Yesterday evening’s BBC2 Horizon, Science Under Attack, was the subject of fierce debate even before it was aired, and that debate began when the Guardian revealed details of an interview between Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, and the hectoring and sneering James Delingpole, who has made a reputation from rubbishing climate change, generally by shouting down anyone who has the temerity to oppose him.
The piece in the Guardian environment blog that started the ball rolling revealed that Delingpole had been stumped by Nurse’s questioning – true – and that he had asked for filming to stop at one point, then had later complained to the Beeb. The Guardian had clearly got some information from Nurse himself. Delingpole could not allow this to pass unchallenged.
So, again before Horizon was broadcast, Delingpole launched into a tedious and defensive whingefest on his blog (hosted by the Maily Telegraph, one might note). Nurse is called a “bruiser”, rather as the hosts of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) characterise their hate figures as “thugs”. Then he dismisses the scientific consensus on climate change, a line of argument which somehow escaped him during the interview.
There then follows a welter of abuse: Nurse’s questioning is “shabby, dishonest and patently false”, the climate change consensus is an artificial and “politically driven” construct, and there is the suggestion that scientists buying into the consensus have themselves been bought. And if only the rest of the three hour interview had been shown, then all would be well.
That last point sounds reminiscent of the legendary confrontation between Will Self and Fat Dick Littlejohn: when Littlejohn complained that Self had only read the first 200 pages of his new novel, Self retorted “Why? Does it suddenly turn into Tolstoy?”.
And Delingpole shares another trait with his Daily Mail counterpart: there is precious little research in his rant, but plenty of assertion. Delingpole confuses transient weather events with climate change, wrongly asserts that “there has been no global warming since 1998”, and continues to be abusive towards Nurse, an agreeable and enthusiastic advocate for science.
Only one conclusion can be reached: that Delingpole is painting himself as being wronged by a dreadful BBC stitch-up, and the straightforward explanation - that he was found wanting - is not allowed to enter. He is another who has proved Keith Olbermann’s assertion that “the right lives in a perpetual state of victimhood”, and is now proving Healey’s dictum in spades.