Nov 252012

LISTENED to Saturday’s Science Show on the ABC’s Radio National network. My ears pricked up when the program’s presenter promised us an interview with one Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor in psychology from the University of Western Australia, talking about attitudes to climate change.  Aha, an opportunity to actually hear a man who’s become something of a legend in his own lunchtime in the climate sceptics’  section of the blogosphere.

My initial response is that Lewandowsky sounds like a pompous twit. Listen to him and make up your own mind.  You can hear the program, or download it, from the Science Show website. (Incidentally the web page covering the Lewandowsky segment includes an image of a power station emitting a plume of what looks suspiciously like steam. You know, that water vapour stuff. ABC Television is running this kind of shot all of the time. Goodness knows what they think is coming out of all those smoke stacks and cooling towers.)

Jo Nova was quick to pick up on Lewandowsky’s Science Show appearance, drawing attention to the intro provided by the program’s presenter, Robyn Williams. This is part of what Williams said:

What if I told you pedophilia is good for children, or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for asthmatics, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous, but there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths, distorting the science.”

The really outrageous thing is that Williams tries to equate scepticism about the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) orthodoxy with things like pedophilia. That’s grubby and shameful. It’s hardly an accident — the words were contained in a formal introduction to the Lewandowsky interview, something that Williams would have thought about and then carefully scripted.  In short, his smear was fully intended.

Professor Lewandowsky

As for Lewandowsky, it’s difficult to take him seriously. In The Rat’s view his Science Show appearance won’t change that.

Lewandowsky is doubtless kind to children and animals and, for all The Rat knows, could be absolutely charming company, universally respected by his colleagues and students at the University of Western Australia. However anyone interested about why Professor Lewandowsky’s excites so much interest in the blogosphere could do worse than follow Steve McIntyre’s detailed account of some of the Professor’s recent antics. If you’ve got the time and interest, start here and work your way forward.  Again, make up your own mind.

Normally The Rat tries to avoid personal attacks on people. I make an exception in this instance. Lewandowsky misrepresents the attitudes and beliefs of serious climate sceptics, equating them with extreme, ultra right-wing climate change deniers and conspiracy theorists. God knows there are already enough nutters at both extremes of the CAGW debate without making up bogus ones.  Yes, there are plenty of people out there who fit Lewandowsky’s model, but they should never be confused with moderate, mainstream sceptics.

Your Rat doesn’t want to silence or censor people like Lewandowsky. But as a responsible science journalist, Robyn Williams should have at least told his listeners that Lewandowsky is a controversial figure whose credibility has been  called into question in some quarters. Williams could also have invited a reputable sceptic to respond to Lewandowsky.

As for Williams’ introduction, it was simply unforgivable. He superiors should compel him to make a public apology on next week’s Science Show. Still, I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.


  One Response to “Listening to a pompous twit”

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