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« Graun on best green books | Main | Matt Ridley on weather and climate »

The Orwellian solution

As readers know, I have been keeping a close eye on the BBC's review of science coverage, to which TonyN and I have made a submission.

Science coverage on the television was also the subject of a recent lecture at the Royal Television Society (H/T Martyn in the comments) and it's hard to believe that the timing is coincidental.

The speaker was Professor Brian Cox, who, for viewers outside the UK is something of a rising star in the world of TV science. His day job is in physics - he plies his trade at CERN - and if he has something of a retired pop star about him, this is because earlier in life he was the keyboard player in a chart-topping band.

Cox is an engaging speaker and his lecture is well worth a look although I think it's fair to say that his thinking ends up in some pretty disturbing places.

The thrust of the lecture is that television programmers should adopt a new approach to scientific controversies. Cox's view steers very close to what emerged from the notorious BBC seminar, where NGO activists got to influence BBC output on climate change. He first cites The Great Global Warming Swindle, describing its factual content as "total bollocks", but going on to say that it still deserved to be aired. The conclusion he reaches is that counter-consensus programmes have a valuable place, and he cites approvingly John Stuart Mill's famous words

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

But despite this, Cox is not happy with the status quo, and feels that something has to be done. His solution is that where a programme conflicts with the "scientific consensus", it should be treated as a "polemic" rather than a "documentary" and needs to be flagged as such, perhaps by calling it "a personal view" or otherwise labelling it in some way. This appears to me to be tantamount to forcing some programme makers to declare their ideas as "wrong", and this angle is not lost on Cox either, who wonders out loud if the position his thought process has taken him to is "authoritarian" - he mentions George Orwell too. Rather disturbingly he says he doesn't know the answer to this question and then, rather than resolve the dilemma, he drops the subject entirely.

Of course, even if we accept Cox's rather unscientific idea of a scientific consensus, there is still the question of who gets to decide what is consensus and what is polemic. The next programme he cites is Iain Stewart's Climate Wars, the three-part hit piece on climate sceptics that aired back in 2008. In Cox's view this is the epitome of what a well-balanced programme should be, with the presenter's view allegedly clearly distinguished from its presentation of the scientific consensus. Of course, as most readers here know, the problem with Climate Wars was that it was a highly political piece, with a well-known green activist as its scientific adviser, and of course famously misrepresenting the scientific consensus, as when presenter Iain Stewart climbed a bristlecone pine and extolled its virtues as a temperature proxy when there was a clear scientific consensus at the time that bristlecones were unsuitable for temperature reconstructions.

(As an aside, one of the members of the BBC Trust once told me that the BBC did allow sceptics to put forward their views, and cited Climate Wars as an example!)

Cox doesn't consider the issue of who defines what is consensus and what is polemic, and it seems clear to me that he hasn't thought the issues through properly. He can see that he is standing at the abyss, but doesn't want to turn away from it.

The liberal (in the old sense of the word) solution is, of course, a marketplace of ideas, in which people can put forward their cases as best they can. What Cox has to recognise is that his tiptoeing towards an Orwellian solution is only necessary because media ownership is so concentrated in the UK and because the BBC so dominates the marketplace. He doesn't need a truth commission to apply the "documentary" stamp to approved programmes. He needs the BBC to be broken up.

In the meantime though, there is the BBC's review of science, who will no doubt be aware of what Cox is saying. It will be interesting to see if the review adopts Cox's favoured approach, the one that makes him think of George Orwell.

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Reader Comments (57)

I obviously got too much time on my hands today but this made me laugh: , several great quotes from professor Cox in this article.

Dec 3, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterH

Can Professor Cox please provide some examples, i.e. evidence, of where the factual content of the GGWS is "total bollocks".

If he cannot then it would be appropriate, using his standards, to describe his own views as "total bollocks".

Dec 3, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterLazlo

Interestingly, and putting aside the nonsense spouted on the subject of climate change, the BBC's Horizon strand has noticeably improved in the most recent series. Regular viewers will have watched with horror its unstoppable plunge into the abyss of dumbing down that has taken place in the last 10 years or so. This got to the point where the programs were completely unwatchable, unless you're a 12-year-old.

The most recent series, however, had a couple of really interesting programs; one on the origins of the universe, and a second on neural plasticity. Which is, by coincidence, a very interesting subject to talk about regarding scientific consensus.

I've just read, “The Brain That Changed Itself", an account of the current state of thinking regarding brain/body mapping and neural plasticity. It's an extraordinary example of the scientific consensus being completely and utterly dead wrong. And (in a startling parallel with the hockey team's shenanigans in climate science) the outrageous lengths that the ‘consensus’ was prepared to go in order to support its position, including legal battles, manipulation of universities, financial funding, the media, peer review and even outright threats and ruining peoples careers (and lives).

An astonishing story which should be compulsive reading for anyone interested in the current ‘consensus.’

Dec 3, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

This business of labeling television programs as divergent from the consensus view is very treacherous. We have, for example, a genre of programming here in the colonies where 2 minutes or less of content is expanded to fill an hour. Such efforts are addressed to the possibility that aliens built the pyramids of Egypt, that scantlings from Noah's ark have been discovered, that various lost cites have been found, aliens discovered and concealed in New Mexico, and so forth.

If one were to start labeling programs, these seem to call out for it. But.... There would be no end to it and the idea would founder on the programs where the dispute over their rationality is evenly divided.

Dr. Cox seems to come up a bit short in experience of the world, but from what you say above, he's sensed it and can't quite get a grasp on where he's left the tracks.

Does it really make sense to precede a program with a short bit saying that the following program is being presented out of a sense of fair play but the views it conveys are believed to be utter nonsense by a majority of the scientists who work in the area?

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

To be a bit clearer, so much of what is shown on US television richly deserves a Coxian introduction that the effect would be totally dissipated.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Bish: who was the "scientific" advisor to Climate Wars?

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Naomi Oreskes

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:15 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

'Denier' is the the politically correct equivalent of 'dirty jew' or 'ni**er', applied to skeptics. And now the self-declared AGW leaders are going to seek to ghettoize the skeptical community.
Nothing really changes when one is dealing fanatical ideologues and AGW true believers like Cox demonstrates this very well.
Fortunately the climate is continuing to ignore our AGW fanatics by declining to cooperate in doing anything they want it to do.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Bish, speaking of TV series, this one looks very scary:

"Missiom: Green Santa"

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig B

Mr cox is another of the opinionated self important TV types who revel in the adoration of the fools on twotter/face thingy and the BBC, but will never step into the cold light of the real world to defend his stupid and badly thought out comments just look at his face thingy page it's all pics of him in far off places as he races round the globe on licence payers money producing! what was the word? oh yes "bollocks" and dumping out more carbon the a medium power station !

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

Naome Oreskes! It's worse than I thought.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

'Market place of ideas'. That sounds a bit like Google scholar. There's an implicit popularity ranking associated with any marketplace. Just because an idea is unpopular, it doesn't mean that it's wrong, just that the market finds that it's difficult to sell. There are all sorts of popular nutball ideas out there.

Unfettering peer review (like naming the reviewers and publishing their comments) and forcing journals to stick to a standard set of guide-lines that require full disclosure of data and code would go a long way to dealing with the Team closed shop.

Regulation would insist that, where a paper cannot be verified by a 3rd party due to lack of data or code, it *cannot* be cited in another paper. This would at least deal with Jone's 1990 UHI fiasco.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Crook

Brian Cox is a good presenter with an engaging personality and manner. I can understand why he is a rising star in the BBC. How he got to be a professor is beyond me. In my day most professors were not nearly as presentable as Brian, but within their speciality they knew stuff and it showed.

It would be superfluous to mark the likes of Iain Stewart's "Climate Wars" as "polemic". Iain's presentation style invariably screams "polemic " at you.

The trouble for Brian, Iain and the rest is that they are all in one corporation and all wittingly or unwittingly caught up in the same "group think". It doesn't in the least surprise me that the BBC Trust should think "Climate Wars" balanced. The Trust itself is trapped in its own box.

The only solution is the one you propose - break them up. Lets have some air and genuine diversity of views into these musty corridors.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiggerjock

I watch the lecture and thought that Cox had fluffed his lines a bit when he made that comment about the GGWS. Up until that point I thought he had set the background quite well although he relied on Peer review a little too heavily as the only arbiter of what should or should not be aired. This of course as we all know leaves the peer review process open to abuse, something he failed to acknowledge. I think after reading the comments here and reflecting he is totally the wrong person to be giving this lecture. It needed to be delivered by a person that has experienced life a bit more and not one who is on the up and semi celebrity.

Dec 3, 2010 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Geany

Wasn't Climate Wars a heavily criticised series of programmes? Far more complaints than is usually expected for such an expensive "scientific" documentary.

I wonder if future BBC employment might be influencing our Dr Cox?

Dec 3, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr John

It reminded me of how much I miss the incomparable Carl.

But the suggestion that science journalism in news should "avoid the maverick at all costs" shows a profound lack of understanding of what journalism is. If journalists only stuck to peer review it would mark the start of the decline of principles of civilisation that are more important than science.

Dec 3, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Whitehouse

It's Richard P Feynman we miss.

Dec 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

One of the first questions a business management consultant asks a client is 'What do you expect from this consultancy ?' . Everything else flows from that..because the client gets what they wanted...

Cox is earning money by telling his clients. the bbc, exactly what they want to hear. If the bbc changes its view, then so will brian cox's as will that plonker from plymouth ian steward.

Dec 3, 2010 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Some time ago, before Climategate, I wrote to the Royal Society expressing concern about the non-disclosure of data (with specific reference to the Briffa Yamal affair). I also asked (naively?) if there was any body within the UK charged with the supervision of scientists - as there are in other fields - to ensure minimum standards. Notwithstanding the proclamation of 350 years of excellence in science proudly displayed on their website, the Royal Society declined to answer. It is a rather sobering thought to realise that the people who have real concern for the integrity of science are labelled 'deniars'.

Bish, keep up the good work. Enjoyed HSI. The amazing thing is that virtually on a weekly basis there is enough material for another book and another and another.......

Dec 3, 2010 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

Consensus in science is "post normal science" the modern day equivelent of navel gazing, astrology or alchemy. Every great scientific discovery from copernicus to Darwin was a result of overcoming "consensus" any scientist that promots it may as well go p*ss on Newton or Einstein's graves.

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

I totally agree that it's hard to believe the timing was coincidental. I watched half the lecture (feelings of nausea forced me to turn if off) and it didn't really take me very long to spot the flaws in his argument, most of which you have articulated above.

I think perhaps his experience of peer review as a physicist is probably very different from that of climate scientists, which I suspect is why he still has so much faith in it.

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

I wonder how “An Inconvenient Truth” fits in with Cox’s solution, it’s not counter-consensus so it must be a documentary or perhaps it’s in the total bollocks category.

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

I'm never quite sure about Brian Cox. He's a great communicator and an entertaining presenter, and he passionately cares about science (which is a good thing, although he does occasionally cross the line into being nauseating). Curiously, there is a wonderful clip on newsnight where Sir David King argues that the money spent on the LHC would be better spent combatting global warming - and Brian Cox's takedown of his arguments is a joy to watch (youtube link).

Unfortunately, his claims in this are rather less thoughtful. I would agree that the GGWS was a polemic - but then it was advertised as such. That doesn't mean it isn't a documentary - documentaries can be polemics; as was "An Inconvenient Truth".

To then claim Earth: Climate Wars was "balanced" is really bad. A large segment of episode one was built upon a bizarre conspiracy theory concocted by Jonathon Renouf and Naomi Oreskes, that President Reagan deliberately chose William Nierenberg to lead a committee to pour cold water on global warming. This was published in a joint op-ed in the Times and on the BBC through Earth: Climate Wars. The Times at least had the honesty to retract and apologise for this garbage. The BBC accepted the error in a complaint... and then rebroadcast the show, without correction, to coincide with Copenhagen.

But then... I've not always been impressed with Brian Cox's commentary. Curiously, in his programme about the sun, he claims a link between solar output variation and river outflow in South America. He speaks to a local professor who produces a chart. The chart had all the classic hallmarks of bad science. Heavily smoothed, no axes, no error bars, and an assumption that correlation of causation even though the data were massaged and had few degrees of freedom.

The irony, of course, that Brian Cox was here claiming that the sun has a massive effect on climate - a position held by many sceptics and strongly debated by the IPCC advocates - and relied on a very low bar of evidence to support it - is not lost on me.

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence

I think the AGW debate shows that it is high time the UK's broadcast media went the same way as it has done in the US. The problem with the BBC is that it occupies and outdated and redundant space, but still retains a huge amount of power and influence. The days when the population needed and depended upon the corporation for an overview of events taking place in the outside world are over. A large part of the BBC's problem is this it knows this too (post internet revolution) but is still trying to cling onto its redundant role in British people's lives... what the BBC considers to be nannyish objectivity is now clearly recognised by an educated and information-rich population as left-wing political bias and a gross dumbing down of issues.

It might be time we accept as a nation that the ideal of objectivity in the broadcast media is untenable and, in fact, undesirable. If the BBC was released from being a tax-funded organisation so that it openly could pursue its inbuilt left wing preferences - as a commercial broadcaster - it would open up a legitimate market for an equal alternative positioned right of centre (perhaps a deregulated Sky and/or a reinvigorated ITV). The British public would then be treated as respected adults with the capacity to think for themselves and weigh up opposing voices to make their own minds up about important questions affecting their lives. And the broadcasters would be obliged to place high quality information before its viewers and listeners if they wanted to have any hope of forming opinion.

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

Got a pop-up Survey on the Beeb site this morning. Decided to do it for a change. Best bit - being able to note their impartiality in the matter of politics, and their appalling evangelising for AGW. Don't suppose it will make the slightest difference, but it made me feel better :-)

Dec 3, 2010 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

I am really quite shocked and very disappointed that Cox has said these things. Such astonishing arrogance betrays a sinister side to him that I have not seen before - I've been genuinely impressed by his well-reasoned and explained viewpoints, (such as his description of Copernican theory) and to call the science in GGWS "total bollocks" is revealing... He knows very well that this will pin political colours to his chest. IMO Cox has made an unequivocal statement in support of AGW, and the editorial position of the BBC as a whole.
I certainly agree that there can be no coincidence in the timing of the Trust's review of BBC's science journalism and Cox's remarks because his words become a voluble endorsement of it regarding AGW.
That Cox has volunteered some subtle, but scathing ridicule of sceptics independently of the BBC (although the RTS is nothing short of a broadcast old-boys network) is very telling, and I have to admit, a publicity masterstroke. If there is anyone that the BBC could choose as a poster-boy for their editorial position on AGW, Cox is the man, umm... boy.
But boy being the operative word, and I wonder - even though Cox may truly believe himself - that he may live to rue the day he was so blatantly manipulated. Perhaps his future now is less likely to be engaged with research physics but instead with broadcasting?

Dec 3, 2010 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterjustin ert

Does anybody else recall the piece Cox did in his recent BBC series about how sunspot activity had an almost perfect correlation with rainfall - I think it was in South America. At the time there were eyebrows raised that he might be capable of independent thought, and that this was evidence for a very non IPCC-approved theory. Even Durkinian, perish the thought.

Has he had the metaphorical electrodes applied, perhaps?

Dec 3, 2010 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

@justin ert: totally agree with you that Cox is the ideal poster-boy for CAGW. On reading his 'total bollocks' comment I experienced a similar sense of disappointment to when I discovered that Dr. Ben 'Bad Science' Goldacre is a believer in the CAGW fairy. It's deep and wide, that groupthink...

Dec 3, 2010 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

I too watched this lecture in the hope that someone who markets themselves as a physicist would bring to bear a physicist's knowledge and understanding of the physical world.

I was greatly encouraged early on to see Cox state that truth doesn't care about nor require consensus opinion, that philosophical discussions of science were not relevant, and that his views were also those of hero Feynman. Even better, he wheeled out a classic clip of Feynman on the question of what is science? from the Character of Physical Law lectures.

He then re-iterated in best TV style what Feynman said: Observe nature then formulate your theory. Calculate the implications of your theory. Compare your predictions against nature.

If step 3 correlates with nature, the theory is looking good. Keep testing. But if it doesn't, even just once, in one single instance, then your theory is no good. Throw it away.

This is the scientific method.

Bravo I thought. Cox is now going to lay into some Cargo Cult Science all too familiar to viewers of mainstream TV, using Feynman's concise definition of science to point out where it all went wrong, and why therefore computer model based climatology cannot be considered good science on the basis that none of the model based theories pass the simple test in step 3.

Ah no. Instead he forgot everything he said earlier and professed to subscribe to. He went on to claim that only "peer reviewed" science was worthy of documentary status, without bothering to investigate whether peer review is really as robust as we are lead to believe, especially in light of the leading climatologists attempts to redefine what the peer review process is.

That counter "consensus" conclusions are also present in the peer-reviewed literature also escaped his mention.

Great start Prof Cox. 10/10 for style and public speaking. Sadly let down by inconsistent and self-contradictory reasoning.

Loved your series on the Solar System and your frequent Horizon physics programmes. But I think your lecture this week missed a great opportunity to educate the scientifically illiterate mainstream audience on what science is, as Feynman and others have always understood it, as I understand it, and not as the media, politicians, apparatchiks, climatologists, sociologists and all too many other self-interested parties would prefer it to be.

Dec 3, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrew

@ SayNoTo....

yes I recall that very same thought, I also recall him waxing lyrical about the enormous power of the sun, and its tremendous influence on the earth! I recall checking that I was watching the BBC.

Dec 3, 2010 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

Never forget that D:Ream were completely mainstream and safe, not exactly the Gang of Four or Scritti Politti. So it is no surprise to see Professor Cox OBE tucking neatly into the establishment. It's what he does.

Dec 3, 2010 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

He`s a rising star on the bbc,i enjoyed his documentary on the progress of fusion reactors.It wouldn`t suprise me if he`s mindful of the fate of david belamy.

Dec 3, 2010 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenter`ob nob

Don't expect reality from government funded programing, here's CBC's latest effort,

December 21, 2012 - disaster will strike the planet. The world, as we know it, will end. That is what many people, millions of web sites and international doomsday entrepreneurs predict. Written, produced and directed by award-winning documentarian Cynthia Banks, Apocalypse 2012 presents the leaders, chroniclers, debunkers and the businessmen of this wide-spread certainty of a global cataclysm.

Apocalypse 2012 follows people trying to protect themselves and others from what they believe is coming. Sure we’ve seen a lot of this before. But what’s different and fascinating about all these predictions is that doomsday fear is moving into the mainstream culture at a remarkable scary pace. Apocalypse 2012 examines why this particular doomsday has become so significant.

Ahh, I don't think "doomsday fear is moving into the mainstream culture at a remarkable scary pace", no doubt there are a few fringe loonies out there, but this all sounds remarkably like Y2K all over again.

2 year storyline, pretty short to work up much fear.

Dec 3, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered Commentermitchel44

Thanks Sunderland Steve - I thought I'd lost the plot somewhere. Is he being a career-minded pragmatist then? In my experience of academe, there are two sorts of professors (I mean in the UK, where the title means more than 'junior lecturer') - the old fashioned sort who actually more than most of us will ever know, and whose words are worth hanging onto for decades (seriously) - and the vicious (and often suspiciously young) careerists who know what to say to the right people and would enthusiastically boil their grandmother for glue if it meant getting their name on the *right* paper or even appear in the the *right* photograph. Oversimplification perhaps?

Dec 3, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

Luboš Motl has some thoughts on Cox and a wonderful quote from Feynman - "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts" - Feynman, what a guy!

Dec 3, 2010 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfused

Too "smart" for his own good, he's part of a concerted effort to persuade us by any and all means.

Principles abandoned for a greater cause?

Dec 3, 2010 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

I think that part of the explanation for Brian Cox's disappointing stance lies with professional scientists trying to avoid demarcation disputes. They are inhibited from attacking the orthodox position in a field outside their own. There is a genuine problem as knowledge has expanded such that nobody can master more than a fraction of the natural sciences and so there is more reliance on "experts" in other fields. Another problem is the over-simplistic but widely held belief held that Science is under idealogically motivated attack e.g.from right wing Christian fundamentalists (Creationism etc.) and so there is a solidarity reflex to defend the majority working in Climate Science.

Unfortunately Climate Science is a peculiar mish-mash of more fundamental disciplines such that that nobody has expertise over the whole field. When it gets into the business of modelling it has no track record and is more akin to Econometrics but apparently with lower professional standards. The predictions of economic models are treated with caution and often disregarded by politicians and lay people. Brain Cox made a ludicrous mistake in comparing scepticism over the MMR vaccine (easily answered by really solid data and well trusted statistics) with the speculative and unproven attempts at reconstructing past temperatures and modelling the future climate.

Dec 3, 2010 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterGordon M

Having watched the whole lecture more carefully, Cox was more nuanced than I gave him credit for at first skim on the issue of polemics and documentaries - but not by much.

The problem is he entered the realm of polemics himself. His disdain for TGGWS was palpable, with a focus on the OfCom complaint. Of course, the full story of 37 professors and some ludicrous number of pages of complaint ended up with just two issues, the impartiality one relating to a short segment on the politics of AGW, not the science. On the other hand, he doesn't mention the upheld complaint about Earth: Climate Wars, which was about a conspiracy theory segment of the programme which wouldn't look out of place in something like "loose change".

Dr Cox has unwittingly stumbled into the polemics himself, playing fast and loose with what actually happened, and laying on a heavy dose of spin. Disappointing - but not surprising.

Dec 3, 2010 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence

@Gordon M, 8.57. Good summary - that is my impression as well. If the position of people like Cox is that they privately have serious reservations about climate science but are, in their eyes, defending the principle of scientific peer review in general, I would still think they were misguided. I would, however, prefer this to the alternative, which is that they have genuine faith in Hansen, Mann, Jones et al. Being generous about it, maybe they feel that if peer review was shown (i.e. officially admitted) to be seriously defective / open to abuse in climatology, it would have a domino effect in science as a whole. Unfortunately, their siege mentality is having the exact opposite effect to what they perhaps intend, at least for me.

Dec 3, 2010 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

Brian, Brian, Oh Brian.
You were my hero (if one is allowed a hero 20+ years younger) for presenting interesting science in a way which engaged my late teenage sons and my wife! Personable and excellent presentational skills with serious street cred. So disappointing.
How can you quote Richard Feynman and then rely on consensus science to rubbish sceptics when the data contradict the AGW hypothesis - temperatures and negative feedback, lack of 'hotspot' and increased outgoing LWR etc.?
How can you hold up peer review as the gold standard - in climatology! - when the Climategate e-mails showed the way in which this system can be corrupted?
One can only assume that you have not read the e- mails nor read anything which disagrees with the IPCC settled science, including writings from well respected physicists.
There is still time to redeem yourself and two days reading will be enough to allow you to conclude that the sceptics have a strong case supported by data. The longer you leave it the more embarrassing it will become.
Regards TGW.

Dec 3, 2010 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

It's possible Cox has fallen down the same elitist rabbit hole that some other scientists from outside climate science have fallen into: they respect peer review in their field and imagine that it's no different in climate science. They never really dig into the peer reviewed articles in climate science because they don't have the time and they won't look at blog science because surely it can't be better than peer reviewed papers.

Dec 3, 2010 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick M.

If you were to ask anyone in the BBC if they thought it would be fair if a group of Tories were allowed to make all political programmes, they’d be quick to say ‘no’. Even if the Tories made as many programmes pro Labour as pro Conservative? Absolutely not! Why then can’t they make the leap and see that getting AGW believers to make sceptic programmes is utterly biased?

Dec 3, 2010 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Any bloke/dude listening to pop songs and singing them no less, should immediately qualify for not being taken seriously ever in his entire life.

One can say, "it was young age, he ran naked at football", "it was young age, he fell in love with three girls" or even "he was young, he believed in climate change" but to say "he was young, he was in a boy band"

(and sang "things can only get better")

and then he grew up and started believing in climate change??

Dec 3, 2010 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Brian cox,

100k+ income of course: gets his face splashed over , professor, intnl institute, books piggy backed on the artificially created publicity.

for the rest he has little to nothing to say, physics r&d is a scam where it should be a promise

Society should have the mechansim to let these characters expire after 2 years. But in 50years it will be professor cox the emeritus at the Royal sociaty claiming a peerage.

Lost all credibility and do not deserve any further attention anymore.

Tea party, now!

Dec 3, 2010 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterphinniethewoo

@ Shub: to be fair, DReam (hardly a 'boy band') would be a very minor footnote in pop history were it not for the adoption of the song 'Things Can Only Get Better' by New Labour for their election in 1997. That transported them into a different level of fame.

I think the earlier comments ring true - that he is experiencing genuine cognitive dissonance over CAGW. He is only taking the default 'scientific' position, which is that faced with a choice between peer-reviewed literature on one side and blogs on the other he would always go for the former. It's a no-lose position - take the scientifically correct standpoint until such times as the 'consensus' position becomes untenable. Clearly he and others don't feel that time has yet arrived...

Dec 3, 2010 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

I think Dr Cox may want to return to Music as his day job (or night job, as the case may be). I would urge him to learn the Beatles Classic Yesterday

All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

I'm not half the man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

It appears to be an appropriate theme for him.

Dec 4, 2010 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

"Wonders of the Solar System" was a lush foray into expensive "HD" TV eye candy territory. Pablo Mauas et al and the Paraná river / Iguazu Falls river levels vs solar activity wasn't credited anywhere in the program's supporting website or credits... Weirder, and closer to Cox's workplace is the non mention of CERN Cloud and in the particular astrophysical context of the program Svendson's "Cooling Stars" stuff - but I guess the scriptwriters/producers wanted to avoid giving a heretic the oxygen of publicity?

Having saved the progs in the series and watched them a few times the swerving around contentious topics becomes apparent and Cox sadly comes over as a little better than a Blue Peter talking head - one that in places looks quite uncomfortable with the script he's been given and gets cut off occasionally (in true BBC style) when numbers rear their ugly head (Herschel's sun arithmetic sequence is a larf).

I'm tempted to agree with other commenters that he's made the mishtake of believing that the rigor and critical peer review that he's immediately familiar with applies across all "science" and that he's duty bound to support orthodoxy in another field and doesn't have the courage to say "I don't know" Bit like Ben over at Bad Science really....

Dec 4, 2010 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

This looks rather important. In order to facilitate informed analysis of what Cox is saying, I’ve started transcribing the relevant part in the comments at

Dec 4, 2010 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

If Cox said that there is no possibility of him ever being an honest scientist, he is simply a State propaganda apparatchik. Even Professor Stewart has acknowledged lying in his recent programmes & the BBC have acknowledged that while their editorial guidelines call for "due balance" undwer the BBC's official Newspeak "due balance" means "complete & total censorship" in the ecofascist cause.

There is no & indeed cannot be anybody in the BBC with greater integrity than Joseph Goebbels.

Dec 4, 2010 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

I’ve finished transcribing the relevant parts of the Cox lecture at
comments #6 and #8. Two hours inside the mind of Professor Cox have left me with some serious thoughts about ideology and demagoguery.
Neil Craig:
Launching into a discourse about ecofascism and Goebbels doesn’t help, in my opinion. My purpose in transcribing was to aid the cause of rational analysis. I have the strong impression that the purpose of the warmists at the BBC and at Guardian Environment in presenting their -case in the form of audio talks is to prevent rational analysis. Let’s not play their game.

Dec 4, 2010 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoff chambers

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