Thursday, September 23, 2010
Anybody wishing to make their own points can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Steve Jones,
I understand you are writing a report on the impartiality, or otherwise, of the BBC's science reporting. Here are a number of points which I trust you will either accept or be able to give reasons for disagreement.
ALLEGED CATASTROPHIC GLOBAL WARMING
Since there is no actual evidence for such warming at the very least the default position of any scientist must be that it is questionable. A few years ago the BBC devoted an entire day to Al Gore's Pop Music against Global Warming concert. If that had been the only programme ever done supporting this theory then the BBC, if it were attempting to be impartial would have had to devote 10 hours to the opposite theory. If it devoted 1 hour it could claim to be 10% honest. If the BBC had ever allowed the broadcast of a 1 hour formal debate on the subject (with debaters from both sides) it would be able to claim to be 5% unbiased if only the programmes mentioned had taken place. Obviously the BBC have never done anything remotely as impartial as that & there is no possibility of anybody remotely honest ever suggesting that the BBC's integrity is anything better than asymptotically approaching zero.
Their repeated contention that there is a "scientific consensus" on global warming, which they still have not retracted, while censoring any mention of the fact that the largest single expression of scientific opinion, the Oregon Petition says it is false, is deplorable.
NUCLEAR POWER & RADIATION
The BBC devote a considerable amount of time to nuclear scare stories, Chernobyl etc. While pushing the LNT theory that there is no safe lower limit to radiation they never report that the LNT theory was a bureaucratic not scientific decision for which not only has there never been any evidence whatsoever but that there is a large mass of evidence for the opposite Hormesis theory.
Not only do they omit any mention of relative proven costs in their consistently wildly enthusiastic reporting of windmills but I have never once heard them mention that windmills are far further from being CO2 neutral than nuclear plants.
These should be evidence based. Where there is no evidence for such a scare (e.g. GM foods or mobile phones) it is wrong to give equal or close to equal time to those pushing the scare. This gives the impression there is something to it. By comparison in Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy the possibility of the Earth being eaten by a giant mutant space goat is raised. The evidence for dangerous giant mutant space goats is exactly the same as for mobile phones, GM foods or cloned animals being harmful & it is quite improper for the BBC to, on purely political grounds, choose to give disproportionate airtime to the latter. I am making no suggestion as to which way movement should go - if the BBC decide to redress the imbalance by giving airtime to the space goat menace that would be equally appropriate as reporting of other "environmentalist" scare stories.
The BBC should appoint science reporters with scientific credentials. Roger Harabin, for example, has an English degree which may, or may not, make him expert in other fields but does not do so in science. On the other hand the BBC decision to cease working with the immensely popular David Bellamy on what can only be described as purely political grounds is disgraceful. On the opposite hand they recently endorsed a statement by David Attenborough that all of Norfolk will be under water by 2026. There is no evidence whatsoever for that & the BBC should issue a clarification that this claim merely represents the very highest standard of accuracy the BBC ever aspire to & thus should not necessarily be believed & that in the event Norfolk does not vanish by the due date, or a significant portion of it by 2011, no statement by any representative of the BBC should ever, under any circumstances be treated as honest without strong independent verification.
Diversity should be encouraged. The BBC should commission programmes from a wide variety of individuals, having editorial control of what they say, so long as the science is fact based, Continuance of individual's contracts should depend on popularity not political approval. I have previously suggested that our political life would be improved if we had formal broadcast debates on political issues. The BBC have refused to do this or to say why & the assumption must be that they do not want such improvement. The adversarial process of investigation has a long & relatively successful record of testing evidence. There are quite a number of scientific & technological issues where the public could be both more informed & entertained by such debates (obviously alleged catastrophic warming, but also nuclear power, GM foods, supporting commercial space development, "alternative" power. I would even be happy to see such a debate on evolution - I think a clearly free formal debate on the subject would be decisive - after all it was in Darwin's time.
I consider the general refusal of the BBC to give significant airtime to any viewpoint that does not fit their political position is seriously damaging & inconsistent with a free society. Science, in particular, depends on investigative freedom
PS I sent a copy of yesterday's blog to the BBC to see if they felt able to dispute neing nakedly politically partisan & 100% dishonest. So far they have not felt able to but I will publish if they ever do.
UPDATE 16 minutes after I sent the above I got an automated message from Prof Jones saying he "read it with interest". Such diligence.
So perhaps this isn't simply a public relations exercise. We shall see.