Crazy science letter of the week – part 1

I’m all for freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. But some of the letters I read in the letters pages of our newspapers really are written by crazy people.  Science-related subjects especially seem to bring out the nutters.

I read a lot of letters in the country’s newspapers so I’m beginning a series that will flag the craziest ones to show the sort of irrational yet stridently held views on science-related issues that are out there.

To kick off, I’ll go with the following letter published today in the Timaru Herald:

timaru herald letter

Gang of scammers? Well, I suppose that’s one label for the scientists across the country’s CRIs and universities working on climate change adaptation and mitigation research and technology. Yes, $182 million is a lot of money Mr Walker, but that’s spread over 15 years – some of those projects started in 1999 while others are funded through to 2015. They include everything from the GNS Science’s Global Change Through Time research project to a $12 million grant to alternative energy company Lanzatech which has just completed a successful trial at Glenbrook steel mill where it is converting flue gases into ethanol.

You’d think Mr Walker would appreciate the need for more research to get a better idea of how climate change is likely to impact the world – or even as he’d probably put it – to debunk the global warming myth. But he calls that the  “indoctrination of a generation”. I hate to think of what his alternative vision for the current generation of children is…


  1. Ken Perrott

    Bruce – the problems with the science reforms of the 1990s are that they were ideologically (free market) driven. Things got so bad that I was actually attacked by managers for saying we should concentrate on science. Profit became the key word (they forgot that ethically the only service we could provide to get the profit was good science).

    Despite those ideological problems good science was done through that period. The waste was in the setting up of bureaucracies – not the science. The farcical situation of individual CRI bureaucracies set up to second guess the FoRST bureaucracy which was set up to second guess the CRI bureaucracies, and so on.

    The amazing thing is that the current proposed changes have come so late – governments should have listened to the scientists 20 years ago!

    The waste you refer to was siphoned away from science funding before any science was done. So blame the ideologies and bureaucracies – not the scientific research. I don’t think we wasted the portion that we did get.

    I don’t think NZ scientists have anything to be ashamed of in this sorry political story. They continues with their work, it wasn’t wasted and the country benefits from it.

    Similarly these letter writers are highly ideologically motivated ( if not psychologically). They are upset about a political/economic problem and have got distracted into attacking the science.

    Stupid of them really. Their efforts should be directed into the political/economic discussions. Their attacks on science will be wasted -science by it’s nature is resilient because of its firm basis in reality – not opinion. They are not going to change reality.

    So, I fully support Peter’s idea. If these deniers can steal private emails, distort and misquote them they are in no position to complain. let’s have a wall of shame – a reproduction of these stupid letters to the editor. it helps identify the nature of the anti-science attackers.

  2. Peter Griffin

    Come on Bruce! “gang of scammers” in reference to scientists. “Indoctrination of a generation”? This guy gets to let loose with irrational claims in the Timaru Herald and I can’t even take him on on my blog!? What’s the blogosphere coming to?

  3. Bruce Hamilton

    Tragic. I’ve noted many times that the global warming debate brings out the worst in both sides.

    Assuming Mr. Walker is a taxpayer, its taxes that are being spent. He’s entitled to his views, misguided or not, and he’s signed his name to the letter, so he’s prepared to own those views..

    Presumably he’s prepared to defend his position, but how will he know that you have decided he’s a crazy person, as opposed to a sane person holding crazy views?.

    Taxpayers surely have some rights to question the value of outcomes from spending significant quantities of their money, and some will always feel cheated, but that doesn’t make them crazy..

    He’s not alone, and the proposed changes to CRIs indicate that the billions of dollars haven’t generated the returns to taxpayers that were promised when the competitive bidding process for research funds was started, followed by the formation of the 10, now 8, CRIs. I’d also like to know what taxpayers have gained from the last 20 years of a very expensive process?.

    I’m disappointed that you’ve decided to attack individuals for expressing contrary views, I usually go to the comments section of Kiwiblog, Hot Topic, etc. when I want a dose of personal abuse, but at least I know about it and can and can choose to respond.

    Once again, tolerance is the first casualty of climate change debate. what a surprise.

  4. Peter Griffin

    Post the craziest ones you come across, I think over time we’ll identify some interesting trends…

  5. Darcy Cowan

    huh, that guy is a paragon of sanity compared to the letters in my local paper. Fluoride, vaccines, end of the world stuff.
    It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

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