Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Bad Day For My Childhood

I just found out that Johnny Ball, who was something of a hero of mine when I was growing up, is a Climate Change Denier. It's all down to spider farts, or something.

It is a little sad that he was booed off the stage by those who were there to hear it, though there is comedy value in the fact that contrarians can use this to show just how close minded scientists and "liberal atheists" are. Why it's almost like they are religious zealots or something. Brendan O'Neill[1], over at the deeply contrarian Spiked mag, has just such a rant handy. That is if you can get past his ultra-smug mug pic at the top of the piece...
The new collective of liberal atheists, of agitated ‘rationalists’, of Keepers Of The Scientific Truth As Revealed Unto Them By Richard Dawkins, can tolerate nothing so intolerable as someone taking the piss out of scientific theories about climate change.

You can tell by the inappropriate capitalisation that he is being satirical and by the arch use of "Unto" he's making a point about belief.

Atheism and science being relatively large churches, it's unsurprisingly easy to find disappointing people among the godless and the supposedly-rational.

The opposite of Atheism is, of course Theism, and most opinion-piece writers would, I hope, baulk at making general comments about Theists. A belief in God, god or gods tells you virtually nothing else about a person.

O'Neill here is hoping that by appending "liberal" to atheist he's narrowing the field. There are atheists, many of them good people, you see, but it's the "liberal" atheists you have to watch out for. Perhaps he could have narrowed it down to "muesli-eating, non smoking, yoga practising, Guardian reading, theatre loving, Volvo driving, liberal" atheists but I'm hoping his editor would have called him on that.

This is all to point up the irony. The liberals aren't allowing free-speech and the men of science aren't rational. How can we expect the other side to be any better?

Free speech doesn't mean having to listen to rubbish, though. And Science doesn't mean having to rehash all the arguments because someone wishes to. Climate change is well accepted now, to change people's opinions you have to do more than hand wave over some spider farts. It's not that they don't want to hear, it's that they have heard it. Many times. It wasn't right the last time and it won't be right now, almost the definition of a false hypothesis. Free speech isn't meant to weaken debate. It's meant to enhance it, at certain times having an opinion is enough (or handy access to Google, it's almost the same thing nowadays) but to change rational people's minds you need evidence.

It does seem, though, that climate change is leading to larger spiders, so Johnny Ball may actually be on to something.

[1] His blogspot url used to be and I can't help but think of him as "bone ill" for no good reason.

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