The Dirty Hands of Bad Science: Fighting reason with legal action

Would you want a surgeon preforming an operation on you with bare, unwashed hands? Or worse; a bunch of medical students to examine your heavily pregnant wife with their bare hands, just after they visited the morgue, where they carried out mock operations on the cadavers?

The idea alone is enough to tickle the gag reaction and induce strong protective response for those we hold closest.

Yet, sanitation as we know it is relatively new. Arguably, the first hints of the truth of bacterial transfer began with Ignaz Semmelweis in Europe and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in the US in the mid 19th century – just a decade or so before John Tyndall began to explore radiation absorption of different gases – thereby demonstrating the greenhouse effect necessary for life as we know it on this planet (he also carried out experiments in the  1870’s that assisted in the germ theory; pretty cluey bloke!).

Of course, in the mid 19th century, the best experts the world over knew for certain that at the centre of almost all illnesses, was an imbalance in the the four humours of the body; black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. Both Semmelweis and Holmes faced a major criticism. Sure, both could demonstrate that their methods of sanitation reduced mortality, but obviously it was a fluke – because neither could justify why it worked. It took the work of others, such as Tyndall and Louis Pasteur (to name a couple), a few decades longer to develop the germ theory for these two men to be vindicated (posthumously for Semmelwies).

A few weeks ago, I pondered over the effect of adding a character like Monckton into the situation that led to the development of the germ theory. In this scenario, the business-as-usual would have been the support for the four humours understanding. Had the presenter dazzled the crowed enough, would Pasteur and others been made outlaws before they could make their breakthroughs?  Would the microscope have been seen as the tool of the devil or subjected to an unqualified citizen audit? Would a bout of gastroenteritis see a “modern” GP pulling out a jar of leeches? Would I run the risk of losing my wife to Puerperal fever because of student doctors with dirty hands?

This is, quite frankly, the heart of climate change denial and looks absurd in retrospect if modified to fit the history of the germ theory. In other words, the loudest opponents run the risk of being remembered in a similar light to Charles Delucena Meigs or Hugh L. Hodge, but with the extra infamy of inciting paralysis in a time of desperate need and great potential for development. They will be the primitive doctors with dirty hands, and unnecessary loss of life and increased hardship on their heads.

To look again at John Tyndall, we find the grandfather of the physical chemistry to our understanding of climate. To learn more about the history, I direct the reader to two excellent presentations; a lecture by Naomi Oreskes, “Answering Climate Change Skeptics”; and Peter Sinclair’s, “What we know about climate change”. In short, we’re at this point of understanding due to more than 150 years of research and a whole bunch of brilliant minds.

  • We know the world is warming.
  • We know that this warming in not the result of natural variation, but rather the result of anthropogenic modifications to the greenhouse gas concentrations to the atmosphere. (see here and here)
  • We know that this is already causing a negative impact to species. (see here, here, here, here and here)
  • Most scientists working in related fields (ie. 97%), agree that we’re witnessing anthropogenic climate change. (see here and here)

Few people, who keep up with relevant environmental blogs, would have missed the whole episode between Christopher Monckton and John Abraham (see here for my most recent post on the subject). As I’ve said before, I’m amazed by how this affair has carried out.

I have watched a number of Christopher’s “debates” with environmental scientists. I have watched the Youtube videos of him shouting down activists. I have been stumped by his unusual and cryptic path which somehow leads to conclusions contrary to the scientific evidence. In short, I feel that John did an incredible job in trying to break down what can only be argued to be a presentation needlessly thick to make such a rebuttal difficult.

If this were solely scientific in nature, Christopher should answer the questions that John raised within his presentation.However, instead of this, the result is threats of legal action. Pretty rich, if you ask me, for a man who time and time again hypocritically insults others who he feels has attack him (Skeptical Science have highlighted one example here and in this post, I include a video where he verbally attacks youths).

The same has occurred to Professor Scott Mandia.

Following Christopher’s call out to the readers of Watt’s Up With That, to pressure St. Thomas University into censoring John Abraham (see here), Scott figured that such a move is as good for the goose and wrote a piece titled, ‘Turn the tables on Monckton‘, in which he formulated a standard email and collected a stack of media email addresses to make a call for the correction in the balance of media coverage regarding this climate “debate” (I wrote about this imbalance most recently here). Quite amazingly, Christopher has fired off an email to Scott threatening legal action against him (see the post here). Apparently, pointing out that Christopher wrongly claims expertise in climate science is worth court action. How can anyone truly take Monckton seriously?

What we have here is an open attack against informed investigation. If Christopher took science at all seriously, he would (as stated above) professionally address the errors that John found in his presentation, he could then conduct his own research in a transparent and repeatable fashion and he should provide a professional report which can then be discussed among the relevant community – instead anyone who challenges him finds a nasty legal threat in their mail. Christopher demonstrates that he has no interested in science or scientific methodology.

This pre-Enlightenment attitude should be addressed, regardless of the readers personal attitude towards climate science is, for what it is. All that protects me from most infections is the same thing that will ensure long-term food, water, power and ecological security; scientific investigation. We’ve had a world ruled by gods and by kings (and even patches run by lords). None served the common-folk well. Science has improved the standard of living and it teaches us how to better live in balance with other life at the same time. Only through investigation can we continue on this road to greater clarity. Legal suppression is no better than to have forced Pasteur and others to never to question the common view and to continue working with dirty hands.


6 thoughts on “The Dirty Hands of Bad Science: Fighting reason with legal action

    1. You should expect nothing less. We need to make a stand against such mindless hypocrisy. Allowing Monckton to continue his campaign against scientific investigation is more or less condoning his actions. I just can’t do that.
      keep up the great work Scott


  1. Of course Monckton’s anti-science campaign must be opposed. But here’s the rub: as a scientist, even as a mere sympathizer of scientists, you do not get to be just as unscientific as he is.

    Why do I point this out? Because you chose the slur ‘pre-Enlightenment’. This is a very bad choice. Of the many reasons why it is bad, I will mention only one: Monckton’s argumentation is extremely unscientific even by pre-Enlightenment standards.

    And BTW: it is no accident that I omit his title. Monckton should be stripped of his title for what he has done.


    1. its unlikely you’ll find me calling him lord on this blog – it’s certainly a borrowed and unmeritted title that he states he cannot be legally stopped from using.
      I don’t know… Some of the fanatical religious heads were on par with him 🙂


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