This is the blog version of a talk I gave on August 13, 2011, at Skeptics on the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival.
‘Porn’, to quote journalism professor and anti-pornography activist Robert Jensen, ‘is what the end of the world looks like’. I must admit that, until I read this statement (from this book), I rather thought that the apocalypse would be more of the meteor-striking, sun-exploding, fiery-death kind. Instead, Jensen seems to think armageddon will come in an avalanche of breast enhancements, fake grunting, and peroxide.
I’m surprised the incidence of claustrophobia isn’t higher amongst scientists. Whether it’s know-it-all alternative medicine advocates, religious fanatics, or militant anti-environmentalists, science really is beset on all sides by a rogues’ gallery of knuckle-dragging bullshitters.
It’s a strange fact, however, that sometimes the knuckles of these bullshitters appear entirely unscuffed – that is, even the cleverest of writers can occasionally throw out an opinion of such shocking absurdity that one must step back in disbelief. This has, I am sad to say, recently been the case with critic and essayist Clive James, who has converted to the church of climate change denialism. Here, I’ll attempt to chop down the gnarled and pathetic-looking tree which James is barking up.
But that’s not all. Last Saturday I encountered a species of anti-sciencer rather more, shall we say, gauche and unlettered than Clive James. A mighty twenty-five of Edinburgh’s most indefatigable anti-vaxxers converged on the Scottish Parliament to express their opinion that ‘SWINE FLU IS A HOAX!’.
So which is the biggest hoax – climate change or swine flu? There’s only one way to find out – FIGHT!!!