Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond

BBC Horizon’s “Science Under Attack”


Last week, Nobel Prize winner Paul Nurse presented a programme called “Science Under Attack” on the BBC’s flagship Horizon science programme. It tackled some of the major disconnects between science and the public opinion, stressing that scientists need to be much more active in getting their message out to the public. It focuses mainly on the Climategate saga, while touching on AIDS denial and the GM Foods controversy.

The interview with James Delingpole was bizarre. His view is that Peer Review should be opened up to everyone just doesn’t make any sense. Surely, if a scientific paper is written, the best people to determine its worth are other scientists working in the same field? Not, according to “interpreter of interpretations”, Mr. Delingpole.

If you missed it last week, it’s available on YouTube. It’s well worth a look if you have the time. It’s in 6 parts, listed in order below.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


3 thoughts on “BBC Horizon’s “Science Under Attack”

  1. Very good. Thanks for alerting me to that.

    Only begins to analyse the problem. It’s hard to see how the man in the street will understand Science unless he/she is thought it differently in school. Maybe far more emphasis should be placed on explaining the Scientific Method to 12 year olds an upwards than dissecting frogs or learning the table of the elements?

    PS Anyone know where I can watch the recent documentary about Jacob Bronowski?

    • It’s quite a problem isn’t it? I think there is no getting around one simple fact: Science is not easy – it needs a good grasp of stats and maths and logic and abstract thinking. It need’s a ton of discipline, not to mention perhaps a bit of psychology to help avoid the typical biases inherent in all of us. Even when we think we are doing well, we might not be. Stats has been traditionally a subject avoided on the Leaving Cert – even higher LC maths. So ,where it is, in third-level science courses, is probably the best place.

      Plus, I guess there is a foundation about science that secondary does well – and yes, it’s probably the tables of the elements and the basic reactions and the law of gravitation etc. It drives interest and from there you can do more and get more involved in the whole thing.

      Nevertheless, I can’t even begin to sing the praises of the Young Scientists and their teachers. They do more to promote science than anyone, and for that they deserve our respect.

  2. That was a fascinating program.

    I’m glad Paul Nurse highlighted the problem of honest misconceptions & misunderstanding (no genes in my food, thank you) that many non-scientists can fall for. Even people who try to keep informed can be badly led astray by poor science journalism or simply failing to spot a denialist.

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