Question the sceptics
Sir: Let’s set aside the fact that the article by Matt Ridley and Nicholas Lewis, ‘Breaking the Ice’ (19 February) — to which you oddly gave cover prominence — was outstandingly the most boring thing I have come across in The Spectator for over 30 years. What, exactly, is the point of this self-confessed ‘group of amateurs’?
I am not a scientist, but I was for some while responsible for developing Conservative party policy on climate change. Nerdy quibbles about the extent or location of melting ice in Antarctica don’t get us very far. The various embarrassing, though not devious, cock-ups by the University of East Anglia, or in the Intergovernmental Panel’s data, don’t alter the trajectory of mainstream scientific opinion.
I recognise that dispute is endemic to scientific enquiry. I know that there is no absolute truth in these matters. But should responsible policy-makers base their approach on the views of amateurs, or on mainstream scientific opinion?
Even if the climate change sceptics are right (and believe me, I hope they are), is it really a good idea to continue to be economically dependent on imports of oil and gas? Is pollution a good thing? Does anyone at all think that fossil fuels are going to get cheaper? Will we be more socially and economically secure if we continue with business as usual?
What is the point of the climate change sceptics? And who is paying them?
Sir: Lewis and Ridley’s thoughtful piece on Antarctic temperature renews the concern that there really is something going on in climate science, to do with the presentation of data rather than the data itself. Why this trenchant insistence on orthodoxy in this field, quite the opposite of normal scientific scepticism? Mendacity and buffoonery have both been evoked in explanation.
It might also be that the climateers feel that if there is no anthropogenic global warming (AGW), then ‘corrective’ interventions will do no harm, but that if there is AGW, corrective interventions must start as soon as possible. To this end, they have tried to bring the debate to a premature close, unfortunately implying that no one can understand the science except them (we are all too dim).
Which, of course, matters because the proposed interventions are not harmless, and the first leg of the argument fails.
Sir: I was a post-duodecimal currency child (The Spectator’s Notes, 19 February) but I can still count in several bases: duodecimal (feet/inches), base 36 (yards/inches), base 3 (yards/feet), base 1,760 (miles/yards) base 16 (pounds/ounces), hexidecimal, octal, binary (computing) and several more. Although I must admit the only nursery rhyme I can remember is ‘Ten Green Bottles’.
In praise of homeopathy
Sir: Praise be that James Delingpole has an open mind about homeopathy (19 February). For the last 54 years computerised homeopathy has been registering in great detail all the evidence about how it functions. With the help of the German EAV (Electro Acupuncture according to Voll), it records on a computer 120 points of the body, measuring inflammation, infections, degeneration and then prescribing, after testing, the potential cures, and how strong they need to be. This is even when no molecular traces are left. It has served me well, once a year, for 36 years.
Sir: I am puzzled by David Tang’s account of a bonfire party following a pheasant shoot hosted by Mr Richard Caring (Hong Kong Notebook, 12 February).
He writes that ‘The entertainment was U2 (no less).’ Mr Tang is mistaken. U2 have never performed at a private party. There are a number of U2 tribute bands on the go — could it have been one of these? Clearly the musicians he saw have considerable imitative ability if they were able to convince Mr Tang that they were my clients.
Principle Management, Dublin
Don’t knock Sandi
Sir: While agreeing wholeheartedly with most of the points made by Michael Henderson (‘Speaking for England’, 19 February), I must defend Sandi Toksvig, who at least keeps her motley crew in order with quick wit and good humour. The News Quiz is the only programme on Radio 4 which regularly has me laughing aloud. Very rarely do I miss any of it because more than one voice is speaking. The occasional unfunny contribution is usually punished by audience silence.
The programme I would single out for criticism is The Moral Maze. The discussions regularly break down into a chaos of competing voices of which no sense can be made; this too at the very point when the arguments should be at their most interesting.
The Big Con
Sir: The reason why David Cameron has difficulty in selling the idea of the Big Society is that it is unsaleable. As a phrase it is meaningless and hence cannot be understood. I do not want power handed over to me, because I am not a politician. I just want to be left alone and live in an open society which can be as big or little as it needs to be.
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This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated February 26, 2011