming. His latest book is no different – even though he fooled a few gullible journalists yet *again*.

Here’s an article he wrote *after* his latest book was published: Who’s Afraid of Climate Change? Does *that* sound like someone who accepts what climate scientists are telling us? See my comments at bottom of that page for a sample of his ‘errors’.

More: http://climateprogress.org/2010/08/31/lomborg-new-book-smart-solutions-to-climate-change-debunk-errors-flaw/

*Never* trust Bjorn Lomborg.

Blue Rock @ 66

That’s the façade – I’m not convinced he’s really *that* stupid. I believe he wants to be Britain’s Glenn Beck – a ranting, sensationalist ideologue who cynically plays to the wingnut, peanut gallery and rakes in the coinage as a result.

Of course, he could always be as stupid as Glen Beck. Which would really put him down among the idiot’s end of the pool. Whether he ‘actually’ believes that the entire laws of physics have been concocted for the last two centuries in order to facilitate the take-over of the World and he can busk his way through a highly specialised field of science or he just pretending to be a fuckwits in order to advance the cause of greedy, short-sighted bastards is pretty irrelevant, because the bottom line is he has nothing to add to science and should not be addressed as having a clue about anything.

People should try and remember that these people are driven by idealistic workship of greed. I use ‘Global Warming’ as a bell weather: Show me an AGW denier and I will show you a nasty, greedy bastard who will do anything to justify his selfishness.

68. Jim:

> Of course, he could always be as stupid as Glen Beck.

There’s some debate about whether Beck is really as unhinged as he appears. I suspect he’s not – he’s just another sociopath who will do or say anything to pile more money on to the millions of $$$s he already has.

> I use ‘Global Warming’ as a bell weather: Show me an AGW denier and I will show you a nasty, greedy bastard who will do anything to justify his selfishness.

Amen, brother. My sentiments and experience exactly. Hardcore deniers are some of the nastiest people you can meet. Entitled, greedy and willing to employ any dishonesty or vile tactic to defend themselves. The depressing things is not that they exist, it’s that there seems to be so many of them….

(Or the validity of its conclusions, anyway. It’s probably safe to assume that it’s a bit more reputable than the Fermat/Luton Town example that I posited.)

It strikes me that “reputable” and “valid in its conclusions” aren’t quite identical. I’m sure peer reviewal can weed out proper howlers.

If we’re going to talk about Delingpole, can we at least link to the definition?

what was wrong with nurse’s analogy?

75. Chaise Guevara

@ 65 Galen

“What Jim said @61. Bravo!”

Please, Galen, you’re better than that. What Jim said at 61 was an angry babble along the lines of “I hate the bastards who I hate because they’re bastards and I hate them”, with one particular issue that some members of the right are definitely wrong about thrown in as justification.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like right-wing attitudes. If you caught me in a moment of honesty and asked me to sum up what “right-wing” means in the British context, I’d say “selfish and close-minded”. But that doesn’t make everyone who can loosely be called right-wing a wanker who only deserves our contempt. Little humanity over here, please.

74

Jim’s piece may have been a tad strong, but I still think it is justifiable in the circumstances. Delingpole and his ilk have much in common with “people of faith” and those espousing intelligent (sic) design; their position a priori is one of faith, and therefore not amenable to reasoned argument, and of it’s very essence a-scientific.

I don’t argue that all right wingers are fuckwits, but I’m definitely persuaded by the old adage that most stupid people are conservative (ok, I’m paraphrasing but it’s late and I’m on a train having enjoyed more vino collapso than is wise for a school night).

I save the human touch for those that deserve it; Delingpole doesn’t qualify… Not even close.

77. Chaise Guevara

@ 75

Hell, if you knew how much beer I’d consumed this evening your vino would not feel lonely. However:

“most stupid people are conservative”

Had to stop to agree with that. It’s almost synonymous. It being a school-night like you say, I’m signing off. I need at least two hours’ sleep and three brain cells to get through work tomorrow, despite the fact that it’s POETS day ;)

76

Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.

J S Mill

Sleep well!

Chaise Guevara @

I never said that everyone who is vaguely ‘Right Wing’ is evil, bad or just plain nasty, but those who deny Global Warming (from either the Left or Right) are pretty much ‘scum’ in my view. Anyone can make a mistake on any subject. People can look at a fifty/fifty and get on the wrong fifty. I accept that and you don’t have to jump wrongly onto a passing bandwagon, only to get off sheepishly when that bandwagon goes the wrong direction. However, if you are going to Glasgow, but the bandwagon is on its way to London, then you are on the wrong bandwagon, when do you get off? After 5 miles? At the ‘London 200 miles’, ‘London 150 miles, ‘London 50 miles’? If you stay on the bandwagon at the Two-mile mark, hoping that ‘Glasgow’ will appear next bend, then you can count yourself an idiot.

Now, ask yourself this: Why did the AGW deniers get on that bandwagon? Did they see something in the science that the entire scientific community missed? Did they REALLY think that the entire scientific community miss that it snowed a couple of times? Do they still think EVERY climate scientist forgot to take solar activity into account? Do they really think that every climate science ‘forgot’ to take the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ into account?

Do they really think that the World’s climate scientists are likely to say after all these years ‘What’s that? Volcanoes and sunspots you say, oh and ice ages two million years ago? Hmm, we never thought about that…Come to think of it, that kinda makes sense, hang on…carry over the ten and add the first number to the NEW information, and yes, that explains it, sorry folks carry on as before, we have all been a bit silly…’

If they GENIUNELY think that the entire scientific body have been studying the climate for the last forty years and have forgot to take something into account that your average Tory without a single qualification in the field quips up after ten seconds thought, then they must be fuckwits. If they genuinely think the entire scientific community have completely falsified the entire laws of physics for a research grant, then they appear fuckwits.

If, on the other hand, the really have made no effort to understand the science and are denying the science because it clashes with their ideology, then they are not fuckwits, but are in fact, nasty scum.

Sorry about that, but there it is.

79. Jim:

So refreshing to see someone else who *really* gets it. Good on you, fella!

P.S.

> …the entire scientific body have been studying the climate for the last forty years …

You could say the past ~200 years, going all the way back to Fourier in the 1820s.

81. Margaret Taylor

basically this man is a dickhead who has no idea what he’s talking about and tries to change the subject when someone is trying to prove him wron


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    Just as a measure of @JamesDelingpole's idiocy, here's a clip of his arguments falling apart under light questioning: http://t.co/jpaHFnj

  19. Chris Nicholson

    @stebax Slight misquote – he says he's the interpreter of interpretations, as opposed to a lazy incompetent journalist. http://t.co/4YvKCjjg

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  21. Peter Hague

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