Friday, 4 July 2014

On the BBC's definition of crank...


crank1 [krangk] noun

1.Machinery . any of several types of arms or levers for imparting rotary or oscillatory motion to a rotating shaft, one end of the crank being fixed to the shaft and the other end receiving reciprocating motion from a hand, connecting rod, etc.
2.Informal. an ill-tempered, grouchy person. unbalanced person who is overzealous in the advocacy of a private cause. eccentric or whimsical notion.
5.a strikingly clever turn of speech or play on words.

The BBC is on about 'crank' scientists and has set about re-educating its programme makers and producers:

BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues. 

Not surprisingly the BBC has turned to its coverage of 'climate change' as an illustration of the problem. Indeed, three of these so-called 'cranks' are described:

Andrew Montford, who runs the Bishop Hill climate sceptic blog, former children’s television presenter Johnny Ball and Bob Carter, a retired Australian geologist, are among the other climate sceptics that have appeared on the BBC. 

Now, despite me being sceptical about climate change scepticism, I'm prepared to listen to what well-informed people have to say about the subject. So let's look at a couple of these folk.

Montford has a chemistry degree and has written extensively on the subject of climate change, his books are informed and comprehensive (if a little polemical). I do not have to agree with him to appreciate the contribution he has made to an important debate. He has as much knowledge of climate change as, for example, Paul Nurse, the geneticist who has often been used as a front man for promoting the case for anthropogenic global warming.

 Bob Carter - "retired geologist" according to the BBC? Here's a chunk from his wikipedia page;

He has published over 100 research papers on taxonomic palaeontology, palaeoecology, the growth and form of the molluscan shell, New Zealand and Pacific geology, stratigraphic classification, sequence stratigraphy, sedimentology, the Great Barrier Reef, Quaternary geology, and sea-level and climate change.[5][6] Carter has published primary research in the field of palaeoclimatology, investigating New Zealand's climate extending back to 3.9 Ma.

So this 'crank' is, in truth, an academic who has actually done primary research into climate change during the world's history. The only 'crank' bit is, of course, that Carter doesn't agree with the approved position on man-made climate change.

It seems to me - and I watch with incredulity as the media push real pseudo-science in health - that the definition of crank being used here is ideological. Essentially you are a crank if you disagree with the defined and accepted editorial bias of the BBC.

Update: Saw this article by a climate change chap called Bob Ward - presumably the very sort of scientist that the BBC wants to put forward on its programmes. The article is an extended ad hominem attack on Nigel Lawson but I checked out Ward's credentials. Let's be clear, Ward isn't a climate scientist, indeed he's barely a scientist at all certainly compared to Bob Carter. Ward is a PR man for a climate change research institute.

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