Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Insufferable MPs: The Future

The Times is reporting that Tory MPs are to be given science lessons.

Classes explaining scientific method and basic concepts will be included in the induction programme for all Tory MPs after the next election, and sitting members and peers will also be offered the opportunity to attend, The Times has learnt.
At first glance this seems like a great idea. Once armed with some scientific knowledge, they could set about ripping apart some pretty dodgy "scientists" who have been infecting the political agenda and helping to assault our freedoms and civil rights for the past 11 years.

They could start by looking more closely at some of the shameless shysters in the highly lucrative AGW industry.

If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change.

Yet last week's latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in question. In 2007 he was forced by Mr Watts and Mr McIntyre to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as he had claimed, but the 1930s.
Once they have cleaned up the wild exaggeration from certain groups of climate change theorists, their newly-scientifically literate minds could turn to ceasing the incessant nonsense about alcohol units.

Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,” he said.
Us proles, now freed from guilt while supping a nice Cabernet Suavignon on a weekday, would then be roaring them on as they confronted dodgy bullying scientists in other areas.

These stories suggest a willingness of influential anti-tobacco activists, including academics, to hurt legitimate scientists and turn epidemiology into junk science in order to further their agendas. The willingness of epidemiologists to embrace such anti-scientific influences bodes ill for the field's reputation as a legitimate science.
It's about time someone tackled these idiotic, illiberal busybodies, and MPs are the ones that should be doing it ... but it ain't gonna happen like that, is it?

Knowing the egos of the 646, adding knowledge of scientific method and concepts will no doubt make them even more insufferable than before.

Take the example of Sir David King, the former Government Chief Scientist who The Spectator gloriously slaughtered earlier this year. Knowing a bit about one branch of science made him believe he was a world expert in just about every other field which he hadn't studied. Thus we had an arrogant buffoon dealing with the foot and mouth epidemic and global warming theory. Badly.

Top of the politicians’ global warming agenda at that time, led by Blair and the EU, was the need to win ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia, which would at last bring the treaty into force. In July 2004, King led a British team to a key international conference in Moscow, where their behaviour astonished those present. They demanded that scientists critical of Kyoto should not be allowed to speak. They frequently interrupted other speakers, or over-ran their own time at the rostrum. When the tropical disease expert Professor Paul Reiter cited evidence to contradict King’s claim from the rostrum that the melting of the ice on Kilimanjaro was not caused by global warming, King broke off in mid-sentence and left the hall. ...

... As a ‘surface chemist’, Professor King may be a genuine scientist. When he turns his attention to other matters, however, he becomes merely another politician, as the woolly ragbag of unsupported assertions trotted out in this book confirms. It might seem appropriate that, having begun his career as Chief Scientist supporting one immense blunder based on the unreal projections of computer modelling, the good professor should end it on another.

It's akin to your father-in-law boasting a CSE in metalwork from the 60s, and on that basis believing he is eminently qualified to rewire your entire house.

How very interesting then, that Sir David is also mentioned in the Times piece on the Tories' science tutoring.

Professor Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, has criticised the Civil Service for a reluctance to use science properly when framing and implementing policy.
Reluctance to use science properly? He wrote the book on it ... and is selling it on Amazon.

No, educating Tory MPs isn't going to make for better policy, in fact, it could make it worse. They could, of course, simply stop listening to scientists who are paid for by highly-funded single interest groups, it would at least be a start.

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