Watching Professor Andre Sella’s Faraday Prize lecture on YouTube yesterday I swear I heard him make a passing reference to James Delingpole, whose climate scepticism is freely aired whenever given the opportunity. And if such an opportunity fails to materialise, he doesn’t take that as any impediment. I believe he has a similar denialist stance on the Covid epidemic, but I became disappointed by him before all this.
It must be quite the annoyance, as a scientist, an expert in your field, to have your life’s work dismissed simply because your conclusions are deemed inconvenient by a mere spectator. I imagine eminent epidemiologists are scratching their heads in dismay as the actor, Laurence Fox, or the fake ‘scientist’ Gillian shit-stirrer McKeith tell whomever will listen, that you are a liar. Their belief trumps, to coin a phrase, your knowledge.
Twas ever thus, but what fascinates me is the journey on which these naysayers embark. We’ve all encountered those who, unable to succinctly show their own calculations, demand that we ‘do some research’ to discover their truth. As a starting point they often post a link to some long-discredited study, or opinion pieces such as young Master Delingpole produce, as a prelude to blocking and thus, in their imagination, winning the argument.
But at what point does a poorly informed scepticism begin to take a deeper hold? How does a furtive fumble through the seedier neighbourhoods of the online world become a mission? And where does the madness really begin? A common theme I’ve noticed is that many of the biggest anti-truth zealots start out with an easy, laissez faire scepticism, but end up as fanatic devotees of cult-like beliefs. This is religious zealot grade madness at work.
Much is made these days about mental health (when all many people really need is an occasional slap to bring them to their senses) but it is often predicated on the false premise that it is never your own fault. Yes, bad things happen to good people, but bad things happen to all people. And very often the very worst of bad things happen to the very worst of people; but this doesn’t make for an easy aphorism. (Although, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ seems rather apt.) So, in my book, the mental health excuse falls rather flat; you are the architect of your own legacy.
We live in a world where eminence can quickly count for little. A great authority loses all credibility when their personal life is held to be less than acceptable. (And who defines acceptability?) Who cares what the doctor says, when a footballer says different? And the great Andrew Neil must rue the day he helped found GB News, as a result of which he now appears to be on bended knee to the über-woke Channel 4.
Forget objective proof, clinical trials, peer reviews and all that tiresome factual stuff. Nowadays we are in thrall to influencers and the evidence means nothing. I suspect we were always more the biddable acolyte than the sceptical, studious pupil. Instead of a long, hard slog to the top of your trade, all you need now is a leg up the greasy pole, to perch precariously on the top for a few minutes. Make your way to that nebulous podium and the idiots will tag along in their droves until the next dodgy fad takes their fancy. So, if you do plan to hop aboard the next coming theology, do choose your gods wisely.