(Update 5th Aug 2010 09:15 - Andrew Montford tells me that he has now contacted Professor Steve Jones who is conducting the review for the BBC, and that he says that the rumour is not true. This makes the BBC’s behaviour even more difficult to explain)

On 17th November 2009, over a thousand emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) were published on the internet triggering the scandal that has now become known as Climategate.

Between 8th and 18 of December, hopes of a globally binding agreement on carbon emissions reduction died at the Copenhagen Summit. On 3rd December, the UEA appointed Sir Muir Russell to conduct an ‘independent’ review of the activities at the CRU.

And on 6th January 2010, Professor Richard Tait, a BBC trustee and chairman of their flagship Editorial Standards Committee  (ESC) announced a review of the accuracy and impartiality of science coverage, with particular attention to climate change, and a report was scheduled for Spring 2011. For climate sceptics this was a timely and welcome development. Over the last few years, bloggers have been reporting on an apparent synergy that exists between the BBC and the environmental movement which has led to blatant distortion in reporting climate change.

During the following few weeks, an extremely rushed inquiry into Climategate by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee took place and, while giving evidence to the Committee, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Edward Acton, announced yet another review, specifically concerned with the scientific research undertaken by the CRU. This was to be chaired by Lord Oxburgh.

The IPCC also announced that a review, limited in scope to the procedures under which their assessment reports are compiled, would report in August.

The prospect of all these inquiries being set up to consider what had become a major scandal, which by now was doing immense damage to the credibility of climate science in particular, but also to public confidence in science as a whole,was welcomed by sceptics. But as details of how the various inquiry panels were to conduct their reviews emerged, this turned into ever growing concern. It became clear that sceptical opinions would not be represented on any of the inquiry panels, and that although sceptics would be permitted to make written submissions, there would be no opportunity for them to ensure that their concerns were fully understood and investigated.  By the end of March the credibility of the inquiries was in doubt.

On 7th April, Andrew Montford - of Bishop Hill fame - and I sent a joint letter to Professor Tait in his capacity as a BBC Trustee and chairman of the all important ESC in an attempt to ensure that sceptical views were fully represented in the course of the BBC Science review.

It is worth bearing in mind that the primary function of the BBC Trust is to ensure that the statutory obligations under which the BBC operates are enforced. These are set out in the Communications Act 2003 and elsewhere in the BBC Charter and Agreement. Impartiality in news reporting and factual programmes plays a very important part in all these legal instruments and compliance with requirements set out by parliament is not optional.

This is what our letter said:

Dear Professor Tait

BBC Trust Review of Accuracy and Impartiality of Science Coverage

We understand that during 2010 the BBC Trust intends to carry out a review of the Corporation’s science coverage. This is welcome and encouraging news.

We both run blogs, at Bishop Hill and Harmless Sky respectively, and we have both been extremely critical the BBC’s output relating to climate change. As I am sure you are aware, such comment often becomes the subject of mainstream media stories now, a trend that is likely to accelerate as the public’s scepticism about anthropogenic global warming grows and the media adjust its editorial policies accordingly.

We realise that pubic criticisms of the BBC’s impartiality   is very harmful to the Corporation’s  reputation, but experience has taught us that, where this subject is concerned at least, going through the official complaints procedures is slow, time-consuming, frustrating, and usually ineffective. The BBC has also failed to respond positively to enquiries that we have made.

It would seem reasonable to assume that the BBC Trust has instituted this review as a result of concern within the organisation as well as criticisms that have appeared in the media and elsewhere. Of the three topics specifically mentioned in the BBC Trust’s press release announcing the review - GM crops, the MMR vaccine and climate change - there can be no doubt that the latter has had by far the greatest impact on public policy and the everyday lives of BBC viewers, listeners, and website visitors. The BBC is a major opinion former in the UK.

We feel that, if the BBC Trust’s review is to be credible and lead to a genuine reappraisal of BBC editorial policy on this crucial subject, then it is essential that the voices of informed critics should be heard. Indeed it is difficult to see how even the terms of reference for the review can be established without some input from sceptical bloggers.

The unexpected and dramatic events of the last few months concerning the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, the failure of the Copenhagen summit, and revelations about the conduct of the IPCC have changed attitudes in the media dramatically, and this transformation has been largely led by the blogosphere. Evidence from opinion polls shows a steady increase in scepticism among the public over the last three years which is now accelerating.  This does not suggest that editors will revise their newly adopted policies of publishing sceptical material about climate change any time soon.

As the BBC’s report on impartiality in the 21st century, published in 2007, made clear, impartiality is the cornerstone of the BBC brand. Our concern is that the BBC’s reputation for impartiality should be preserved. We have substantial archives relating to the way that the BBC has reported climate change in recent years and we will be happy to assist the review process in any way that we can.

Yours sincerely

Tony  Newbery                                                                            Andrew Montford

newbery@xxxxxxx.xx.xx                                           amontford@xxxxxxxxxxx.xx.xx

The letter was addressed to Professor Tait and was sent electronically to Bruce Vander, the secretary of the ESC, with a request for confirmation when it had been delivered to Professor Tait. Just over an hour later the following message was received from a relatively junior member of the BBC Trust’s staff who described herself as the ‘Editorial Projects Leader’. It would appear that the announcement of the BBC’s review so soon after Climategate was a mere coincidence:

Thank you for your letter to the BBC Trust, the contents of which I note.

I will, of course, share you letter with Richard Tait and with Professor Steve Jones who is authoring the review, but let me take this opportunity to respond to a number of the points you raise.

Your letter states that: ‘It would seem reasonable to assume that the BBC Trust has instituted the review as a result of concern within the organisation as well as criticisms that have appeared in the media and elsewhere’.  This is not the case, as the press release and published terms of reference make clear. This is the latest in a series of reviews that assess impartiality in specific areas of BBC output. Previous topics covered were BBC coverage of business (2007) and the devolved nations (2008).

It is a key priority for the Trust that the BBC covers potentially controversial subjects with due impartiality, as required by the Royal Charter and Agreement. The review is a ‘health check’ of current coverage, looking to identify both good and bad practice. It makes no presumption of significant failings – or, for that matter, successes – at the outset.

The published terms of reference make clear what is in the review’s scope and what is out, and the means by which Professor Jones will go about assessing the BBC’s coverage, including detailed content analysis, engagement with key stakeholders and audience research if deemed appropriate.

I hope this letter goes some way to clarifying some of the points you raise.

Of course we hadn’t written to ‘the BBC Trust’ at all, as the Editorial Project Leader’ suggests, but specifically to the BBC Trustee responsible for setting up the review; and ‘sharing’ a letter with someone is a very different thing from actually delivering it to them. It is, of course, a matter for the recipient of a letter to decide who he wishes to share its content with, not for anyone to whom it has been entrusted to deliver to him. And the Editorial Project Leader makes no reference to the main purpose of our letter; that we should have the opportunity to make representations about the impartiality of the BBC’s coverage of climate change as part of the review process.

I have now exchanged half-a-dozen emails with Mr Vander in an attempt to establish that our letter has in fact been delivered to the person it was addressed to; the chairman of the committee to which he is secretary, Professor Richard Tait. All that Mr Vander is prepared to say is that our letter has been ‘shared’ with Professor Tait, in spite of a succession of specific requests to confirm that it has been delivered and not merely ‘shared’.

Apart from the gross discourtesy of not, at the very least, receiving an acknowledgement from Professor Tait of what was obviously a thoughtful and constructive letter, this seems very strange.  Why is the BBC Trust not even prepared to confirm that the letter has been delivered to their impartiality supremo, in spite of repeated requests? Why is Mr Vander only prepared to say that it has been ‘shared’ with him?  Surely playing silly word games should have no part in the duties of the secretary of the BBC Trust committee that is charged with ensuring that our national broadcaster complies with standards set out in legislation.

Now we have heard - from a source close to the BBC - that the BBC Trust’s much-vaunted review of the accuracy and impartiality of its science coverage has been cancelled. Could it be that the BBC has realised that, in view of the damage done to the Climategate inquires by not properly representing the well justified concerns and evidence of sceptics, their review would also have little credibility if the critics of their science coverage are excluded, and conversely, that if this input is allowed, then the review would inevitably have to reach some very unpalatable conclusions.

There seems to be little point in our writing to Professor Tait and asking him whether his review has, in fact, been cancelled.

41 Responses to “Has the BBC’s review of science reporting been cancelled?”

  1. 1
    Ian E Says:

    I remember quite a while ago seeing a TV sci-fi play called, I think, ‘The Machine Breaks’.

    A futuristic world holds in which a giant integrated computer/machine/subterranean dwelling performs virtually all tasks for its inhabitants, even picking up dropped items, getting them dressed etc. Accordingly these effete individuals became drastically etiolated, both physically and mentally. Something goes wrong and occasionally, but increasingly often, tasks dont quite get carried out correctly – a dirty garment returns, a dropped pencil is ignored etc.

    The tale follows a few brave, independent-minded people who wont accept the status quo, who perceive what is happening and try to adjust before the Machine completely stops.

    I wonder if the AGW-Machine Breaks?

  2. 2
    Sherwin Hall Says:

    So, ‘Professor Steve Jones is authoring the review’. Did you see his dismissive, disparaging remarks about warmist sceptics in his Telegraph column a couple of weeks, or so, ago? If he’s the author, the assessment will be yet another whitewash.

  3. 3
    geoffchambers Says:

    The Steve Jones article mentioned by Sherwin Hall above is at
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/steve-jones/7887202/Gods-floods-and-global-warming.html
    In it he says:

    global warming is not a product of the human imagination … for … it depends on its data, the accuracy of which has been affirmed by the inquiry into the leaked East Anglia documents. The subject has, alas, become the home of boring rants by obsessives.

    Think of the fun we’d have had quoting that at him if he had written that report.

  4. 4
    Alex Cull Says:

    If the BBC Trust’s science review has in fact been dropped or put on hold indefinitely, it would seem to be one of a number of investigations which have gone a bit quiet, of late. Norfolk Constabulary’s probe into the ClimateGate leaks is one, of course. Ofcom’s investigation of the last government’s Bedtime Stories ads is another, as far as I know.

    Ian E, the story you describe sounds very like EM Forster’s The Machine Stops. An apt metaphor – all these agencies appear to have hit the pause button for the time being – as far as we on the outside are concerned, anyway.

  5. 5
    TonyN Says:

    Geoff:

    As I hope I made clear in the header post, I don’t know whether it has been cancelled or not, but I hope that I will soon.

    Alex:

    The original correspondence from the ASA, so far as I remember, said that Ofcom would investigate and report together with them. I keep on meaning to write and ask what’s happening.

  6. 6
    Billy Liar Says:

    In view of the importance of your letter I would have found out Professor Tait’s snail mail address and sent him a recorded delivery letter marked ‘Personal’.

    You would have saved yourself a lot of interference from gatekeepers.

    [But why would I need to do that when we were writing to a BBC Trustee on BBC Trust business? TonyN]

  7. 7
    Alan the Brit Says:

    I complined to the ASA about Noo Labour’s bedtime story ad. I eventually got the bland response that there was “nothing to see here” much as I expected. They are well versed in rebuttal by essentially ignoring the information provided in the hope that one gives up!

  8. 8
    Umbongo Says:

    I would never bother with “recorded delivery” for important letters. In my experience the confirmation of delivery is rarely accessible via the “tracking” section of the Royal Mail website here. Far better (but far more expensive) is to use the “special delivery” service. However, it will only prove that the letter was delivered to the recipient’s address NOT that it was received by the recipient personally.

  9. 9
    TonyN Says:

    Quite a few people here, and at Bishop Hill, have raised the question of sending a recorded or registered letter to Professor Tait privately. Had I done so he would have been quite right to ignore a behind the scenes approach on what is, very clearly, a BBC Trust matter. It would also have defeated the purpose of the letter, which was very specifically intended to be on the record.

  10. 10
    miket Says:

    When it suits them, stuff gets through to Professor Tait. I have been pursuing a complaint of general bias over climate science reporting for over two years now. I recently submitted a detailed appeal, having followed all the steps in their procedures. At this point they decided to divide my content up and send much of it back around to different BBC people. Bad enough, but one attachment which included references to items not reported by the BBC, was, apparently passed to Professor Tait so that he could reject it for that very reason.

    I haven’t given up yet, but I suspect I may not get much further, since it appears that their rules will allow them to report entirely one side of an issue so long as they accurately report the news/science item that they choose to report. Apparently not reporting (virtually) anything that may contradict a particular viewpoint is acceptable and not bias.

  11. 11
    PKthinks Says:

    I have observed the BBC reporting during and after climategate. Its quite obvious impartial to the editorial team meant supporting the consensus view
    Was the ‘report on science reporting’ever intended to critique impartiality or was it not to examine the difficulties in gaining public support for the consensus view

  12. 12
    TonyN Says:

    miket, #10:

    I seem to remember that the Wagon Wheel report makes it very clear that bias by omission is as much a failure of impartiality as partisan content. So I would be very interested to know just what grounds, if any, the BBC gave for rejecting your evidence.

    There is little doubt that over the last five years the most significant failures in their climate science reporting have taken the form of bias by omission, particularly where uncertainty and contradictory findings are concerned.

  13. 13
    geoffchambers Says:

    Everyone commenting here has formed his opinion on climate change by looking at both sides of the argument. If you or I want to find out about a subject, we borrow a book from the library, or go on the net. Not so the BBC chiefs, newspaper editors, MPs, and other opinion leaders. They are highly intelligent, sure of their judgement, but very busy. On a subject outside their own field, they ask the opinion of people like themselves with the requisite expertise. Are the papers Phil Jones recommends the right ones to look at in order to judge the quality of his work? Ask Sir Martin Rees. Is the science journalism of the BBC above reproach? Ask a journalist-scientist on the Telegraph.
    Look at your letter from their point of view. Just a “boring obsessive rant” (Professor Steve Jones’ characterisation in the Telegraph) from the green ink brigade. One of them wrote a book? All nutters write books. Possibly someone at the BBC will get one of their underlings to read it, or browse through the Harmless Sky and Bishop Hill blogs for half an hour (the time that the officials at UEA spent browsing through Climate Audit, according to Phil Jones).
    Are we winning the argument? Well, yes, in some Platonic universe where only ideas have reality. In the real world, the argument hasn’t begun, and the BBC, like the rest of the media, has little interest in seeing it begin. This is not a conspiracy, simply the way society conducts discussion. Without the adversarial context and equality of evidence provided by an election or a court of law, it may never begin.

  14. 14
    tempterrain Says:

    Geoffchambers,

    You say “Everyone commenting here has formed his opinion on climate change by looking at both sides of the argument”.

    “Looking at”? Well I’d say if you are going to come out and say the the RS, just about every University in the country and just about every Research institute, have got it wrong then you’d need to do a bit more than just “look”!

  15. 15
    TonyN Says:

    geoff, #13:

    That’s an interesting comment and I’ll probably be building a post round it later today.

  16. 16
    geoffchambers Says:

    tempterrain @14
    I hope it’s clear that my comments are about the sociology of decision-making, and not just about climate science, that they apply to you as much as to anyone else, and that they are applicable to many situations where the truth becomes a victim of “groupthink”.
    The adversarial nature of discussion in a democracy is meant to prevent this happening, but sometimes the system locks into a self-perpetuating loop. Chomsky’s analysis of the conduct of the Vietnam war provides a good example of experts (generals, politicians, journalists and academics) reinforcing each other in avoiding reality. You don’t have to be a climate sceptic to accept that there is something seriously wrong with a situation where the sort of discussion you provoke here on the New Statesman thread (and which unfortunately spills over everywhere else!) cannot take place in the mainstream media.

  17. 17
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    geoffchambers is right, when he writes (16) that his

    comments are about the sociology of decision-making, and not just about climate science, that they apply to you as much as to anyone else, and that they are applicable to many situations where the truth becomes a victim of “groupthink”.

    In his post, he mentions Noam Chomsky’s analysis of “groupthink” during the Vietnam War.

    Noam Chomsky is the darling of (what is known in the USA as) “left wing liberals”, for his stand against the war in Vietnam (and later the US invasion of Iraq). In this interview in Seed Magazine, he and Robert Trivers (a renowned Harvard biologist) discuss “deceit” by the powerful institutions of this world (business, politicians, the military, governments, the media, etc.) resulting in “groupthink” to further an agenda.
    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/noam_chomsky_robert_trivers/

    Seed Magazine is published by the Seed Media Group, which has (as its founding “mission statement” – bold type by me):
    http://www.seedmediagroup.com/about/

    · Science is transforming our global culture and conversation unlike ever before, shaping markets, informing policy, inspiring the arts and deepening our understanding of who we are, where we come from and where we’re heading.
    · The pursuit and impact of science is borderless.
    · Science is a powerful tool for solving global problems, from climate change to clean water to poverty and development.
    · Science affects every single person on the planet.
    · Widespread science literacy is essential in the 21st century.

    Seed states its position on “Environmental Responsibility” as follows:

    We consistently evaluate all areas of our business—from the paper we use in our magazines to the light bulbs we use in our offices—to reduce our carbon footprint and to encourage sustainability. To that effect, we are very interested in learning about products or services that would support this mission; if you are a potential vendor or just want to share your green ideas with us, please contact us.

    So it is clear that Seed has a “dog in the race” when it comes to AGW (a.k.a. “climate change”).

    For this reason, the interview does not once mention the “deceit” by the “powerful”, as it relates to AGW. Yet many of the statements made would apply directly.

    Chomsky states:

    One of the most important comments on deceit, I think, was made by Adam Smith. He pointed out that a major goal of business is to deceive and oppress the public. And one of the striking features of the modern period is the institutionalization of that process, so that we now have huge industries deceiving the public—and they’re very conscious about it, the public relations industry.

    and

    And by now these are huge industries. They not only dominate marketing of commodities, but they also control the political system. As anyone who watches a US election knows, it’s marketing. It’s the same techniques that are used to market toothpaste.

    And, of course, there are power systems in place to facilitate this. Throughout history it’s been mostly the property holders or the educated classes who’ve tended to support power systems. And that’s a large part of what I think education is—it’s a form of indoctrination. You have to reconstruct a picture of the world in order to be conducive to the interests and concerns of the educated classes, and this involves a lot of self-deceit.

    Trivers discusses this self-deceit:

    So you’re talking about self-deception in at least two contexts. One is intellectuals who, in a sense, go through a process of education which results in a self-deceived organism who is really working to serve the interests of the privileged few without necessarily being conscious of it at all.

    The other thing is these massive industries of persuasion and deception, which, one can conceptualize, are also inducing a form of either ignorance or self-deception in listeners, where they come to believe that they know the truth when in fact they’re just being manipulated.

    As indicated, the conversation does not mention the “massive industries of persuasion and deception”, which are involved in today’s multi-billion dollar “climate change” business.

    Nor does it mention the scientists (“intellectuals”?), which are “really working to serve the interests of the privileged few” (politicians, money-shufflers, “green” industrialists and corporations, environmental activist and lobbying groups, hedge fund operators, etc.) “without necessarily being conscious of it at all”.

    A pity.

    Max

  18. 18
    TonyN Says:

    Max:

    I would be very interested in anything that you might have to say about the penultimate paragraph of this article in the Daily Telegraph by Professor Steve Jones, who is conducting the BBC’s science review:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/steve-jones/7887202/Gods-floods-and-global-warming.html

    It would seem to beg at least one glaringly obvious question. As the answer is to do with Co2 levels and climate sensitivity, a responses, if any, would be more appropriate on the NS thread.

  19. 19
    manacker Says:

    TonyN

    Steve Jones’ Telegraph article is interesting reading. I’ll respond to your 18 here, but you may wish to move it to the NS thread.

    Jones is not only a Professor of Genetics, but apparently also a good writer of science fiction.

    His explanation for the end of the Ice Age and the Great Flood have just enough plausibility to make them interesting.

    But there are many other “explanations” for the Great Flood, including a quite plausible one by William Ryan and Walter Pittman, backed by analysis of marine sediments, which has the “flood” occurring around 5500 BC as gradually higher sea level in the Mediterranean from receding post-Ice Age glaciers finally bridged the Bosporus, filling a low-lying fresh water lake with sea water, thereby creating the Black Sea and essentially destroying an early civilization along the lake.
    http://www.lexiline.com/lexiline/lexi44.htm

    A similar event is suggested to have occurred in the Mediterranean during an earlier warm period, when the rising water breached the Strait of Gibraltar, rushing into an arid Mediterranean basin; but this occurred well before there were humans or their ancestors.
    http://www.mediterranean-yachting.com/History.htm

    Local cataclysmic events such as these could have occurred in the past. It is always interesting to speculate that they could occur again in the future. Human like “doomsday predictions”, especially if they are “global” in scope and supported by just a bit of plausible “science”.

    But it requires a real stretch of the imagination to postulate that they could actually occur on a global basis as a result of a few hundred added ppm of atmospheric CO2 emitted by the human combustion of fossil fuels, as there are no “real world” empirical data supporting this hypothesis, only model simulations with theoretical assumptions from the “virtual world” of computers.

    That would really make Jones’ “frog laugh”!

    Max

  20. 20
    manacker Says:

    TonyN

    To get more specific to your question about Jones’ “penultimate paragraph”, the paleoclimate record of atmospheric CO2 does not support Jones’ suggestion:

    The deep seas are a vast reservoir of carbon dioxide, dissolved under pressure, but the chilly and hence heavy water from the disappearing bergs – helped by the Fleuve and its fellows – sank to the bottom and pushed that ancient reserve of trapped carbon towards the surface. Gas bubbled out and entered the air, pushing onwards the wave of warming. Within a couple of centuries the glaciers began their precipitate retreat, the oceans rose by tens of metres, and we were in the modern world.

    There was no major increase of atmospheric CO2 prior to the end of the last Ice Age. For a study showing atmospheric CO2 levels over geological time periods, see:
    http://earth.geology.yale.edu/~ajs/2001/Feb/qn020100182.pdf

    For another study, showing more detail for the past 400,000 years see:
    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/last_400k_yrs.html

    Nowhere is there the “footprint” supporting Jones’ suggestion that increasing CO2 levels were responsible for the end of the Ice Age.

    But, nevertheless, it is an interesting postulation attempting to provide a scientific rationalization for the current “AGW doomsday” hypothesis.

    Max

  21. 21
    TonyN Says:

    Max:

    Many thanks, that is roughly the answer I was expecting.

    Given that the article in the Telegraph was concerned, in part at least, with linking myths to empirical evidence, one might have expected a reference to ice core data WRT the hypothetical explanation of sudden sea level rise in the early Holocene. Based on the second chart that you referenced, the evidence would certainly seem to be equivocal.

    Concerning the Noah’s Flood myth and its numerous variants, it would seem reasonable to suppose the ‘the whole wide world’ was a pretty small place for our distant ancestors, so any number of inundations that would now be considered regional phenomena might be their cause.

  22. 22
    geoffchambers Says:

    Max and TonyN
    What I found interesting in the Jones article was the fact that he presents scientific explanations for the myths recounting past catastrophes as if they were something new, apparently unaware that they date back at least to Euhemerus of the 4th century BC. He then uses the supposedly “proven” catastrophes of the past as a stick to beat the sceptics.
    Modern catastrophism is a complex phenomenon, involving serious scientists and the daftest sort of charlatans. I’ve often wondered whether the belief in imminent global cooling/warming wasn’t provoked in many of my generation by a reading of Velikovsky at an impressionable age. Though his theories of the cometary origin of Venus have not stood the test of time, the questions he raised about conventional ancient chronology are still interesting, and Douglas Keenan among others has expressed scepticism about this area of academic consensus.
    Another academic who has drunk from the inebriating stream of post-Velikovsky catastrophism is Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He used to contribute at the defunct blog Kronos, where he frequented people who believe the sun is lit from space by electric currents, and the earth used to circle Saturn in an opaque brown cloud.
    (I just mention the fact here because I fully expect Monbiot to bring the subject up in one of his ad hominem character assassinations, so I just thought I’d beat him to it).

    [Geoff: Benny Peiser is a social anthropologist with an interest in science and scientists. He's probably visited a lot of weird websites. TonyN]

  23. 23
    manacker Says:

    geoffchambers

    You commented:

    What I found interesting in the Jones article was the fact that he presents scientific explanations for the myths recounting past catastrophes as if they were something new, apparently unaware that they date back at least to Euhemerus of the 4th century BC. He then uses the supposedly “proven” catastrophes of the past as a stick to beat the sceptics.

    As we all know, one of the earliest recorded stories of a “cataclysmic climate event” is that of the Great Flood.

    Wiki tells us of the Assyrian stone tablet recording this story around the 7th century BC, but the story itself is apparently much older
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth

    Gilgamesh’s supposed historical reign is believed to have been approximately 2700 BC, shortly before the earliest known written stories. The discovery of artifacts associated withAga and Enmebaragesi of Kish, two other kings named in the stories, has lent credibility to the historical existence of Gilgamesh.

    The earliest Sumerian versions of the Gilgamesh epic date from as early as theThird Dynasty of Ur 2100-2000 BC). The earliest Akkadian versions are dated to ca. 2000-1500 BC. One of the early Sumerian Gilgamesh poems mentions Gilgamesh’s journey to meet the flood hero, as well as a short version of the flood story. Due to the fragmentary nature of the Old Babylonian poems, it is unclear whether these included an expanded account of the flood myth—although one definitely includes the story of Gilgamesh’s journey to meet Utnapishtim. The “standard” Akkadian version included a long version of the flood story and was edited by Sin-lige-unninni sometime between 1300 and 1000 BC.

    The Ancient Jews were apparently the first to introduce the concept of “human guilt” as the cause for the flood, much later.

    As Wiki tells us:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deluge_myth#Jewish

    The Book of Genesis (Genesis 6–9) tells how the god Yahweh sends a deluge to destroy the world because it has become corrupted with violence. However, Yahweh saves one righteous man (Noah) and his sons and their wives, together with representatives of the animals. After the flood Noah makes a sacrifice to Yahweh and Yahweh resolves never again to destroy the world through water.

    This version fits the anthropocentric Judeo-Christian (and later Islamic) concept of “human guilt and divine retribution”.

    The current AGW “doomsday prediction” also does.

    Man (especially affluent, industrial man) is guilty of destroying the planet through his selfish overindulgence (and consumption of fossil fuels).

    The predicted “retribution” will come not from an almighty God, in the religious sense, but from “Mother Nature”, herself.

    As has been the case for almost all “doomsday prophesies”, some “science” is again used to lend credibility to the predictions.

    The ancient oracles and prophets of doom have been replaced by computer models, which are fed the appropriate input in order to arrive at the desired prediction.

    But it’s basically the same old story, with new “branding” and “packaging”, and (with the exception of some scientific disconnects) Jones has presented it very well.

    Max

  24. 24
    geoffchambers Says:

    Max @23
    I was aware that the records of catastrophic events go back to the beginning of recorded history. Euhemerus (c 4th century BC) was the first to give quasi scientific explanations for such myths. Jones reports contemporary efforts to do the same as if they were something new, which I find surprising in a science fiction writer.

  25. 25
    Barry Woods Says:

    How about this from one the climate scientists writing Hadcrut/Critemp code, and looking after CRU datasets..

    “Although I have yet to see any evidence that climate change is a sign of Christ’s imminent return, human pollution is clearly another of the birth pangs of creation, as it eagerly awaits being delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans. 19-22).

    Tim Mitchell works at the Climactic Research Unit, UEA, Norwich, and is a member of South Park Evangelical Church.

    For an enhanced version of this article, with extra diagrams and links to further information, visit the website: http://www. uea.ac.uk/~f709762/climate/en-article.htm”

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~timm/papers/index.html

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~timm/data/index-table.html

    Yes. He is the missing Tim, in the climategate Harry_Read_me.txt file

    He also sent out that consensus email, pre kyoto, on Mike Hulmes behalf, that drew – Tom Wigley’s devasting reply.

  26. 26
    manacker Says:

    geoffchambers

    Sorry. I missed your point about (and was also unaware of) Euhemerus being the first to give scientific explanations for disaster myths.

    But the anthropocentric Judeo-Christian “guilt and retribution” aspect (a key part of the current doomsday prophesy) has apparently been around even longer.

    Together, they are very powerful.

    The former is relatively easy to challenge with facts (as was done for the Jones myth of CO2 causing the end of the last Ice Age).

    The latter is a much tougher nut to crack, because it goes into the realm of religious (or pseudo-religious) belief, rather than reason.

    Max

  27. 27
    Alex Cull Says:

    As an aficionado of weird books and websites myself, I think Zecharia Sitchin has covered much of this ancient flood-myth ground in books such as The Twelfth Planet; mind you, his theory is also that humans were genetically engineered by aliens from the planet Nebiru, so a modicum of scepticism is required.

    Does Steve Jones really want to venture into territory so well travelled by Velikovsky, Sitchin and von Daniken, I wonder?

    Although, as another Dr Jones said: “Nothing shocks me – I’m a scientist”.

  28. 28
    manacker Says:

    Barry Woods

    Your 25 has just confirmed my conclusion in my 26 to geoffchambers.

    Looks like “religion” is at work at the CRU at UEA.

    Max

  29. 29
    Barry Woods Says:

    Tim Mitchell (climategate file harry_read_Me.txt)

    http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-1129-Climate-change-and-the-Christian.htm

  30. 30
    miket Says:

    TonyN no.12

    No reason given for rejection of omissions evidence. They just said that such evidence would only be considered in exceptional circumstances and that Professor Tait had rejected it, final. However, I am still pursuing the point. I was only told this after this evidence had been divorced from the rest of my case and, apparently, presented to Professor Tait without my prior knowledge. I was given no opportunity to show how this evidence could not be taken separately. Clearly this was unacceptable behaviour and I am not accepting it.

  31. 31
    Barry Woods Says:

    Sir John Houghton (IPCC) in June gave a speech, that clearly indicated to me, that the science, ‘to him’ was settled a decade ago or more..

    The co chair of the 2001 AR3 Synthesis report…The one with the’hockey stick’ graph in, he fought to keep it and Mann in it..

    Sir John Houghton gave this speech at my local church, supporting a ‘Transition Town’ group…(audio downloadable)

    Slideshow title:

    “God, Science and Global Warming”June 2010 Wargrave church

    Link Below, (3 section, 2 auido, one slideshow)

    http://www.wargravechurch.org.uk/climatechange.htm

    Global Warming and Climate Change:
    A Challenge to Scientists and Christians

    On Thursday 17th June 2010
    Professor Sir John Houghton FRS CBE
    spoke to a full church at St. Mary’s.

    Co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific assessment group and lead editor of their first 3 reports. Former Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Oxford University and Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office.

    A recording of his talk was made, and with his permission, it is available for download from here as an .mp3 file. It lasts about 46 minutes and the file is about 6Mb in size.

    His talk was based on a Powerpoint presentation, to which he makes reference; a printout of this has also been made available, though a few of the images have been omitted for copyright reasons. It can be downloaded as a .pdf file about 11Mb in size.
    Following the talk, Sir John answered a number of questions from the audience, and the recording of these is an .mp3 file lasting about 34 minutes about 4Mb in size.

  32. 32
    Alex Cull Says:

    Barry Woods, that’s an interesting link! (Funnily enough I went to school just up the road from that church).

    Also let’s not forget the words of Sir John Houghton: “God tries to coax and woo, but he also uses disasters. Human sin may be involved; the effect will be the same.”

    Clearly there is a sort of cultural reservoir of religious yearning that the global warming phenomenon has been able to tap into. This article by ecologist John Croft is revealing.

  33. 33
    Alex Cull Says:

    Just to clarify, my #32 was in response to your #29 – two comments came in while I was still writing!

  34. 34
    peter geany Says:

    There is an interesting article by Philip Stott where he discusses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Anyone who has studied management should be familier with Maslow, and Stott uses the theory to show how we in the west have come to the point we have. When we discuss how Global Warming beame what it was, I think that the science has been secondary and it has been a mindset thing, and it has infected almost every area of west life and culture.

    I think that AGW was just the best fit for our times especially after the Berlin wall came down. Human behaviour has not change over many millennia and there have been many crossroads where the masses have taken control from the rulers. I think we are at another crossroad where our rulers are going to struggle to retain power unless they reflect the greater public opinion.

  35. 35
    tempterrain Says:

    Just to get back to the root question of how the BBC should report science: Just what, exactly, are you suggesting?

    I can understand that you’d like Anthony Watts to be given equal status with James Hansen on the climate issue, but would you like this principle to be generally applied to other controversial scientific issues too?

  36. 36
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    Re your open question (35), how about Richard Lindzen being given equal time with James E. Hansen?

    Or Roy Spencer being given equal time with Phil Jones?

    Sounds to me like a good unbiased approach to arrive at a more balanced viewpoint on AGW, which BBC has, unfortunately, so far elected not to do.

    Agree it would also be a good approach for any truly controversial scientific issue, although I doubt that there are any today, which carry the same degree of public interest and political plus economic impact as the “dangerous AGW” hypothesis and the multi-billion dollar big business behind it.

    How about you, Peter? Would you agree that this makes sense?

    Max

  37. 37
    manacker Says:

    Peter Geany

    Philip Stott’s essay on “the Death of a Grand Narrative” is succinct and to the point.

    As Copenhagen demonstrated, the “dangerous AGW” narrative appears to be in its death throes, although certain politicians and the media may not have fully realized it yet.

    The “Maslow Pyramid” explanation of how AGW became the major narrative of the late 1990s and early 2000s among the “loads of money” generation within the affluent world is incisive.

    A thoughtful essay by someone who has obviously done a lot of thinking on this topic.

    Max

  38. 38
    tempterrain Says:

    Max,

    Well I’m not sure you’re interested in anything making sense! However, I would agree that there needs to be some open method by which organisations, like the BBC, and also other TV channels and newspapers, would be able to use to advise on the correct line to adopt on scientific issues.

    I’d suggest the Royal Society and the country’s universities should be involved and asked to provide their advice. Maybe a panel of four or five leading scientists, drawn from various diciplines, could be formed? And, yes, that could include engineers too!

    That makes perfect sense, which is why you won’t like it!

  39. 39
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    You are trying to “change the rules” again (38).

    Let’s not “hand over” the decision on whom to invite to comment on any scientific issue as politically loaded as AGW to a party, such as the Royal Society, which has already stated its own one-sided position on this issue.

    Let’s simply make sure that “both sides of the story” are being equally represented in an unbiased fashion (as you originally suggested and I agreed to, with a change from Anthony Watts to Richard Lindzen as a more equal debating partner for James E. Hansen).

    That’s what “makes sense”, Peter.

    Max

  40. 40
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    For a better idea of what “makes sense” for BBC, re-read the letter from TonyN and Andrew Montford to BBC (see lead article), which ends with:

    As the BBC’s report on impartiality in the 21st century, published in 2007, made clear, impartiality is the cornerstone of the BBC brand. Our concern is that the BBC’s reputation for impartiality should be preserved. We have substantial archives relating to the way that the BBC has reported climate change in recent years and we will be happy to assist the review process in any way that we can.

    The key word here, Peter is “impartiality”.

    Max

  41. 41
    Channel 4′s Jon Snow leaves journalism to frighten kids for the UN « Follow The Money Says:

    [...] BBC is apparently in the midst of conducting a review of its science coverage. Here is what the man heading that review has to say about “global warming.” …..global [...]

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