Comment on the Delingpole Stitch up

by Robert Henderson

Judged by that clip, I regret to say Delingpole didn’t do himself any favours in the  interview. He was palpably nervous – far too much hand waving and looking about him – while Nurse was very relaxed, although he did maintain a preternaturally patronising grin on his face which was amazingly irritating.   However, the grin was born of the fact that Nurse knew, just knew,  Delingpole was going to struggle with the science. Having met the man* I would also say Nurse is considerably Delingpole’s intellectual superior. Nor is it true that someone with a scientific background in one science will not have an advantage over a non-scientist when they go into another scientific field. They will have the culture of science within them, its general procedures, its general arguments.
The worst moment in the clip was when Nurse gave Delingpole the analogy of whether he would accept a consensus on his treatment if he had cancer. Instead of picking the weak analogy apart  – all he needed to do was point out that having cancer would be  a certainty while global warming is not – he came to a dead halt for several seconds before feebly saying “Let’s return to climate change”.
* How have  I met the man? Well, there is a truly mad scheme by UKCMRI to put a gigantic research laboratory dealing in Pirbright standard toxins a few yards from the Eurostar Terminal, the British Library and a great deal of residential housing. Paul Nurse is the front man for the consortium proposing the plan. Far from being concerned about the environment, he is only too happy to take risks with it when it suits his purpose.
There is a big political story here, far more than the Standard article below  discloses. You will find full details at
Spread the story around. I will make my documents relating to Gordon Brown’s involvement avaialble to anyone who wants them. 
If anyone has an email for Richard D North please let me have it.

Robert Henderson

13 responses to “Comment on the Delingpole Stitch up

  1. Well, I don’t think Delingpole did too badly considering the circumstances. Having not seen the clip before, it’s not actually as much of a stitch up as had been reported IMV; he got quite a long time to speak.

    His presentation is poor; the head and hand waving is something that he would be trained not to do by professional PR folks, and selecting an appropriate tone of voice, and so on. Sitting him behind that desk is odd looking. But he has no PR team, which is a common problem for “outsiders”. He hasn’t been taught what to do on camera. He has little experience either. No wonder he looks nervous.

    The other problem with an issue like this is that, unless you’ve been rigorously trained in “standard answers” to the expected questions, you’re going to be wrong footed and afterwards be doing the “if only I’d said this, or that”, that humans normally do after not thinking up the snappy response at the time in social situations. Politicians and spokesmen in the mainstream effect an illusion of confidence and mastery of the subject by having a “book” to fall back on full of pre-written, memorised answers.

    For instance on the cancer thing, I would have said something like, “Well Paul, that’s an interesting parallel. Studies into the sociology of medicine have shown that diagnoses and treatments vary widely between different geographical areas; the sociologists have found that doctors follow a local groupthink based on their membership of local medical communities, and going to different doctors will thus get you quite different medical outcomes. That’s why it can be so advantageous to get the well known second opinion when having to take expert advice.

    Unfortunately there is no second opinion available in climatology due to the particular sociology of a small field. There are many thousands of doctors in the world, but very few climate scientists, who it has been shown are all close associates. Your example has in fact highlighted very well why the notion of obeying your scientific consensus is flawed.”.

    Something like that. But I’m not in front of a camera right now.

  2. But Delingpole is great all the same. He is one of the few really trying to advance the conservative cause in the mainstream media.

  3. Of course Nurse was relaxed – because it is always the easiest part of the argument to go with the Establishment point of view, which has been rehearsed to us ad nauseam. But Nurse was a little stupid too – and Delingpole should have pointed this out – because the whole debate over Climate Change is over a) whether it is happening at all; b) whether man is causing; and c) whether we could even hope to finetune the climate on an ongoing basis even were it happening as many observers say – and this is not at all comparable to a cancer diagnosis that is certain. So the interviewer was let off the hook on that one. Delingpole did his best, and I love his columns.

  4. I have some personal experience to bring to this argument. When you are interviewed with a single camera, that camera is kept on you throughout the interview. Afterwards, the interviewer will have the camera put on him, while he repeats all the questions.

    When you see a supremely calm and polite interviewer with a subject who is bordering on hysterical, you can be sure that questions and answers have been filmed separately. With this approach, of course, it is possible to make up different questions that make the subject look still more stupid or evasive.

  5. I’d have used a little maths perosnally – the sort of stuff you can do on a calculator, and which can be put up in realtime on flash, while he’s talking.

    Like Man transfers energy, in totality, to the extent of 1/7,000 th of what the sun radiates onto the Earth (only) in ONE second.

  6. Ian B – I agree with much you say. However, if you are a professional journalist you are likely to do TV work these days (and Delingpole has done a fair bit I believe) and not to get some training would seem to be rather reckless. Moreover, some people are just naturally bettter at this sort of thing than others. Delingpole seems to me to be something less than a natural for TV.

    The one thing I would disagree with is your idea that one has to be trained to give standard answers before a professional or convincing performance can be given. Many people do flounder without training but that is simply a reflection on their intelligence and personality. A good debater consistently thinks on their feet.

    Delingpole’s other problem is that he has not taken the trouble to learn the science. There is no excuse for that because it is the type of science any intelligent layman can master.

    djwebb2010 – Having attended two public meetings which lasted around 4 hours in total with Paul Nurse as one of the principal speakers and answerers of questions, I can vouch for the fact that his relaxed style with the ghastly smug grin (that is his default expression) is his normal state. His calmness is unsurprising, because this is a man who has spent his life in academia and is consequently at ease with public speaking and debating. He is also decidedly bright. It is always wise to give the opposition their due or you end up underestimating them.

    Sean Gabb – Sean, I take your point, but I don’t think this happened here. There are moments in the clip where Nurse is asking questions and is shown in the same shot as Delingpole.

  7. Well I agree Robert. I’m sure that some “naturals” don’t need any training, but most people in these media times can probably benefit from it, and many will require it. Some, like Gordon Brown, are beyond redemption.

  8. Also, and perhaps getting a bit personal here, the first time I saw Delingpole on TV (well, Youtube), my first reaction was, “not really suited to TV as a spokesman”, as a gut reaction. Too posh, a bit odd looking, sort of weedy, and his movements verge towards the spastic. That isn’t a career killer- look at Michael Foot- but I really wish “our side” (whatever that may be) could find somebody with a truckload of charisma.

    Someone who speaks fluent Estuary, Scottish or Effnic rather than Eton would be a start.

  9. Nurses’s cancer analogy was both appropriate and spot-on and for you new breed of Libertarians to continue to deny the overwhelming peer-reviewed science demonstrating AGW is real is the point. And completely contrary to original Libertarian principles.

    Hayek warned of the danger of denying science advances in the name of protecting perceived ideological principles in “The Constitution of Liberty”, to wit:

    A lecture for him from Friedrich A. Hayek, from”The Constitution of Liberty”, Postscript: Why I Am Not A Conservative,The University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Edition, 1978, pages 404-405. Originally published in 1960.
    “Personally, I find the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is it’s propensity to object to well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it – or to put it more bluntly, it’s obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience for those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what are called “mechanistic” explanations of the phenomena of life simply because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irreverent or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how. Should our moral beliefs really prove to be dependent on factual assumptions shown to be incorrect, it would be hardly moral to defend them by refusing to acknowledge facts.”

    Modern Libertarianism has devolved into Wingnuttery with Delingpole as one of its standard bearers. Hayek’s caution goes unheeded when it comes to climate science, replaced by an arrogant myopia to reason and evidence. And what has denying the reality of AGW accomplished for you? The only thing that is starkly evident is your choice to withdraw to the sidelines, never being able to offer constructive free market solutions because you don’t want to play, and sitting there complaining because you don’t like solutions offered by those who didn’t withdraw. You’ve backed yourselves into a corner and your are destroying Libertarianism from within.

    Read Hayek’s caution carefully. He’s talking about you.

  10. No he’s not BJ, he’s talking about cranks motivated by religious belief and moral fervour, like Creationists and Greenists. He’s talking about people like you. As he says-

    because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irreverent or impious to ask certain questions at all.

    Who is driven by “moral consequences”? It’s the Green movement and Green science, isn’t it? It starts with a moral theory- the sanctity of nature, a mystical bond between blood and soil, the mythical eternal forest, the lost Eden and the coming Armageddon- then constructs a science to support that. Hayek was targetting traditional conservatives here, but in his day the phenomenon of the ultra-conservative, anti-progress, anti-civilisational, anti-market, anti-freedom, anti-individualist Conservation/Green/Socialist Movement had not yet become a major apparent political force. If he were alive today, he’d have talked about you. Greenism is the most mystical, reactionary force in western society since the Reformation. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Now, why don’t you fuck off back to trolling the Telegraph’s comment sections?

  11. bjedwards – The science of global warming is not settled. Hence, Hayek’s dictum is not applicable. See:
    Nurse’s cancer analogy fails on two grounds: (1) a diagnosis of cancer can be certain: global warming is not certain; (2) deciding on a treatment for cancer affects only the individual and arguably their family and friends . Deciding that global warming is real and must be stopped is making a decision for all of humanity.

    “Peer review” can be valuable but it is often a means for excluding both unwelcome views and people from outside of academia.

  12. Both Ian B. and Robert Henderson are quite wrong. First, no one has or is claiming the “science is settled.” That is simply a strawman argument to avoid the fact of what science tells us: AGW is real.

    You would have to avoid that, of course, to keep your house of cards afloat. Nurse’s analogy is entirely appropriate because it addresses exactly what is going on: outright denial of the science.

    Ian B. cannot avoid that fact. Denialism is the issue, and your climate science denialism is no different than any other form of denialism in methodology, tactics, and political motivation. That includes Creationism, 9/11 Denial, round-earth denial, and Holocaust Denial.

    But you can go on with your eyes and ears closed, convinced that you know more than the worlds thousands of climate scientists, and exclude yourselves – willingly – from being part of the solutions.

    You’re no Libertarians, you’re just unprincipled Wingnuts, and proud of it.

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