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Open Letter to an Alarmist Shill

September 12, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




Readers will recall Brian Cox’s appearance on Australian TV last month, where he clashed with a climate sceptic.

Graham Woods, PhD, has subsequently emailed Cox with some serious criticisms about show. Cox, unsurprisingly, has failed to respond, so Woods, as he promised, has now released the email into the public domain:



Dear Brian,

I’d appreciate your response to this email, which deals with your recent appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program.

First, I want to make it clear that, where you’re concerned, I’m not a ‘vexatious invigilator’.  My wife and I (each with an earned PhD) have watched most of your TV programs, and have been struck by their intellectual clarity and your unassuming personal style (as well as by your BMI: we’re high-level wellness devotees).  With that said, we both have serious misgivings about your recent appearance on Q&A.

No pronouncement that enjoys an audience has zero social consequences, and the more prominent the pronouncer the more significant the consequences are likely to be.  Your recent Q&A appearance brings that out well.  You were treated like a science guru, both by the audience and by compere Tony Jones, and it’s inevitable that what you said will affect the opinions of hundreds, probably thousands, of people.

You might disagree, but I’d argue that your authority carries a responsibility: a responsibility to ensure that your audience (whether that’s one person or thousands) is not misled by your pronouncements.  It’s difficult to evade the conclusion that, on this recent occasion, you didn’t live up to that responsibility.

First, the program itself, including some of its history.  In 2007, Tony Jones brought climate change sceptic Martin Durkin onto his program.  My wife, Denise, and I, at that stage relatively uninformed and open-minded about the subject, expected Durkin to be given a decent opportunity to put his case.  Instead, we watched the attempted ‘credibility destruction’ of a person who had obviously been set up to be ambushed.  The attack was carried out most enthusiastically by Jones himself.  I was so appalled by Jones’ behaviour that I wrote to the ABC about it (so did others); Denise and I were so disgusted that we’ve never been able to bring ourselves to watch Jones since.

In the recent Q&A (which, as matter of duty, I watched during its second airing, on Tuesday, August 16, 2016), Jones attacked nobody, but the ‘stage-management’ of that episode was undisguisedly tendentious.  On the panel there was no acknowledged climate or ‘climate -related’ scientist with known anti-AGW views (e.g. Bob Carter, William Kininmonth, Ian Plimer) – and, had there been, I suspect that you wouldn’t have been there.  In fact no panel member at all was a bona fide climate scientist: i.e. a scientist with specialised knowledge in one (or more) of the disciplines that are demonstrably related to global climate behaviour and who frequently applies that knowledge as a professional contributor to that field.

Instead, the panel comprised a ‘science superstar’ (an appellation used by commentators both before and after the show); a federal minister who would (inter alia) be interrogated about cutting spending on climate change; a federal opposition member with no obvious responsibility for any aspect of climate; a ‘mathematician’ (publicity blurb) who holds a bachelor degree built only partly on mathematics per se and who, as far as I know, is a person not connected professionally with any aspect of climate science research per se; and one lay climate sceptic who is – unfairly or not –  perceived by many Australians as an extremist (on many topics) and so was expected to shoot himself in the foot on the subject of climate change.

The outcome of the ‘debate’ was predictable: most media presented it as climate change scepticism being ‘debunked’ by a leading scientist with a worldwide reputation.


The full letter can be read at Quadrant here:


Quite apart from the disgraceful stacking of the panel, and obviously planned ambush, Graham Woods makes a very telling point. Why was there no climate experts on the show with sceptical views? As he points out, if there had been it is extremely unlikely that Cox would dared to have appeared.

  1. September 12, 2016 10:55 am

    And, the BBC are coming under fire for allowing ‘denier’ views to be aired……

    Geoffrey Supran is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University working with Naomi Oreskes. He obtained his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, where he led the Fossil Free MIT divestment campaign. He holds a B.A. in physics from Trinity College, Cambridge. Geoffrey was born and raised in the UK and grew up with the BBC. He currently works in Boston, but his dad sometimes sends him recordings of BBC science reports to remind him of home.

    Explains a lot…..

  2. September 12, 2016 11:27 am

    Everyone knows that any kind of climate debate is likely to end in embarrassment for the alarmists as they are usually reduced to ‘argument from authority’ type of platitudes after about five seconds.

  3. September 12, 2016 12:12 pm

    Only with a stacked deck can they “appear” to “win” the “argument.”

  4. September 12, 2016 12:17 pm

    The graph used by Cox is untrustworthy.

  5. Broadlands permalink
    September 12, 2016 1:47 pm

    Reminds me of the time that Larry King invited Al Gore to talk about the subject on his TV show. Gore accepted until he found out that Fred Singer was gong to be there also and canceled or did a no-show.

  6. September 12, 2016 2:30 pm

    Brian Cox, as far as climate of Earth is concerned has in fact no more authority than I do, and I am without a PhD. The argument from authority has never had and never can have any validity.

    Empirical fact has validity. Computer models don’t, unless they are Met Office ones when according to Julia Sligo they can never be wrong because they are probabilistic!

    Cox, nice enough fellow and good enough musician though he probably is, is also referred to by a person of my ken (a physicist at CERN) as a “jumped up particle physicist”. What he has since become of course like the journalist Attenborough, is a national treasure so the hoi polloi regard his every utterance as gospel however journalistic or merely tele-visual it may be.

    He simply must be a nice person if he is worried about the climate. The more worried you are the nicer you must be. If you are not, then you are either an idiot or an uncaring swine, amongst both of which I must be numbered.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 13, 2016 12:50 pm

      There could also be keeping the cash coming from the BBC by supporting one of their favourite causes.

  7. markl permalink
    September 12, 2016 3:23 pm

    Those engaged in propaganda will not defend their position because they can not. Their only response is more propaganda buoyed up by innuendo, personal attacks, selective truths, and false statements.

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