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December 14th 2009 print

David Flint

Prove it, Prime Minister

It is bad enough when politicians refer to "the" science, but the Prime Minister of Australia demeaned his high office  when he  not only called those who question his infallibility “dangerous”,  he went on to libel them with a totally unjustified smear.

Demeaning the office of Prime Minister

When challenged on their faith in anthropogenic global warming, and their belief in their solution, Kevin Rudd, Penny Wong and their spin doctors fall back on “the” science.

Well, “the” science used to say that stress – or spicy food – caused stomach ulcers. To use the language of the spin doctors, there used to be a “consensus” that bacteria were just not involved. They would say today that it was not just 90%, it was like a Soviet election or a 2020 Summit vote, close to 100%.

So when two Australian scientists, Robin Warren and Barry J. Marshall, had the temerity to challenge this in 1982, they were derided.  Their groundbreaking conclusion was that rather than stress or spicy food, most stomach ulcers and gastritis were caused by a bacterium, one helicobacter pylori. 

Against the disdain of their peers, they persevered. When other scientists undertook further research and investigation, they too concluded that this bacterium could cause ulcers. In 2005 they were awarded the Nobel Prize.  

So much for the spin doctor terminology:  “the” science, a “consensus” or “90% probability”.

This column has warned that whenever you read or hear the term “the science”, know that this is a spin doctor designed device to try to tell you there is no other view among reputable scientists. Equally be wary of the slippery insertion of “climate change” where we once saw "global warming".  

This spin doctoring is inconsistent with what true science is and must always be, a disinterested search for the facts, the truth. (As indeed what ethical journalism is, and must always be.) Just as a reminder of how far we could fall, remember that when Soviet scientists challenged the prevailing Stalin supported biological theory, Lysenkoism, they were dismissed, arrested and even executed. Today no one seriously espouses Lysenko’s beliefs.

It was encouraging then to see that the editor of The Australian (12-13/12) is also concerned by the way politicians are misrepresenting science to support their political programmes. As the editor said “Prefacing science with the definite article is a new and unwelcome development that bestows an unwarranted degree of certainty on a discipline that should, by its nature, be contestable.”

After all there is a parallel conference at Copenhagen where other reputable scientists are challenging the theory of anthropogenic global warming –  at least to the extent that it claims carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are a significant cause of global warming.  

Joanne Nova is an Australian scientist who wrote The Skeptics Handbook, 160,000 copies of which have been distributed in four nations and translated by volunteers into six languages. Her new blog has reached 200,000 people this year with over 700,000 page views.

She warns that the new cap and trade financial market will be larger than any commodity market.  It is claimed to be  “based on science”, but she says, if you ask for scientific evidence, “you’re called names … by our Prime Minister, no less.”

And not only does the Prime Minister call those who question the theory names, he smeared all of them: “And invariably they are driven by vested interests”.

He of course presented no evidence of this outrageous libel of university professors of science, Nobel Prize winners, and unfunded retired scientists.

And in any event, as Joann Nova says, “the money is wildly stacked in favour of scientists who believe the theory, rather than sceptical scientists who don’t. The ratio is more than 3000 to 1.”

She produced a paper, "The Climate Money",  for the Science and Public Policy Institute which shows that while Exxon spent $23 million on sceptics (from 1998-2009), the US government spent $79 billion on the climate industry (from 1989-2009).

And carbon trading just last year was a $126 billion market, attracting those same names we last heard of during the Global Financial Crisis.

Joanne Nova declares that a strong leader welcomes his critics. Instead, Kevin Rudd pours contempt on them, smearing them.

This is unworthy of an Australian Prime Minister.