A Little Knowledge

He’s been described as a “national treasure”, and in many ways he is. Certainly I’ve spent many hours watching his natural history programmes, and I dare say many other people have too. But my heart sank on reading this:

In times of national crisis people naturally turn to authority figures for solutions, which is why recently Sir David Attenborough is being asked about the weather. He’s being asked about it a lot.

What the heck does David Attenborough know about weather? I mean, really? He’s a naturalist and a broadcaster, not a climate scientist. Why on earth would anyone ask him about the weather?

And what “national crisis”? Has this overcast English summer now become a “national crisis”? It’s the same sort of overcast summer we’ve had every year for the past 5 years. So what’s David Attenborough got to say about it?

Sir David Attenborough: ‘This awful summer? We’ve only ourselves to blame…’

Sir David believes the washout summer may be down to climate change. As a credible explanation he points to research by the University of Sheffield which suggests melting Arctic ice has slowed the jet stream, causing it to break into loops which have ushered to the UK unseasonably cold and wet weather systems. And he is convinced humans are the main cause of this.

Well, there are any number of possible explanations for Britain’s unremarkable weather. Most importantly of all, no explanations are actually needed.

“There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it,” he says. “I would be absolutely astounded if population growth and industrialisation and all the stuff we are pumping into the atmosphere hadn’t changed the climatic balance. Of course it has. There is no valid argument for denial.”

“No question”? “No valid argument”? Well, in my experience, England has been rather cooler over the past decade than it was in the previous decade. And I seem to remember we were being told it was going to get hotter.

I can’t see which is worse: All these people being so foolish as to ask David Attenborough about the weather, or David Attenborough being so foolish as to publicly express a strong opinion on the matter. Why don’t they ask Jamie Oliver? Or Simon Cowell? Or maybe they do?

What’s the matter with these people? They see imaginary threats everywhere. Secondhand smoke. Carbon dioxide. Sugar. Alcohol. And now the institution that is David Attenborough has revealed that he’s one of the fruitcakes too. I could almost feel my respect for him (and he really was a great naturalist and broadcaster) draining away like water out of a bathtub.

It’s becoming an almost routine experience for me these days: a sudden and complete loss of respect for some formerly respected figure, when they come out with some imbecile conviction.

I was wondering today (something some of my commenters have also occasionally wondered) whether there was something in the water that was driving this epidemic of imbecility. But I think the article itself suggests a more likely cause: that people place their trust in “authorities.” They no longer trust their own ordinary common sense. They instead trust “experts.” And in the case of David Attenborough, they are placing their trust in someone who isn’t any sort of authority at all in the field of climate and weather.

I don’t unquestioningly trust authorities. I never have. I’ll listen to them, but then I’ll think about what they’ve said, and make up my own mind whether what they’re saying seems plausible or likely. And in doing that I’ll use all my experience and education. What I don’t do is to just lap up everything they say, and swallow the lot.

And if other people can’t do this, then it must be because of either a lack of experience or a lack of education. Or both. And since a great many of today’s scare stories revolve around scientific issues – global warming, secondhand smoke, etc. – I’m beginning to think that it may be that it’s people who lack any sort of science education, but who nevertheless regard themselves as ‘educated’, who are particularly prone to  becoming caught up in these sorts of panics. After all, if you’ve spent your formative years reading literature or history or law, and never studied mathematics or physics or chemistry, you just may not be equipped to critically consider scientific questions like global warming. In fact, you may not have the first clue about them. And will perforce have to defer to ‘experts’ of one sort or other.

So it may well be an example of the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

And who are the people that populate the political classes and the mass media? They are almost all arts graduates. Those are the people who go into the BBC, and into newspapers, and into politics. I read a few months back that there are hardly any MPs in the UK parliament who have any science qualifications. David Cameron has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. His predecessor, Gordon Brown, had a degree in history. Tony Blair had a degree in Jurisprudence. None of these subjects has anything to do with science. And all these people swallowed both the global warming scare and the secondhand smoke scare. And so it seems plausible that this was because none of them was personally capable of critically appraising such scientific ideas – because they had never had to do such things in the course of their education.

But, because they’re working in the media (like Deborah Arnott) and in politics, they have great presentation skills: they’re all very good at expressing themselves both in the written word and in speeches and on TV, while simultaneously concealing their underlying ignorance (of which they are usually blissfully unaware).

Conversely, for the most part, people who spend their lives working in science are usually not very articulate. And they are easily drowned out by their more eloquent counterparts.

The upshot is that you have a lot of scientifically-illiterate, loud-mouthed poseurs running the country. And a lot of tongue-tied scientists who don’t. And the result is a series of catastrophic policy decisions – like the smoking ban and carbon reduction measures.

And a further wider result is the process of ‘dumbing down’, in which science is replaced by rhetoric and politics and art. For once you have arts graduates working as editors in science magazines (like New Scientist, Scientific American, Nature, etc.) these once-august publications gradually turn into variants of Vogue magazine.

But to return to Sir David Attenborough, we find that he studied geology and zoology at Cambridge university. Well, sorry, but that’s not science either. And furthermore he has since spent his entire life working in the media (notably the BBC). He’s an excellent presenter. He’s been the brilliant front man for any number of documentaries. But any sort of scientist? No.

The more that I think about all this, the more that I think that people should be given a good all-round education. They should be taught languages and history and art and music. But they must also be taught mathematics and physics and chemistry. It should never be a matter of doing one or the other (which is how the UK education system used to work). People should do both equally. Because if they don’t they are going to be deficient, either in the capacity for rational and critical thinking (the science bit) or in self-expression (the arts bit), both of which deficiencies are fatal, albeit in very different ways.

And this may be somewhere near the root of all our problems.

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44 Responses to A Little Knowledge

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    O/T but wow Frank and everyone you have to read this:

    Peters stands up for Maori smokers

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10820609&ref=rss

    Habitual smoker Winston Peters stood up for low-income Maori who will pay up to $20 a pack for cigarettes after new tax rises, and challenged medical evidence smoking causes 5000 deaths a year.

    But in a select committee hearing yesterday, the New Zealand First leader was a lonely voice against new tobacco taxes.

    He told the committee that new levies on cigarettes would “thump the pockets” of poor Maori.

    “I wonder how many Maori are behind you on this issue?” he asked Maori Party vice-president Ken Mair, whose party was pushing the tax rises.

    Mr Mair responded by inviting Mr Peters on a field trip to a pub to see how Maori felt about paying more for their cigarettes.

    “I’m more than happy for you to come to Wanganui and come to a bar and we’ll canvass them and survey them and we’ll see.”

    Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell eventually stepped in, saying: “Not every Maori lives in the pub … there’s a hell of a lot more Maori in this country who have actually provided positive feedback on this kaupapa and those are the ones we need to focus on.”

    The Maori Party was making submissions on a bill that would raise taxes on tobacco and increase the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes to more than $20 in four years.

    Mr Mair had earlier pointed the finger at the tobacco industry.

    “There seems to have been a lot of emphasis in regard to the terrorists of the Ureweras. From our point of view, the real terrorists in this country are the tobacco companies. These terrorists cause immense death to the scale of 5000 [people a year].”

    Mr Peters challenged Mr Mair to prove the figure of 5000 deaths.

    But he left the the room soon after, leading to speculation from one MP that he had gone out for a cigarette.

    When he returned, Professor Richard Edwards from the University of Otago was asked to provide a science lesson for Mr Peters on smoking-related deaths.

    The public health expert said: “This figure was not plucked out of the air. You work out from the increased risk that smokers have of developing conditions like lung cancer.

    “You then work out from the prevalence of smoking among people with those conditions what proportion [of deaths] are due to smoking.”

    Based on this research, 80 per cent of 1200 lung cancer deaths a year had been found to be related to smoking.

    A large proportion of bronchitis, heart disease, pancreatic cancer, and cervical cancer deaths were also linked to tobacco.

    Mr Peters, undeterred, then asked why Japanese people had high life expectancy when they also had high rates of smoking.

    Professor Edwards: “It just goes to show that cigarette smoking is not the only determinant of longevity, and Japanese people would live longer if they didn’t smoke so much.”

    The debate led Green Party MP Kevin Hague to tweet: “This experience of the Finance & Expenditure considering the tobacco excise bill underlines why Govt should have allowed it to go to Health [committee]!”

    • Do you manage to hijack EVERY thread, or just the ones I read?

    • beobrigitte says:

      Harley, this is quite interesting:
      Mr Peters challenged Mr Mair to prove the figure of 5000 deaths.

      But he left the the room soon after, leading to speculation from one MP that he had gone out for a cigarette.

      When he returned, Professor Richard Edwards from the University of Otago was asked to provide a science lesson for Mr Peters on smoking-related deaths.

      The public health expert said: “This figure was not plucked out of the air. You work out from the increased risk that smokers have of developing conditions like lung cancer.

      “You then work out from the prevalence of smoking among people with those conditions what proportion [of deaths] are due to smoking.”

      Which means that these figures were plucked out of the air.

      Mr Peters, undeterred, then asked why Japanese people had high life expectancy when they also had high rates of smoking.

      Professor Edwards: “It just goes to show that cigarette smoking is not the only determinant of longevity, and Japanese people would live longer if they didn’t smoke

      Professor Edwards has no answer.

      Perhaps the next question would have been: “How long do you think Japanese people should live?”

      so much.”

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Bingo Bridgette exactly why I was posting it,a politician dared to question the Inquisitors!

        They got put on the spot ehh! I love it……

  2. Walt says:

    Oh for Christ’s sake. I remember a cold damp (sweater and jacket) July in London in the mid 1980s. And while you’re apparently having another such (30 yrs later), I think I heard on the radio today that this was the 14th day we’ve had of temps in the high 90s (that’s F) in NYC– in fact it was 102 in Central Park this afternoon. People seem to engage in geographical solipsism. And, of course, political correctness.

  3. reinholdfrombavaria says:

    Central Europe reports a fickle kind of summer this year up to now.

    Normal? No. It’s plain to see:

    We’re straightly driving to a heated new ice-age!

    Or a chilled heat-age!

    The “experts” aren’t sure about it yet, i.e. of course they are sure, but not about the same thing – there are deniers in both camps (wishing each other to burn in a frozen hell or freeze in a burning one … I couldn’t decide either where to send them to).

  4. smokervoter says:

    I’m baaaccck. My last comment referred to how the article on the Hell’s Angels stripping the smoke enforcer had put me back in my normal happy mood.

    Shortly thereafter I went on a hiatus of sorts from the endless battle with the ongoing nightmarish reality of bloody nannies of every stripe and sort.

    The back to back atrocities of the sneaky federal ban on roll-your-own shops and the Santa Monica apartment ban really set me off. I’m normally an optimist and a joker and a smoker (and a midnight toker). But I’m also a fighter. Fight or flight? There’s no such thing as flight in my world.

    I’m not sure if this has already been posted but the four Nazi cretins in Santa Monica who profess to be liberals yet are going along with this “Show us where the Jews live” meme need to be identified.

    They specifically are Bobby Shriver of the Kennedy family bloodline and Richard Bloom and Robert T. Holbrook and Terry O’Day.

    Shriver and O’Day are up for re-election in November. By my estimation there are probably 13,000 cigarette, pipe and cigar smokers in the city. It just so happens that 13,000 votes is the ticket to a seat on the city council. You don’t ‘vote out’ bad eggs there, you instead ‘vote up’ their opponents.

    The problem is that everyone running against these two faux liberals are just as bad. The groupthink in places like Santa Monica is sickening. There are always exceptions.

    There is a fellow by the name of Frank Gruber who writes for a small newspaper who possibly has a conscience in the running. I couldn’t find anything specifically on him except for this quote from one of his columns:

    “Now we know that Santa Monica is still the kind of town where you can pay your rent with cash and not arouse suspicion. Live and let live, that’s the way it’s always been here (except when it comes to land use politics, smoking, noise, liquor licenses, and a few other things we won’t go into here). People mind their own business, especially when it comes to neighbors down the hall.”

    The problem is that I can’t find anywhere he “went into it here” and he has a long archive of writings.

    I happen to know Santa Monica very well, my mother and step-father lived there for 10 years. My sister (who started smoking by emulating her rebellious older brother, not sure if she’s quit or not) lives there now. On many the night out on the town at piano bars with the old folks (mom and company) and wild nights with sis, I’ve smoked a thousand cigarettes in Santa Monica (pre-1998).

    Incidentally the 4-2 vote is somewhat misleading. The vote would have been 4-3 but Mayor Pro-Tem Gleam Davis was absent. Knocking off either Shriver or O’Day would reverse things.

    Gleam Davis (up for re-election), Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor at least exhibit a speck of humanity.

    Terry O’Day had this to say: “We’re protecting renters, not targeting renters, with this.”

    “It’s your right to keep a messy home, but it’s not your right to keep such a messy home that attracts rats” to neighboring units, he said.

    It’s no wonder I no longer visit my family in Los Angeles anymore. The place is a smoggy Nazi hell. There is a constant freeway hum in the air and the smell of burnt exhaust permeates everywhere. They should welcome the wonderful aroma of a wisp of tobacco smoke.

    I disagree with Randy Newman, I Hate LA. Just a bit less than San Francisco.

  5. Marie says:

    I too used to have a lot of respect for Sir David Attenborough then I discovered that he is a member of the Optimum Population Trust. This is a group of people who promote their eugenics agenda behind a veil of concern for the future of humanity. They hate humanity, certainly if their insistence that there should be a lot less of it (except them and their grandchildren apparently) is anything to go by. It seems, reading between the lines of their pronouncements that they particularly hate poor third world humanity, fairly closely followed by poor first world humanity. They believe that nasty, smelly, foreign, uneducated and dirt poor people breed far too often. I dread to think what they make of smokers.

  6. Briar Tuck says:

    Every summer has been consistently crap since 2007.
    The smoking ban has been in force since July 2007.
    That’s a 100% record — the causal mechanism is clear.
    The debate is over, the science is settled.

  7. C777 says:

    Attenborough is a Malthusian or put another way a NAZI.
    Amazing how people who advocate population control would never volunteer themselves or their own for it.

    • Marie says:

      Yes, absolutely right.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I would like to hear David Attenborough’s reply to the question if population control includes himself and his family first.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I doubt you’ll ever get one.

        • beobrigitte says:

          If I don’t, I can put forward my next question:
          Mr. Attenborough, at what age would you suggest the concept of population control should be put to good use?

      • WHERE does Attenbourough, or “Population trust” suggest that existing populace should be culled? Point out to me where any of that sais that we should start killing, as opposed to “stop breeding”.

        cutting the population of Bulgaria to 1 million, does NOT mean, and it is not said, that we should start insisting they register for the nearest gas chamber.

        Which is what people here appear to be acusing them of.

        And no, I have never before heard of them (Attenbourough” yes, the population control group, no), and I neither agree or disagree with their views. Basically they appear to be a bunch of arseholes. But I will point out what I see as misintrepretation, and therefore injustice, even if it is against Hitler, Stalin, or wee green men from Venus. Attack them by all means, but for the RIGHT reasons, NOT for something they have never said, done, or meant.

        • beobrigitte says:

          WHERE does Attenbourough, or “Population trust” suggest that existing populace should be culled? Point out to me where any of that sais that we should start killing, as opposed to “stop breeding”.

          We already have an example of population control and the cull of female babies is in progress.
          In order to make population control work you have to destroy a culture.

    • Smoking Scot says:

      Long time ago Prince Philip stated couples should have no more than two children.

      Do as I say, not as I do – dead commonplace.

      But Cameron, well he doesn’t listen very well, though he wants to teach the 120,000 “bad” families how to become “good” parents.

      Rule #1, scan the foetus asap! And always headcount when you leave the pub!

      And Lansley, well he had 3 sprogs by wife #1 plus two with wife #2, so he’s not very interested in population control, but he is the resident whizz on plain packs?

  8. nisakiman says:

    “I don’t unquestioningly trust authorities. I never have. I’ll listen to them, but then I’ll think about what they’ve said, and make up my own mind whether what they’re saying seems plausible or likely.”

    I am, and always have been (from my early schooldays), the same as that. And I think you’ll probably find, Frank, that your statement applies not just to you and me, but to all of us here who are sceptical of what we are told by the “experts” via the MSM propaganda machine. We are the ‘awkward squad’ who refuse to be brainwashed, We trust our own judgement more than that of self-styled experts, and have the confidence to act on what we believe.

    Too many people have been persuaded that only an “expert” can speak with authority on any particular subject, and an “expert” is someone who declares themselves as such or who is declared by the MSM to be so. Independent thought is discouraged these days, and for many, that’s fine. They can relax into their comfort zone, secure in the knowledge that whatever it is, an “expert” somewhere is taking care of it. All they need to do is follow the official advice / orders and everything will be fine.

    And that’s why we are seemingly heading blindly into a state of totalitarianism. Not enough people are asking questions. Even our so-called leaders appear to have lost the ability to question anything that is presented to them by an “expert”.

    It’s really rather discomfiting to see how easily people can be led over a cliff.

  9. Rose says:

    Yes, I tired of David Attenborough when watching one of his programmes, he skewed the whole thing into a pulpit about global warming, I had been hoping to learn some interesting facts about the subject, but it’s difficult to tell what is real and what is belief, so I just gave up watching him.

    But this is not an ordinary damp British summer, weeks and weeks of overcast, January temperatures in May, ruined crops, flooding out of all proportion to previous years, months of halflight punctuated with a few brief blazingly sunny days.

    My garden tells me so, the fruit trees have never failed in the 28 years I’ve lived here, they have now, very late frosts and the bees too cold to fly for most of the day. Things seem to be running at least two to three weeks late here, if they’ve survived at all. The cherry tree that blossomed later did bear a crop, but thanks to the saturated ground and yet another deluge, all the ripe and half ripe cherries have split, rendering them fit only for the birds.
    Its not just me it’s happening to the farmers too, slug pellet sales have tripled this year and Nasa says we are in a Solar Minimum. Expect scarity and high prices in the shops.

    Today’s forecast: yet another blast of hot air

    David Bellamy October 22, 2007

    “Am I worried about man-made global warming? The answer is “no” and “yes”.

    No, because the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction has come up against an “inconvenient truth”. Its research shows that since 1998 the average temperature of the planet has not risen, even though the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has continued to increase.

    Yes, because the self-proclaimed consensus among scientists has detached itself from the questioning rigours of hard science and become a political cause. Those of us who dare to question the dogma of the global-warming doomsters who claim that C not only stands for carbon but also for climate catastrophe are vilified as heretics or worse as deniers.

    I am happy to be branded a heretic because throughout history heretics have stood up against dogma based on the bigotry of vested interests. But I don’t like being smeared as a denier because deniers don’t believe in facts. The truth is that there are no facts that link the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide with imminent catastrophic global warming. Instead of facts, the advocates of man-made climate change trade in future scenarios based on complex and often unreliable computer models.

    Name-calling may be acceptable in politics but it should have no place in science; indeed, what is happening smacks of McCarthyism, witch-hunts and all. Scientific understanding, however, is advanced by robust, reasoned argument based on well-researched data. So I turn to simple sets of data that are already in the public domain.

    The last peak global temperatures were in 1998 and 1934 and the troughs of low temperature were around 1910 and 1970. The second dip caused pop science and the media to cry wolf about an impending, devastating Ice Age. Our end was nigh!

    Then, when temperatures took an upward swing in the 1980s, the scaremongers changed their tune. Global warming was the new imminent catastrophe.

    But the computer model – called “hockey stick” – that predicted the catastrophe of a frying planet proved to be so bent that it “disappeared” from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s armoury of argument in 2007. It was bent because the historical data it used to predict the future dated from only the 1850s, when the world was emerging from the Little Ice Age. Little wonder that temperatures showed an upward trend.

    In the Sixties I used to discuss climate change with my undergraduates at Durham University. I would point to the plethora of published scientific evidence that showed the cyclical nature of change – and how, for instance, the latest of a string of ice ages had affected the climate, sea levels and tree lines around the world. Thank goodness the latest crop of glaciers and ice sheets began to wane in earnest about 12,000 years ago; this gave Britain a window of opportunity to lead the industrial revolution.

    The Romans grew grapes in York and during the worldwide medieval warm period – when civilizations blossomed across the world – Nordic settlers farmed lowland Greenland (hence its name) and then got wiped out by the Little Ice Age that lasted roughly from the 16th century until about 1850.

    There is no escaping the fact that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising for 150 years – and very uniformly since the 1950s. Yet the temperature has not increased in step with CO2. Not only have there been long periods of little change in temperature, but also the year-to-year oscillations are totally unrelated to CO2 change. What is more, the trend lines of glacial shortening and rise in sea level have shown no marked change since the big increase in the use of fossil fuels since 1950.

    How can this be explained unless there are other factors at work overriding the greenhouse effect of CO2? There are, of course, many to be found in the peer-reviewed literature: solar cycles, cosmic rays, cloud control and those little rascals, such as El Niño and La Niña, all of which are played down or even ignored by the global-warming brigade.

    Let’s turn to Al Gore’s doom-laden Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. First, what is the point of scaring the families of the world with tales that polar bears are heading for extinction? Last year Mitchell Taylor, of the US National Biological Service, stated that “of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present.”

    Why create alarm about a potential increase in the spread of malaria thanks to rising temperatures when this mosquito-borne disease was a major killer of people in Britain and northern Russia throughout the Little Ice Age?

    Despite the $50 billion spent on greenwashing propaganda, the sceptics and their inconvenient questions are beginning to make their presence felt.

    A recent survey of Klaus-Martin Schulte, of Kings College Hospital, of all papers on the subject of climate change that were published between 2004 and February of 2007 found that only 7 per cent explicitly endorsed a “so-called consensus” position that man-made carbon dioxide is causing catastrophic global warming. What is more, James Lovelock, the author and green guru, has changed his mind: he recently stated that neither Earth nor the human race is doomed.

    Yes, melting sea ice around Greenland has recently opened up the fabled North West passage. And, yes, the years 2006 and 2007 have seen massive flooding in Europe. However, a quick dip into the records of the Royal Society – which ranked alongside Dr Lovelock as arch doomsters, before his change of mind – shows that dramatic fluctuations happened long before the infernal combustion engine began spewing out carbon dioxide.

    The year 1816 went down in history as the “year without a summer”, thanks to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia that veiled much of the world with dust, screening out the Sun. Yet in 1817, while still in the grip of the Little Ice Age, the Royal Society was so worried that 2,000 square leagues of sea ice around Greenland had disappeared within two years, and massive flooding was taking place in Germany, that its president wrote to the Admiralty advising of the necessity of an expedition to find out what was the source of this new heat.

    Perhaps, when similar things are happening 190 years later, the Royal Society should accept that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is unlikely to be the main – or only – driver of “global warming”.
    Formerly available on the Times

    With grateful thanks to –

    http://bellezzo.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/todays-forecast-yet-another-blast-of.html

    • Marie says:

      Always interesting to read your posts Rose. I would like to add that the Romans also grew grapes in East Anglia, in the fens and it don’t get any wetter than that.

  10. beobrigitte says:

    The upshot is that you have a lot of scientifically-illiterate, loud-mouthed poseurs running the country. And a lot of tongue-tied scientists who don’t. And the result is a series of catastrophic policy decisions – like the smoking ban and carbon reduction measures.

    Indeed, both are catastrophic decisions. Correct me if I’m wrong: these “carbon reduction measures” mean that first world countries buy the “carbon emission allowance” from third world countries, thus impoverishing these countries even further?

    Only a few days ago the BBC lamented the early migration of bird species that at this time of the year would still be breeding in Iceland. The BBC blames the weather, yet, hasn’t David Attenboruogh often enough mentioned in his various nature programmes that the earth’s magnetic field stimulates/orients bird migration?

    The smoking ban – another society destroying catastrophic decision. Apparently this ban is “life saving” when at the same time the same people lament the lack of food for the ever increasing population of this planet. ????

  11. John Gray says:

    “But to return to Sir David Attenborough, we find that he studied geology and zoology at Cambridge university. Well, sorry, but that’s not science either. ”

    Oh, come on Frank, if your’e really going to knock Attenborough, then do it properly. Both those subjects are most definitely science and involve plenty of mathematics plus knowledge of physics, biology and bio-chemistry. For quick and easy reference, and to save myself writing a whole tranche of information on the matter, Wikipedia does a more than good enough job of explaining the nature of these disciplines. See:

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

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

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

    Similarly, where philosophy is concerned (viz David Cameron) it depends on what philosophy you study. If you undertake a BSc in Philosophy, then the level of mathematical comprehension and analysis for philosophy of mathematics can be very advanced. Likewise with philosophy of science, which usually involves a substantial grasp of areas of physics plus the attendant mathematics in order to analyse and explore the concepts generated.

    We get enough nonsense given to us by the prohibitionist and climate change lobbies as it is, so please don’t add to it.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I have a geology textbook somewhere which has, if I recollect right, zero mathematics in it. And I’ve read many books on zoology that have zero mathematics too. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t some somewhere.

      I may be entirely wrong, but I’ve never ever had the impression that David Attenborough has much in the way of mathematical or scientific skill. I’ve certainly never seen any trace of any displayed by him. But he’s a very, very good TV presenter of other people’s ideas. And he was also a stamp collector (which is what collecting butterflies is).

      In this respect, if I’m right, he’s no different from many of his predecessors in the field of biology. Charles Darwin was also a ‘stamp collector’. And was no mathematician either. Nor, as far as I know, did he have much in the way of physics or chemistry skills. But he was a very persuasive writer (the Origin of Species is a masterpiece of English). He had the ‘presentation’ skills of a politician.

      • XX I’ve never ever had the impression that David Attenborough has much in the way of mathematical or scientific skill. XX

        Being able to lay out a meter square of “taped off area”, and being able to count how many pieces of horse shit, or horse shit that couls be a chunk of sandstone….in the right light, are in it, is about as much “maths” as they need for the first two, and as for science…Aye RIGHT laddie, I remember how “difficult” it was to boil a cup of water and take the temperature, to get an “O” level from teacher.

      • churchmouse says:

        Darwin had a network of family connections, though — that’s the difference. You, too, Frank, with a stamp collection and a connection to Dr W could be just as famous. (A half-joke there but only just.)

  12. If he’s correct he’s a hypocrite. Not many people use air travel as much as Attenborough.

  13. John’s point about the sciences is valid, but even an expert knowledge of some sciences doesn’t make one an expert in other sciences. DA’s statement, “This awful summer? We’ve only ourselves to blame…” is such totally antiscientific nonsense that it’s disgraceful.

    His attempt to moderate it with “There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it,” is worthless after such a strong lead-in, particularly when immediately followed up by saying “Of course it [i.e., significant climatic effects of human activity] has. There is no valid argument for denial.”

    In effect he’s saying “Yes.” then “No.” then “Yes.” again. Plus the statement that “climate change is happening” is completely meaningless: Climate change is **ALWAYS** happening and HAS ALWAYS BEEN happening, up, down, and sometimes kinda sideways.

    “Climate Change” concerns fractions of single degrees of change over years and decades and centuries. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with “Gee, it’s HOT out there today!” or “Golly, look at all that rain!” That’s like blaming a country’s poor performance at a single Olympic event on a 1% increase in the size of fizzy drinks in that country over the last three years.

    I know nothing about David Attenborough, and he may indeed be quite a good zoologist etc, but his statements on climate change would sound more appropriate coming out of the mouth of an expert on French Impressionist paintings. John’s point about expecting a general level of scientific competence in someone with a sound background in zoology and geology is completely valid, but all it does is point up the irony of such a person making such ridiculous comments out of either conscious or unconscious political correctness. It’s exactly what we’ve seen in the Tobacco Control Industry as virtually *all* medical professionals are terrified of offering even the slightest criticism of the extremist nutsos in the movement.

    – MJM

  14. highstump says:

    “I don’t unquestioningly trust authorities. I never have. I’ll listen to them, but then I’ll think about what they’ve said, and make up my own mind whether what they’re saying seems plausible or likely. And in doing that I’ll use all my experience and education. What I don’t do is to just lap up everything they say, and swallow the lot.”

    I do the same thing Frank, the majority of people used to do the same thing. We were taught how to do this in school. We were required to do this but not so much anymore. People have been allowed to become lazy in all aspects of their lives which unfortunately includes thought.

    The odd part of this to me is that these same folks, who are so willing to let others do the thinking for them, are the same people who in the 1970’s were hollering at the top of their lungs to “question authority”!

  15. gimper30 says:

    Amen, Highstump! That’s what “higher” education used to be all about—-LEARNING HOW TO THINK!!!!!!

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      Its not to think anymore as much as it is to think the right things that promote these socialist agendas we are bombarded with every day from the UN and the EU!

      All it takes is but One person to stand and say ”NO”. Then the many to stand up and say ”NO”.

      Its easy……….Just say no to NANNY!

  16. junican says:

    Is it not clear that the reason that Attenborough said what he said is that he himself believes ‘the experts’? An interesting thought………’experts believe experts in other fields because they expect to be believed in their own field’.

  17. Radical Rodent says:

    “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” — Richard Feynman.

    • junican says:

      I’ve read a lot of stuff from Richard Feynman, but I have not seen that before. It sounds typical of RF. So what he was saying was that ‘accepted dogma’ is almost certain to be wrong, in one way or another, and that science seeks to investigate and correct the accepted dogma. We can see, for example, that ‘accepted dogma’ was that the Sun goes around the Earth. Astronomical observations showed that this cannot possibly be true, unless planets could somehow slow down to a stop and reverse their course.

      What we have been seeing in the past couple of decades (by the Media Centre of ASH ET AL and Tobacco Control generally) is a reversal of this process. Genuine scientific enquiry has been tortured into dogma. But what is becoming clear is the reasoning behind this process, which is this:

      As far as I can see, there is no criminal offence in telling lies simply in order to manipulate public opinion. TV adverts sail very close to the wind, but do not quite tell lies. “We may not be the biggest but, BY JINGO, we are DETERMINED to be the best!”
      OK….Erm…..Come back to me when you ARE the best. TV adverts are controlled to an extent, but the pronunciations of Tobacco Control are not. Thus, TC can lie and lie with impunity, since they break no criminal law. I have coined a phrase – intellectual barbarism. We have entered an era of intellectual barbarism.

      • harleyrider1978 says:

        Cousin,they would surely like to jail us dissenters for speaking the truth openly and like the above story where now a well established politician in New Zealand questions the nazis own science and claims…….Imagine that.

        • Junican says:

          Remember that the Holy Zealots have been infiltrating health, politics, science, etc for over thirty years, cousin. They are deeply entrenched. What I think is important about the politician in New Zealand is that he is speaking up for the poor. In other words, he is taking on the principle that, ‘Smoking is bad. The poorest are the worst smokers. Hit the poorest hardest’. This something that politicians everywhere should be questioning.

        • churchmouse says:

          There is nothing remotely holy about these zealots, Junican.

  18. james higham says:

    What the heck does David Attenborough know about weather? I mean, really?

    He’s good on gorillas but give me a dozen Michael Fishes first on the weather.

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