Honoured researchers urge colleagues to fight anti-science

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Scientists need to fight against a growing anti-science sentiment worldwide by joining the debate, say two researchers acknowledged in today's Australia Day Honours. 

Professors Bruce McKellar and Sam Berkovic, both associated with the University of Melbourne, received the nation's highest honour when they were appointed Companions in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

McKellar, a theoretical physicist, says the honour for his "eminent service to science, particularly the study of theoretical physics" came as a "surprise".

However it highlights a remarkable journey from a NSW bush school playground to the hallways of Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider.

"One of the things that is very nice about me getting this award is the fact I went to a bush school with 50 students and one teacher," he says.

That one teacher at Budgeregong Public School near Forbes in NSW also happened to be his father.

"In part it is to he that I owe my appreciation of mathematics and various forms of science," he says.

Although officially retired, the 72-year-old will later this year become the first Australian and first southern hemisphere president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

The prestigious position comes at a time when science – most notably climate and immunisation science – is under attack in western societies.

"The basic denial is the denial that science has done anything for us," says McKellar.

"I think part of the problem is not that we are denying science but that we've become so used to it and the idea that it really is the basis of all our lifestyle."

He cites the example of basic radio astronomy research to analyse radio signals from the universe that led to the development of mobile phones.

Written By: Dani Cooper, ABC Australia
continue to source article at ab.co

20 COMMENTS

  1. There will sadly always be a fight against anti science, Australia is heading towards being an important battleground thanks to the views of its current prime minister on climate change.

    • In reply to #3 by rjohn19:

      I had these hopes America would become more like Canada and Australia but this process is going in the wrong direction.

      Australia unfortunately has quite a number of right-wing Christians in its present government who are climate change deniers and consequently had no scruples in dissolving the Climate Commission when winning the last elections. They also have no scruples in appointing other deniers to positions where they can have maximum influence.

      As Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister says, “You can’t argue with God” , referring to the current drought situation that exists in much of Australia. Mr Abbott, who once called scientific evidence of climate change as “absolute crap”, is also known as the Mad Monk, having commenced studies to become a priest earlier in his life.

      This new Australian government has not appointed a Minister for Science. The first time since 1951 that Australia is without a Minister for Science.

      I am always mindful that Ken Ham is Australian, much to my embarrassment and I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to build a Creation Museum here in Australia. But then again, he might go broke quicker here than he is doing in USA and he probably realises that.

      • In reply to #4 by ArloNo:

        In reply to #3 by rjohn19:

        I had these hopes America would become more like Canada and Australia but this process is going in the wrong direction.

        Australia unfortunately has quite a number of right-wing Christians in its present government who are climate change deniers and consequently had no sc…

        Some good news then; Ken Ham’s going broke. I hope it’s true.

      • In reply to #4 by ArloNo:

        In reply to #3 by rjohn19:

        I had these hopes America would become more like Canada and Australia but this process is going in the wrong direction.

        As Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister says, “You can’t argue with God” , referring to the current drought situation that exists in much of Australia. Mr Abbott, who once called scientific evidence of climate change as “absolute crap”, is also known as the Mad Monk, having commenced studies to become a priest earlier in his life.

        Let’s hope the religinuts, can’t argue with nature!

        Perhaps the Aussie climate and bush-fires will fry some of his supporters into dumping him,

        A bit more ice and another couple of hurricanes up the East River to Wall Street might shake corporate America awake.

        Meanwhile back in Britain the south-west is up to their ears in floods – but carbonaceous Dozy-Dave Cameron has a plan – He has scrapped the green levy which subsidised insulating buildings, and is promoting more subsidised oil exploration and gas-fracking!

        With the normal level of respect for expert public services found in Tory twits, he arranged cuts in the budget of the environment agency (responsible for flood management), just before the floods massively affected huge areas of the country. (- and then fiddled the PR figures released, to pretend he had increased it.)

        Is a heat powered atmosphere going to generate more fierce and erratic destructive weather? – quick let’s show political denial leadership and get the heads deeper in the sand!! Maybe it can all be wished away!!!

        • Errrr… ” Is a heat powered atmosphere going to generate more fierce and erratic destructive weather? – “

          So the “fierce” and “erratic destructive weather” is really due to a “heat powered atmosphere”. Do you have evidence of this or is it a guess?
          And what “fierce and erratic destructive weather” do you have in mind?

          In reply to #9 by Alan4discussion:

          In reply to #4 by ArloNo:

          In reply to #3 by rjohn19:

          I had these hopes America would become more like Canada and Australia but this process is going in the wrong direction.

          As Tony Abbott, our Prime Minister says, “You can’t argue with God” , referring to the current drought situation that exists…

  2. I’m going to send this article to an acquaintance of mine who professes to gain knowledge from what he terms “esoteric reading”, but which considering his lazy assumptions, sophistry and incorrigibility, I think is better described as rubbish.

    This piece describes the scientific process, a complicated and difficult one, in simple accessible terms, whereas the chap I’m talking about usually ends up doing the reverse; taking something easy to understand and trying to make yourself sound smart by turning it into self serving tripe; what might be called the Deepak Chopra syndrome.

  3. He cites the example of basic radio astronomy research to analyse radio signals from the universe that led to the development of mobile phones.

    Surely, the best reason you could give for banning all science, completely, for all eternity?

    • In reply to #7 by eejit:

      He cites the example of basic radio astronomy research to analyse radio signals from the universe that led to the development of mobile phones.

      Surely, the best reason you could give for banning all science, completely, for all eternity?

      There is wit in this comment, but no wisdom. Still I suppose things would be a bit boring without wit.

      • In reply to #8 by stuhillman:

        In reply to #7 by eejit:

        He cites the example of basic radio astronomy research to analyse radio signals from the universe that led to the development of mobile phones.

        Surely, the best reason you could give for banning all science, completely, for all eternity?

        There is wit in this comment, but…

        Why d’ye think I chose my webname. Damned with faint praise. (Alexander Pope)

      • In reply to #8 by stuhillman:

        There is wit in this comment, but no wisdom. Still I suppose things would be a bit boring without wit.

        It can become even more comical, when confident Hamsters turn up with stuff believed by half-wits!

  4. then fiddled the PR figures released

    Perhaps this is the key to an historic misunderstanding. Maybe Nero, at the time, was consulting his bent PR statisticians, rather than scraping a bow across strings? Plus ca change?

  5. eejit – @11

    Perhaps this is the key to an historic misunderstanding. Maybe Nero, at the time, was consulting his bent PR statisticians, rather than scraping a bow across strings?

    Or doing a bit of slum clearance ready for his Rome redevelopment scheme and new palace !

    Fires were however common at that time.

    Great Fire of Rome

    It was said by Cassius Dio, that Nero, the emperor at the time, sang the “Sack of Ilium” in stage costume as the city burned.[6] However, Tacitus’ account has Nero in Antium at the time of the fire.[7] Tacitus said that Nero’s playing his lyre and singing while the city burned was only a rumor.

    According to Tacitus, upon hearing news of the fire, Nero rushed back to Rome to organize a relief effort, which he paid for from his own funds.[7] After the fire, Nero opened his palaces to provide shelter for the homeless, and arranged for food supplies to be delivered in order to prevent starvation among the survivors.[7] In the wake of the fire, he made a new urban development plan. Houses after the fire were spaced out, built in brick, and faced by porticos on wide roads.[8] Nero also built a new palace complex known as the Domus Aurea in an area cleared by the fire.

    To diffuse blame, Nero targeted the Christians.[14] There were Christians who confessed to the crime, but it became known that Christians were forced to confess by means of torture,[14] and the passage is unclear as to what the Christians confessed to — being arsonists or Christians. Suetonius and Cassius Dio, favor Nero as the arsonist with an insane desire to destroy the city as his motive,[15] or to rebuild Rome in a new style more to his liking. However, major accidental fires were common in ancient Rome.

    In fact, Rome burned again under Vitellius in 69[16] and under Titus in 80.

    ..

    Plus ca change?

    As you say, abuse of the population and the planet by political elites, is nothing new!

  6. The advent of the internet has allowed the promulgation of ideas not worthy of a second glance. Now they can somehow stick in the minds of some who perceive them as credible. Anecdotally, this is something I have seen amongst people I know on Facebook. From Sheldrake and his ‘morphic resonance’; Chopra and his take on all things ‘quantum’; Hancock and his ideas on consciousness, the list goes on. Whilst a basic understanding of the scientific method (repeatable experimentation, objective observation, statistical analysis, peer review) is enough to dismiss these ideas as the nonsense they patently are, those without it view such ideas as credible. More alarmingly, they react to criticism of such untestable ideas by sounding off about how defending ‘reductionist materialistic ideologies’ (science as they see it), is a sign of an individual’s close-mindedness.

  7. The cretinists are getting rich evangelical sponsors to help them buy their way into UK education. Appointing YECs as heads or heads of science ( See” twooof in science” below).

    Emmanuel College, Gateshead
    >

    Some allegations centred on the school’s Head of Science Steven Layfield who had in 2000, prior to his taking up the post, publicly advocated the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools.[9] Layfield was at some point a director of creationist body Truth in Science, but resigned from its board in 2006 to underscore the separation between his private views and the school’s teaching of science.

    The school was at the centre of a storm of protests from scientists and educationalists when it was revealed that some members of the management team, including both the principal and the head of science,[5] were sympathetic to Young Earth creationism and had allowed its hall to be rented by Answers in Genesis, an organisation which promotes such views. The school includes evolutionary science in its curriculum, but presents evolution as a theory complemented by the theory of creationism (taught in RE lessons).

    As teaching YEC in science is illegal in the UK, they got round this by teaching evolution in science, and the “alternative” YECery “controversy theory” in Religious “Education” lessons.

    A Scientist’s View by Richard Dawkins – http://evolvefish.com/freewrite/EmmanuelCollegeCreationism.html

  8. Dear Alan4discussion #9:

    Weather is not climate, and none of these alarmist events is unprecedented. (It is curious that you didn’t select the “Ship of Fools” adventure to illustrate your thesis.) The IPCC computer projections continue to diverge more and more, year after year, from the empirical observations. Your alarmism goes well beyond what the science indicates is warranted.

    • In reply to #19 by Thylacine:

      Dear Alan4discussion #9:

      Weather is not climate,

      Well spotted! – Of course it builds into climate over time with weather data providing input for climate trends to be identified. The predictions do forecast increasingly energetic, mobile, and extreme weather as the atmosphere warms, although individual events could be one-offs! However, record breaking climate events continue to happen year on year.

      and none of these alarmist events is unprecedented.

      Oh dear! Denialist pseudo-alarmist crap again! – This terminology indicates the low quality of your information sources.

      The IPCC computer projections continue to diverge more and more, year after year, from the empirical observations.

      If anything they have been shown to be too conservative – underestimating rates of melting ice caps etc.

      Perhaps you should actually READ the IPCC reports, rather than pseudo-science websites, scientifically illiterate journalists, carbon industry stooges, and trashy newspapers who churn out this rubbish! .

      Your alarmism goes well beyond what the science indicates is warranted.

      I’ve heard these scientifically illiterate assertions before! The IPCC reports gave clear indications of the levels of confidence in their observations and projections based on the best science available.

      Summary for Policymakers – http://www.climate2013.org/spm

      Perhaps if you expect me to take you seriously, you would list the factors which feed into creating climatic effects and global temperature changes – just to show that you have SOME basic knowledge of the calculations involved in the subject – when disparaging the work of the world’s leading scientists.

      IPCC honoured with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

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