Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BBC - Horizon - Science Under Attack

as a kid I did two weird BBC2 things 1) I watched the Open University broadcasts 2) I watched HORIZON.

I became such a Science Geek it wasn't even funny. Then I started to QUESTION, and got myself into trouble. You can't seem to ASK questions of The Science Community and their beliefs UNLESS you are a part of the science community and embrace its beliefs. And for good reason, it's a solid self-regulating society that's grown over hundreds of years of rallying cries and diplomatic effort.

No, I'm not talking about THE BANKING COMMUNITY, I'm talking about The Science Community - oh, I see. Yeah, you mean a ring of wagons?

Well, the ring of wagons happened last night, all right. Here's the blurb from last night's SCIENCE UNDER ATTACK edition of Horizon:

Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse examines why science appears to be under attack, and why public trust in key scientific theories has been eroded - from the theory that man-made climate change is warming our planet, to the safety of GM food, or that HIV causes AIDS.

He interviews scientists and campaigners from both sides of the climate change debate, and travels to New York to meet Tony, who has HIV but doesn't believe that that the virus is responsible for AIDS.

This is a passionate defence of the importance of scientific evidence and the power of experiment, and a look at what scientists themselves need to do to earn trust in controversial areas of science in the 21st century.
[source BBC HORIZON]

Nothing wrong with that editorial, you'd think. It seems fair and measured and Evidence Examining, right?

Well, you can watch it on BBC IPLAYER: HORIZON - SCIENCE UNDER ATTACK for the next thirty days if you're in the UK. By all means, watch it. Watch the 'down your nose' appraisal of 'conspiracy theories' and tell me if HORIZON has been objective in its research of the accusations surrounding certain subjects like Global Warming, GM foods, vaccines and HIV/AIDS. There was a very nauseating display of technological extravagance from NASA, but...

I could find no examination of evidence in support of Al Gore's intimate connection with the FAILED Chicago Carbon Exchange (the mechanism through which Carbon Taxing would flow).

I could find no examination of evidence of the GM foods seed that's a ONE SHOT plant that grows but doesn't produce its own seeds, meaning farmers have to pay and pay every year, meaning consumers have to pay and pay every year for rising food costs.

I could find no examination of evidence that vaccines are used worldwide to control the population of diseased Third World countries, when simple NUTRITION would solve many of the epidemic issues in many countries. Nor was there any discussion of the BRAIN DAMAGE vaccines have caused.

Which leads to the AIDS shocker - Tony, the man in New York, who was diagnosed with HIV and refused to participate in the antiretroviral therapy (HAART). In fact, he went off, did his own research, and concluded (for himself) that regulation of the bacteria in his own gut(!) was a way to prevent AIDS from forming. Did Sir Nurse's enormous chip on his shoulder allow him to consider that this may be a brilliant way to allay the onset of AIDS? No, he said, "In my mind, I know that the HIV virus causes AIDS and what Tony says to me seems like nonsense." (paraphrase)

This lofty idealism got worse when "Sir Tony" was invited into Telegraph blogger James Delingpole's home to RAM SOME CLIMATE CHANGE DOWN HIS THROAT.

I mean, it was funny watching these two 'bristling personalities' bring their own delusions to the table and defend them without remorse but it resembled nothing like Real 'Scientific' Debate. Comical human stalemate.

This programme's great failing was that (while it wanted Science to distance itself from political influence) it did nothing to examine Science's tacit role in the Great Conglomerate Take-over of planet earth, its overtaxed citizens and its ever-waning native population of wild animals, trees (the planet's lungs) and varied plant life.

Update: ironically, this blogpost has made the HORIZON buzz page and is HIGHLIGHTED as "particularly relevant to the issues raised in this episode". Hopefully they take note and leave the politics behind next time they try to make a nice science documentary.


Jaap said...

Well said. I also came across this today;


muzuzuzus said...

LOL which is very reason i wont watch that crap documentary team. In fact BBC is known as Propaganda Central, so dont trust much of the shit they put out

mike said...

I think just the opposite. I was horrified that a journalist who didn't understand the subject was allowed in print.

nige said...

Hi Mike,

I agree with you and I've highlighted some of the evidence in favour of the censorship of journalists on matters that are best left to real experts in my YouTube analysis of Sir Paul's climate change here (to emphasise his most important and succinct points, I've repeated them a few times here and here because it's easy to miss the subtle underlying arguments if just played once).

Kind regards,

andrewmayes said...

hello mike

your documentary was interesting but thoroughly irritating at the same time

I think you drew some good final conclusions about how the science community has failed to engage with the general public, which I hope you will follow through upon

however, I found your attitude towards the climategate journalist and the aids victim somewhat patronising. a scientist is supposed to keep an open mind, yet you never explored their ideas sufficiently to be anything but passive-dismissive

on the next occasion, perhaps you could spend more time investigating challenging ideas with equal weighting as you gave your own conventional ideas, and maybe even with the generous resources at your disposal

I welcome your closing remarks, but I would hope that your next exploration is more open to the possibility that if newton had to be updated by einstein (an irony you failed to note in the archives), then perhaps our own current crop of intellectuals are fallible too

hoping for a more balanced debate,


Mike Philbin said...

I've been resistant to commenting on the comment on this blogpost but your s was inspirational.


Read my post again, and realise I am very PRO-alternative scientific ideas. Read it. That better?


Peter said...

You are confusing science issues with social issues. A; Gore's connection tot he Chicago Carbon exchange is irrelevant to the question of whether human-induced climate change is actually occurring. The use of GM technology to make a one-shot seed is irrelevant to the issue of whether GM foods are safe for human consumption.

We ask the scientists to answer scientific questions, but the social and moral questions are up to us.

Mike Philbin said...

I take it that by 'us' you mean the 'law makers', who may or may not be coerced by commercial pressures = very appliant science.


BenjaminPenrose said...

The Horizon episode was one of the most blatantly skewed peices of journalistic documentary I have ever seen. I just can't trust the BBC.

steve said...

pro arguments held at nasa [massive screens and 3d models], Anglian university, royal society hq
against arguments held in a coffee shop, a living room and a park bench

not exactly a balanced way to persuade people...as shiny hi tech environments will persuade better than a newyork coffee shop.

and the whole program lacks real nitty gritty facts....
we never see the data from trees alone or the data from observation alone and the differences clearly shown.
we see a top/bottm tv view of cloud sims..they don't over lay the data...is it SO different?

at the end of the program he's making an argument on getting balanced views yet the program he's making is skewed
completely in his favour.

there's no mention at all about "funding"...and how money/employment in research can lead to skewed data to support more research
and so keep the scientists employed....many a time i've seen a research 'spun' to have a link to climate change/global warming effects just to get the funding on a subject.

i'm not saying they are correct or incorrect, i am however observing that there are things i have issue with, be they the bbc program or research funding is being used.

Admin said...

As a student in Climate Change MSc, I found myself few times with the task to explain in simple words the complexity behind some of the many issues in the CC debate. It is terribly hard, if you have a limited number of words or minutes.

Given the limited amount of time and the impossibility to cover everything, I found the show particulary good, balancing a little bit of complexity, but focusing on the social issue of scientists under attack, rather than the science in itself.

In particular I loved the bit when Delingpole said that he couldn't read the scientific papers, but only "interpreting the interpretations".
I see his point. Reading directly the incredible amount of peer-reviewed papers on the topic require a solid scientific background in multiple disciplines and time.

And this is exactly my point here. The blogsphere has given us the right and the possibility to talk. Great tribute to democracy and openness. However, it has not given any tribute to humbleness and correctness. Reading a summary from McIntyre or Singer or Mann does not make you an expert even if the topics seem consistently scientific.

The action of marching with a sword and a shield made of shallow scientific knowledge has got nothing to do with contributing to the scientific debate, but instead, it contributes a lot to delay, confuse, or block the science to carry on and lift as quicker as they can the uncertainties we still have.

You wouldn't give to your 3 years old daughter who has got 41C of temperature some drops just because Delingpole tells you so, in case at least 3 different qualified doctors told you how important it was not to. Or would you?

Or would you feel good in giving to somebody else the same advice, in a blog, knowing that could be fatal?

If somebody is convinced to be able to do so, I would invite him to dedicate his life to science, starting with a MSc course, following with a PhD, maybe more than one in case he feels able to comment on statistics, physics, astrophysics, climate modelling, etc. He should then carrying on trying to make a living only on research funds and publishing on peer-review papers. I might listen to what he has got to say then.

David Frank, Jan Esper, Eduardo Zorita are some of the scientists I follow with great interest, debating thoroughly on peer-review papers the robustness of the hockey stick for instance, from a sceptic point of view.

Or Mike Hulme, who critics the IPCC and its way to communicate uncertainties in climate change.

These are the kind of scientists we need to read, study and mention to whoever feels sceptic.
They do not interpret interpretations.


Mike Philbin said...

Good closing summary, Nicoletta,

and you'll honour me by noting that, at no time, did I say, "James Delingpole is a better scientist than REAL SCIENTISTS."


Natalie said...

After watching this episode of horizon, i'm horrified to find there is still some debate over whose knows best. Let the scientists do what they have researched and experimented all of their lives.
It is ridiculous to propose someone who has no understanding of a complex scientific theory could get more media attention than a peer reviewed and brilliantly researched published work.
As a young person in todays society, i'm deeply saddened that decades of established science is no longer taken seriously and put behind the frantic outbursts of idiots upon whim.
I'm also angry to see that the real science isn't being understood and vast proportions of the population cant even comprehend BASIC GCSE principles, and are even willing to be violent against the unknown or misunderstood.
-if i was carrying heavy bricks on my back, i would not throw a rock at a man who introduces a wheel barrow just because i didn't fully understand how it works.
Overall, i would just like to express how much science has taught us and is not something to be scared of, and should not be too quickly judged without all of the facts by nieve people making alot of noise.
It is not for the scientists to defend their observations and findings, rather explain them to those who do not fully understand- and trust me, this is far too many people, perhaps the media should try this tactic instead of scare-mongering over half baked nonsense.

-- Natalie xXx

muzuzuzus said...

it sickens me that it is assumed that only some soddin elite has the right to be called scientific, and to make out they invented science!

I think all people ask questions about life, reality---and that IS scientific. From there if people choose to be A scientist that is their want--their capacity. An artist can be a scientist also

I hate this oppression to have to 'KNOW science'--what does it even mean. Any scientst now is SO specialized they wont know other science disciplines.

BEWARE of scientism. If theres one reason more and more young people distrust science it is because of the Cult of Scientism, and I always find it sadly amusing and predictable that those who belong to it dont or pretend to not know what scientism means.