Monday, 28 June 2010

The trouble with science

This is a guest post by Simon Jenkins. Not.

It has been rather hot this weekend, as you may have noticed. The sun shone, thermometers soared, cats sought the sanctuary of whatever trees had survived the local council's recent health-and-safety-inspired cull, while festival-goers at Glastonbury were, I am reliably informed, thrown into confusion by the absence of the habitual mud. Even Wimbledon has been dry. For most people, this will have been a welcome respite from the aestival disappointments of recent years. Not for our preening scientific elite, however.

I can already hear the demented cries of "told you so" coming from the scientific lobby, ever desirous of more government cash, a group whose antics over the Climategate emails would have embarrassed most leading bankers. I've never been a climate sceptic, let's be quite clear about that: even the arrogance, paranoia and absurd sense of entitlement displayed by the custodians of our new national religion cannot prove the non-existence of global warming, and I for one am tempted to give the consensus view the benefit of the doubt, for the time being at least.

The earth may be heating up, to some small degree. Yet that probability, if such it still is even after the debacle of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cannot justify the misanthropy and, to be frank, triumphalism with which scientists celebrate our impending doom, nor their increasingly shrill demands that we change our entire lifestyles to fit in with their agenda, nor the plague of ugly and inefficient wind-turbines spreading across rural England. Only money - the vast tranches of money, public and private, that is handed over unquestioningly to the unaccountable scientific establishment - can explain it.

Science presents itself to the public as an impartial and objective search for knowledge. Propagandists like Richard Dawkins or this year's uninspiring Reith lecturer Martin Rees talk as though homo scientificus were a wholly new kind of being, preserved by a special aura of sanctity from contamination by the grubbiness that the rest of us have to deal with. Aura of sanctimony, more like: as everyone who has enquired into the matter soon becomes aware, science is as corrupt as the government of Afghanistan, in hock to the commercial interests of large corporations. Its claim to objectivity is so much cant.

In reality, scientists will discover whatever their paymasters want them to - and then turn round and accuse anyone who raises reasoned objections of being in the pay of oil companies or of Rupert Murdoch. Yet did not BP itself remodel itself a few years ago as the champion of low-carbon economy - and win plaudits from scientists (and even, heaven help us, from Greenpeace) for doing so? You'd think the sight of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico would shame BP's pet environmentalists into contrition. But no. Turning as usual on a sixpence, they now use the company's difficulties to redouble their tendentious argument against the carbon economy.

It truly beggars belief. But then you remember it was also scientists who demanded the world stockpile supplies of flu vaccine against an imaginary pandemic, grounded half the world's aeroplanes out of superstitious fear of volcanic ash, and continue to promote such vanity projects as the Large Hadron Collider (which is far more likely to destroy civilisation than global warming, I am reliably informed, by creating a Black Hole near Geneva) and you despair. Well, I do.

What they forget, in their godlike certainty, is that life in unpredictable. Even the most powerful supercomputer can't predict what will happen on Friday. Yet you or I or anyone else needs only to wait a few days and find out. Logically, then, your future self four day's hence knows more than all the world's expert prognosticators put together. In their heart of hearts, the more sensible scientists must realise this - but their funding depends on the pretended ex cathedra infallibility of their pronouncements. Thus the facade is maintained - and the public continue to be taken for fools.

So I shall be enjoying this unseasonably seasonal weather while it lasts. I shall let neither fear of global catastrophe, nor equally daft scares about skin cancer or sunstroke - also peddled by the scientific community's alliance of grim puritanism - keep me from sitting in my garden. Indeed I am sitting in my garden right now enjoying a pleasant glass of white wine. No doubt that is going to kill me next Tuesday as well - that, after all, is what government-funded scientists never cease to inform me. Well, let them skulk in their laboratories, uttering their turgid imprecations, demanding taxpayers sacrifice ever more money for the privilege of being sneered at by the men (and they are nearly all men) in white coats. I, for one, will continue to ignore them.