Science on the attack

An hour very well spent it was, watching Nobel prizewinning biologist Paul Nurse discussing why science is under attack from political interests, right and left.

Much of the programme centred on climate science, and featured interviews with those at the heart of the manufactured scandal that was ClimateGate. I found myself quibbling with a few of the points raised, and style of presentation, but it’s minor stuff, and not worth going into here. This was one of the BBC Horizon series’ better efforts, and I thank Sir Paul – one of the warmist (ho ho!), least stuffy demigods of the scientific establishment – for his contribution to science public outreach.

During the discussion of climate change, a senior NASA scientist admitted that there remain uncertainties in some of the physical processes behind the warming of our planet. This comment I found particularly interesting, as it illustrates a problem with public presentations of scientific uncertainty, or the relative lack of same. In my view it could help restore public trust in climate science if, instead of reluctantly admitting to uncertainty, scientists openly discussed the details of the uncertainties. I say details, but it would be enough to list the outstanding issues, and, without speaking down to the audience, briefly explain what progress is being made to address them. Such progress is being made, all the time.

Oh, and for what little it’s worth, a small part of the documentary was devoted to an interview with a very silly blogger who, with a smidgeon of help from Sir Paul, made an arse of himself both on camera and off. Nothing to get worked up about.