Oh, Johnny. :(

One of the nice things about where I work is that I’m just a short hop, skip and a jump through St James’ Park to the Royal Society. What’s nice about this is that once in a while they hold public lectures on various aspects of science. A couple of months ago I watched a talk on the Universe’s dark matter (which, if it taught me anything, is that cosmology is very, very hard indeed.) So imagine my joy when I discovered that legend Johnny Ball was booked to do a talk. He was exactly as you would expect a talk from him to be. Full of enthusiasm, prop use, singing and dancing. It was brilliant. For the first 50 minutes. Then it all went a little wrong. He sang a whole song in the style of George Formby about the carbon cycle and then very suddenly stopped and ranted for ten minutes over how Climate Change isn’t happening and how we should stop guilt tripping our children into making them switch off their light when they leave a room. He also didn’t seem to understand the whole things about fossil fuels, in that in burning them, we’re unbalancing the carbon cycle and that one day we shall run out of them.

What was especially sad is that during the whole course of the lecture, it was about how asking questions is so important and to keep investigating, yet he finished it with saying that we shouldn’t be giving money to these people, or the “greens” as he kept calling then (as if scientists wern’t environmental)  as they’re just wasting time trying to blame it on carbon.  He’d clearly made his mind up on the issue, without that much to back it up. 

It was a sad day indeed. What worries me is that there’s a very good chance he’s teaching these uneducated views to children. If ou want to see this for yourself you should be able to through the RS’s video library. It’s not up there yet, but it should be.

And if you want to see what the Royal Society’s view on climate change is than click here. It’s well worth reading.

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5 Responses

  1. It”s a shame when someone well known does something like this. Perhaps he was having an off day!
    I hope that you’ve had a good weekend and enjoy today despite the damp weather. Mind you I’m sure that your allotment could do with a good soaking.

  2. Oh no, what a shame! I too always though Johnny Ball was great. I even had a Johnny Ball chemistry set as a kid. Now as an environmentally aware adult I feel quite sad to hear that he’s so closed minded about climate change.

    btw: nice carrot!

  3. It certianly wasn’t an off day with him. You could kind of tell he was there solely to give that little speech at the end. It’s such a shame.

  4. I’ve given up having heros. They all let you down. Now I look non-heros to suddenly get interesting, such as Frank Bough. Cardigan wearing, news reading old grump who suddenly hit the headlines for snorting charlie out of several dominatrixs’ (dominatri?) bottom cracks and sweaty perspex heels. Wow!

    Are you reading this Mr Ball? Are you?

  5. Johnny Ball is one of those old-school presenters who wants to project well established scientific reasoning to a younger generation. When a cabal of scientists tries to impose “The Science”TM on the rest of us, he just balks.

    Maybe his “going on” about it at such an event is, let’s say, not ideal…and of course, all of us should remain open to new ideas…but, with the BBC in propanganda-rich/scrutiny-poor mode (along with much of the rest of the media) for the last 18 months or so, one can understand his frustration. [The BBC Trust’s new Wagon Wheel approach to Impartiality, published last month, is probably going to force at least that broadcaster to raise its game for this and other topics…]

    So which “cabal of scientists” might I be referring to? Well **the 21** who “led the writing” of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers for WG1 (AR4, 2007) comes to mind. (The IPCC Reports themselves are more balanced, but even these cannot claim to cover the field impartially.)

    If only journalists would read more widely than the IPCC, and denied its supposed “most authoritative” status, not least because it only works from the perspective of consensus: the media should look to the *range* of peer reviewed works published in the field of climate science for a fuller picture of where things really are at. (Also, Science doesn’t work by authority and consensus, but by a process of falsifiable hypothesis and critique…)

    Try the Climate Science blog (climatesci.colorado.edu) for a nuanced perspective: humans perturb the environment in many ways beyond greenhouse gases – try aerosols and land use for starters; explanatory power is likely to be enhanced as efforts focus more on local and regional analysis.

    And for the record, climate modelling has a long way to go before policymakers are able to really value it, in terms of medium-term predictive skill.

    The late Jacob Bronowski – another empathetic BBC TV presenter – has two quotes worth considering in this context:
    – “Dissent is the native activity of the scientist…”
    – “No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.”

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