NOW what if I told you pedophilia is good for children or that asbestos is an excellent inhalant for those with asthma? Or that smoking crack is a normal part, and a healthy one, of teenage life and to be encouraged? You’d rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science (of climate change).
Well it seems Williams would have us believe he really meant something different. Here is a letter he wrote to Quadrant.
Sir: For the record: I did not compare climate change deniers to paedophiles in my Science Show broadcast (Chronicle, March 2013). What I did do was make up several outrageous scenarios to illustrate how a (wilful) misunderstanding of science for political purposes can be harmful—even fatal. Saying asbestos is safe is dangerous; saying HIV infection does not lead to AIDS is irresponsible; claiming paedophilia is good for kids as some do, is absurd.
The program began by quoting the New Scientist magazine’s lament about lies related to science in the American election and I gave the example of one Republican candidate’s bizarre claim that a rape victim’s body can “naturally” reject fertilisation.
In this context it was obvious that I was linking the distortion of climate science by mischievous political elements to similar (if hypothetical) distortions of other science-based issues.
There are plenty of people who do not hesitate to distort the science of climate change for ideological reasons. Their doing so is likely to delay or cancel any sensible efforts to reduce risk. This, like the examples above, is irresponsible.
Keith Windschuttle calls him out on that.
Robyn Williams’ claim that his broadcast did not compare climate change deniers to paedophiles is disingenuous. By “linking” (his term) an aspect of the behaviour of one group to that of another and finding similarities between them, he was surely making a comparison, as any good dictionary would confirm.
Moreover, since when did paedophilia join the ranks of “other science-based issues”? What is scientific about it? There is no gene for paedophilia. It is a sexual preference, not a biological attribute. By introducing this topic into the debate over climate science, Williams’ broadcast was as wildly irrelevant as it was conceptually odious. He chose moral stratagem over fair comment.
In his forty years as an ABC broadcaster, Williams has built himself a reputation as Australia’s pre-eminent science journalist. It is a pity to see him ruining his once good name by using such desperate tactics in support of a scientific hypothesis which today, when the temperatures and oceans are failing to rise in the way global warming advocates predicted, has so patently lost credibility.
I think he is being far, far too nice.