JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Royal Society that serves The Government does not serve The People

Paul Homewood follows the money to find Royal Society funding.

(Figures are rounded)

Even if we acknowledge that most of the money goes straight to research, there is a slab of money that goes straight to the Society:

So government funding (Parliamentary Grant in Aid) amounts to 67% of total income. Similar amounts have been fixed for a 5 year period to allow the Society to plan ahead properly. It is also worth noting the income generated from commercial activities, such as investment income and publications.

Government money is channelled through the Dept of Business, who insist that it is allocated to specific projects and programmes. Most of this is therefore paid out by the Royal Society in the form of research grants etc. However in 2010/11 £2,265,000 was allocated to “Support and Central Expenses”, in other words overheads costs.

Homewood goes on to list the surprisingly high salaries on the gravy train. Since 2005, the number of employees earning more than  £60000 pa has jumped from three to 10. If some of the salaries depend on the river of climate money, then that’s a fairly strong incentive to search for a crisis.

But even the money that goes to the researchers can influence the Society. Who wouldn’t want to be The One deciding which projects get funded and which do not? Who would not want to be wined and dined, or at the very least, treated with warm handshakes and beaming smiles? Those holding the purse strings become somewhat immune from public criticism — at least from any scientists who fancy their chances at being given a grant. There is a status and exulted nature about being the gate-keeper, not least, because you can also direct the money stream to projects that will foster, perpetuate,  and escalate that money flow…

I’m not saying anyone is behaving badly “because of the “funding”. But that the Royal Society is clearly not “independent”. Where is that last true science association funded only by members, with issues decided by a vote from most members?

Andrew Montford has done the thorough study of just how bad things have got.

H/t: Thanks Fred Singer

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44 comments to The Royal Society that serves The Government does not serve The People

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    John from CA

    Isn’t the Royal Society similar to the Royal Navy in the sense that its mandated?

    However, it doesn’t excuse its recent political bent.

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    Anton

    Bob May is an Aussie and was a prof at Sydney Uni early in his career.

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    Rereke Whakaaro

    I don’t know if this applies in Australia, but in Britain, Members of the Royal Society are usually the first people approached for a “professional opinion” at Ministerial level.

    Members of the Society are invited to sit on lots of Government advisory committees (for which they get an honorarium).

    Their opinions carry a lot of weight, primarily because nobody else on the committee has enough specialised knowledge to seriously question them. This gives them a disproportionate degree of power in matters of policy, and therefore in the ultimate allocation of funding.

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    Jon at WA

    Two members I spoke to, would not discuss Anthropogenic warming.

    A Royal Society with an addiction for salary increases and a burgeoning administration appears to be a comfortable home for rent-seekers.

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    pattoh

    RW

    That is a good model for a short “positive” feedback loop.

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  • #

    To quote from President Eisenhower’s farewell address on 17 JAN 1961: “…research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

    The process is known as Lysenkoism.

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  • #
    Bruce of Newcastle

    Tony Thomas has a comprehensive article on the Australian Academy of Science this week in Quadrant.

    As bad as the Royal Society. Worse even.

    My conclusion: that building is a flying saucer.

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  • #
    Jim Stewart

    Spot on post and Title.
    Since being formed in 1660 and then weaned onto Government funds in the 1850′s the Society has been ‘outgunned’ by the DIY’s giants in the doing class.
    Abraham Darby (Metalworker)- produced first quality steel in 1709 using coke (coal) and iron ore. Saved forests from depletion for charcoal production.
    Thomas Newcomen (Iron Maker) – Developed the first energy source – the steam engine. The first engine driving a beam pump to dewater a coal mine in 1712. [James Watt (Instrument Maker) made this engine much more efficient in 1763 and also invented the cetrifugal governor to control the engine output].
    John Harrison (Carpenter) – Invented a clock in 1720′s that kept time to within one second in a month, ‘Rolex of the day’. He also solved the problem for seafarers finding their longitude position which made world travel (and safe return) possible.
    Michael Faraday (Bookbinder) – Discovered rotation effects of electrical energy in the 1820 and 30′s so allowing the development of electrical motors and generators.
    Charles Hall / Paul Heroult – Invented the Aluminium Smelting cell in their ‘backyards’ simultaneously (coincidently both died in the same year,1914).
    Henry Ford (Machinist) – Motor car inventor, 1896 first drive. What freedom he gave to modern man & woman.
    Wright Brothers (Bicycle Makers) – Developed the airplane and flew for the first time in 1903. Taking humans to the sky.
    Einstein (Teacher and Technical Assistant) – When, in his spare time, he did his most renarkable work.

    Summary – Clear lessons for governments to be very careful in funding ‘research’ or in ‘picking winners’ of worthwhile developments.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting on them learning however.

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  • #
    David Cooke

    It’s sad, considering the Society’s long history and the bright reputation it once had. In time all institutions seem to become corrupted and diverge from their original goals, and perhaps there should be a process of winding them up and establishing a replacement every (say) 200 years.

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    J.H.

    So the Royal Society is nothing but prepaid Government Propaganda to “scientifically” justify political policies on demand…….. It’s sad how we have allowed Bureaucracy to undermine our Western Democracy. That we allow a Socialist Bureaucratic elite to replace knowledge with ignorance, facts with fictions.

    Lysenko-ism in my time…. Sometimes I can scant believe it.

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  • #
    Kevin Moore

    O.T.

    Countdown to Venus Transit – 1 day, 19 hours,…

    Watch it live.

    http://venustransit.nso.edu/live.html

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    KeithH

    As an older Australian, the corruption by Government policy-driven agendas through funding control and grants allocations of once great and well-respected organisations such as the Australian Academy of Science, CSIRO, BoM and other institutions has been one of the saddest outcomes of promotion of the CAGW myth. I believe that many genuine members of these bodies are suffering by having through financial necessity to remain silent at the trashing of genuine research with the garbage now emanating under the guise of “real science” from some of the warmistas pushing their alarmist nonsense. I hope to live long enough to see some of them brought to justice or at least publicly exposed and shamed if only for the damage they have caused to science and gullible young minds! I once used to joke that if a government could impose a tax on the air we breathe and dumb down enough of the population into not only accepting it but some actually asking for it, they would have achieved the ultimate fiscal con. Credit where dubious credit is due, Gillard, Swan Combet & Co., the Greens and so-called Independents have finally done it!!

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    Lucky Blue

    John Harrison inventor of the accurate clock which was crucial in navigation-
    There was a prize for the invention. The Royal Society gave Harrison much praise but squabbled over giving money, some members may also have been contenders. After 35 years of struggle on the clock Harrison got his prize money only after a petition to King George III.

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  • #
    Owen Morgan

    Am I right in thinking that the dreadful Steve “Call me Steve” Jones, student of snails, is now a member of the Royal Society, having bought his way in with his ridiculous report for the Ministry of Information (or the “BBC”, as it prefers to be known)?

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    Stacey

    The Right Royal Society has so so much money but so so little time to respond to little ol me.
    I just pointed out that Nurse had broadcast an untruth on the BBC. Man made CO2 emissions SEVEN times those of naturally occurring emissions.
    No reply, even when reminded, how corrupt is that?
    Nurse should return his Noble Prize at which time I will willingly award him Nobhead of the year. For his contribution to the advancement of ignorance.
    No climate change science crooks were injured in the making of this post and none should feel threatened. :-)

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    Turnedoutnice

    Now they have elected Eugenicist Paul Erlich, they have gone for broke; they have become the core of a new Nazi cult.

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    Joe's World

    Jo,

    Interesting how scientists see they have made absolutely no errors.
    They choose to ignore anything which may burst their bubble and defend what is ridiculous.
    All backed by government funding…
    Seems like a vicious circle that the general public is not allowed in but is dictated as to what is in their best interest. Even though it is usually in the best interest of the politicians alone and NOT the public.

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    Bruce D Scott

    Thank you for an informative, accurate and honest article Jo, with which I fully agree. So far, I have not visited this site and not left encouraged by yourself and most, but not all contributors, so, once again, thank you.

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  • #
    Stacey

    Dear Jo

    Is there a reason my comment is awaiting moderation?

    S

    ———————

    Stacey: Unfortunately since the changeover, where 100,000 comments went Awol, and because the cheque from Exxon still hasn’t arrived, we have not got all the comments sorted out, and many new ones are going through moderation when they don’t need to be. Thanks for your patience (to all delayed commenters). — Jo

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    Anton

    “The Royal Society that serves The Government does not serve The People.”

    Indeed Jo. Another relevant comment in view of that pie chart is “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

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    Rereke Whakaaro

    Isn’t the Royal Society similar to the Royal Navy …

    Yes, good point. If and when they are attacked, they tend to form a defensive line, and deliver broadside after broadside.

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    Joe V.

    Wasn’t Lysenkoism the Soviet Government bigging up the achievements of a peasant , to show what the individual worker could achieve ?
    .
    Quite apart from that the achievement was entirely mistaken, that seems somewhat different to what Eisenhower was warning of, if I’m not mistaken.
    .

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    handjive

    Excellent expose by Thomas.

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    cohenite

    Combet relies on the AAS to push the government position, particularly AAS’s 2010 report on the climate which is analysed here.

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    brc

    Indeed, everyone knows children of rich parents who are idle, lazy and produce nothing but complaints and hot air.

    Any individual who has the basics for their existence supplied irregardless of output tends to come up with foolish schemes and activities with which to fill in their time. Many are money losing.

    There is no reason that any institution would behave differently. At a minimum, institutions with government funding should be on short contracts for that funding, and if they can’t prove how they are fulfilling their mission, the funding should be cut or reduced.

    But then, the government are just using these societies and brand name-scientific thinkers to justify their own schemes. It’s a terrible feedback loop – the government supports the institution while the institution backs the government. And they both conspire to pick the pocket of the people who are actually producing.

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    brc

    Small correction – Ford didn’t invent the motor car, he adapted production line techniques to the construction of motor cars.

    Most sources give the invention of the car to Karl Benz, when he built the first car in 1885, which went on sale in 1888. Similarly, Gottlieb Daimler also fitted his engine to a motorbike, stagecoach and boat. They formed separate companies, and eventually merged in 1926 to become Daimler Benz, the makers of Mercedes Benz.

    Henry Ford was a relative latecomer to the automobile game – but he did go on to revolutionise the industry.

    But your original point stands. Not one penny of government money went into the development of these machines.

    In fact, the history of government invention is very sparse indeed. About the only acceleration of development from governments is caused by wartime funneling large amounts of capital into private R&D, and fast-tracking promising inventions. None of which occur outside of wartime.

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  • #

    Nice to see John Harrison get a mention.

    While this may seem off topic, and trust Tony to be going off topic yet again, but it does have a link back to The Royal Society.

    We here in Australia owe a large vote of thanks to The Royal Society, That Royal Society had a couple of fingers in the pie that led to the discovery of Australia by Lieutenant Cook. In 1766, they commissioned newly promoted Cook to lead a voyage to the South Seas to observe the transit Of Venus across the face of the Sun. (incidentally, happening again, right now and see Kevin Moore’s comment 11 below here)

    As part of this voyage, Cook was also tasked by The Royal Society to test Harrison’s new version of his clock, the H4. (later referred to as the K1) This clock was immensely important, as its perfection solved the nemesis of sailing travel, Longitude. Cook was tasked to use this clock exclusively, and by using this clock, his exploration and mapping of new discoveries could be detailed with an absolute accuracy.

    This clock was a miniaturisation of Harrisons earlier models, and when I say miniaturisation, it was still five inches across and weighed one and a half kilos, so it was not your average pocket watch, but more a superbly accurate marine chronometer.

    When Cook discovered Australia this new clock enabled this discovery to be accurately mapped and then placed onto the existing maps in its right place.

    When Cook got back to England, Harrison was lauded and finally accepted. From his clock, we now have Longitude, and because Harrison was English, Navigation became based around Greenwich, hence GMT. Harrison was awarded the prize for his discovery of the solving of Longitude, this prize worth £20,000, and while that sum may not mean much, its value in today’s dollars is $12 Million.

    Shameless link I know, but the owner of the site I contribute at asked me to run up a series on early Australia for readers, mainly based then in the U.S. As part of that series of the discovery and settlement of Australia from May of 2008, I made a Post about Cook and in it mentioned this Harrison Clock and I’m only including because I have an image of that clock that Cook used. That Post is at the following link.

    Australia (Part Two) Germ Of An Idea

    Tony.

    POST SCRIPT ONE: For those with an aroused interest in the story of Harrison and his watches, there is a wonderful book (albeit short at only just less than 200 pages) titled Longitude written by Dava Sobel.

    POST SCRIPT TWO: Shameless of me again, but for non Australian readers here at Joanne’s site, The following link is to that five part series on the discovery and early settlement of Australia. Not much here for Australian readers though, because er, you already know all this. Nyuk nyuk nyuk!

    Australia, Discovery and Early Settlement

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  • #
    Philip Bradley

    Lysenko was a fraud, but recent research has shown some acquired characteristics can be inherited.

    And of relevance,

    Almost alone among Western scientists, John Desmond Bernal, Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society, made an aggressive public defense of Lysenko and some years later gave an obituary of ‘Stalin as a Scientist.’

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  • #
    DavidH

    Another site of interest about the transit: http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/

    I have downloaded the app for Android (also exists for iPhone) and will be using it to time the ingress and egress (weather in Sydney permitting … and the forecast isn’t all that promising).

    The site has a feature to give you the transit timings for any location – see “Where and when” on the main menu bar -> local transit times … but it didn’t work when I tried it just now (maybe the corporate firewall at work?). From memory, in Sydney it starts at 08:16 (interior ingress at 08:34) and ends at 14:45 (interior ingress 14:14).

    Make sure you only use proper solar viewing filters or “glasses” to view the sun. The solar viewing “glasses” must only be used “directly”, i.e. don’t put them on and then look through binoculars – you’ll burn a hole in the plastic … and then your eye.

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    Rereke Whakaaro

    Of course.

    It is always the conjurer’s assistant who actually does the trick. The conjurer’s job is to keep the audience distracted whilst the trick is performed. In this case Combet is the conjurer, and the AAS is a more than willing assistant.

    People really do need to learn to ignore the politicians – they are only talking heads, and mostly empty heads at that. The real power lies behind the thrown.

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  • #

    Oh Rereke, that is really clever.

    If I may add to your last sentence with, in brackets (Out of Office)

    Tony.

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  • #

    Cook tested the K1 clock on his second voyage (1772-1775), not the one you are talking about (1769-1770). He never had that clock when he landed in Australia and mapped its coast.

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    pattoh

    Tony

    Have you read Kenneth McIntyre’s “The Secret Discovery of Australia”?

    It has some informative stuff on early navigation & the development of map projections.

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    Kevin Moore

    Tony

    Another interesting piece -

    The Admiralty’s orders for Cook to have a Captain Cook westward.

    BEGIN TRANSCRIPT
    Secret
    By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain & ca. Additional Instructions for Lt James Cook, Appointed to Command His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour. Whereas the making Discoverys of Countries hitherto unknown, and the Attaining a Knowledge of distant Parts which though formerly discover’d have yet been but imperfectly explored, will redound greatly to the Honour of this Nation as a Maritime Power, as well as to the Dignity of the Crown of Great Britain, and may tend greatly to the advancement of the Trade and Navigation thereof; and Whereas there is reason to imagine that a Continent or Land of great extent, may be found to the Southward of the Tract lately made by Captn Wallis in His Majesty’s Ship the Dolphin (of which you will herewith receive a Copy) or of the Tract of any former Navigators in Pursuit of the like kind, You are therefore in Pursuance of His Majesty’s Pleasure hereby requir’d and directed to put to Sea with the Bark you Command so soon as the Observation of the Transit of the Planet Venus shall be finished and observe the following Instructions. You are to proceed to the Southward in order to make discovery of the Continent abovementioned until’ you arrive in the Latitude of 40°, unless you sooner fall in with it.
    But not having discover’d it or any Evident sign of it in that Run you are to proceed in search of it to the Westward between the Latitude before mentioned and the Latitude of 35° until’ you discover it, or fall in with the Eastern side of the Land discover’d by Tasman and now called New Zeland……

    http://foundingdocs.gov.au/resources/transcripts/nsw1_doc_1768.pdf

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  • #
    Ross

    There was a program on NZ TV recently, in a series covering great Australian discoveries about Jim Frazier and his development of the Frazier photographic lens.
    It was a real battle for him
    ( battling the scientific establishment) and it reminded me so much of the sceptic’s battle with the AGW theory.

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  • #

    Kevin,

    what an amazing document.

    It might actually seem that the Transit of Venus could have been an early version of, “hey, look over there. Isn’t that Britney Spears?”

    Great find. Thanks!

    Also, something I find very interesting was the byplay between Britain and France a few years later.

    The English were up to their necks in the U.S. contretemps, and, now forbidden to use Virginia, Maryland and Georgia as a dumping ground for convicts, almost 60,000 of them over 58 years, they needed somewhere new. While that first fleet to Botany Bay was two years in the making, there must have been some sense of urgency, as the French had tasked the Comte de LaPerouse to set sail on a voyage of discovery of the south as well, also specifically tasked with visiting the Continent Cook had discovered.

    Now, even though there were no communications in those days, I seem to think that there was a sense of urgency as Command implored Phillip to, er, make sure he got there first before he even left.

    Phillip was commanding the whole 11 ship fleet from Sirius, and in Capetown, he transferred across to the smaller and speedier Supply for the run to Botany Bay, and that’s the odd bit. He then effectively deserted his full command, the whole fleet, and took off alone.

    They made it to Botany Bay on the 18th January, and the rest of the fleet straggled in over the next four days, and keep that four days in mind. When the second ship arrived a day and a half later, Phillip left them there and scouted further north and found an inlet Cook charted, but did not enter. This Phillip explored and hence we have Sydney Cove in that now famous Harbour.

    Phillip then went back to Botany Bay and when all the ships had arrived by the 22nd January, that four days later, he made to move everything to the Cove. There was a huge storm and nothing could move out into the Ocean, so they stayed at Botany Bay for a further two days. On the 24th January as Phillip was now starting the move to the Cove Laperouse sailed up and they all met together.

    Luckily, Phillip had indeed got there first.

    Laperouse gave his journals to Phillip, as he (the Frenchman) was going to continue his voyage. Those journals were taken back to England aboard Sirius, and that also may have been lucky as well, because after leaving Phillip, Laperouse was never seen again. Luckily his journals described this visit indelibly proving that indeed Phillip had got there first.

    So, it seems that the First Fleet, altruistically a voyage to settle a new land, may indeed have been a bit of a race, one that Phillip, fortuitously won.

    I wonder if spy networks were in play even as far back as all this.

    Everything does seem to be based around Intelligence gained.

    Tony.

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  • #
    Kevin Moore

    Tony

    The fact that Cooks orders were sealed and not to be made known until after the Venus observation was it would seem to avoid a rush from other quarters. The Rothschilds surely would have sensed the necessity for secrecy and the urgency through their intelligence network.

    I couldn’t help having a chuckle when I read this -

    13 APRIL: The Endeavour anchors in Tahiti. Here the seamen set about building Fort Venus, having a rest, enjoy the good weather, trade and become friendly with the locals (especially the women – Banks and Monkhouse even have a duel over one woman, and both miss).

    http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/culture_gallery/explorers/captaincook4.html

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    Rereke Whakaaro

    Thank you for noticing. Most of my puns go unnoticed.

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  • #
    Rereke Whakaaro

    Oh, and for the removal of doubt, I was not thinking of being thrown out of office, but rather being thrown as in clay being moulded into an empty vessel.

    Sorry, it is the way my mind works.

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  • #

    Aha! Robbo,

    how right you are.

    I have just re-read the relevant parts in the Sobel book, and I was indeed wrong. It was Cook’s second voyage when he used the K1, a copy of H4.

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    Sometimes, history becomes muddled, and this time, I am the offender.

    Tony.

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    Anton

    Steve Jones is a serious geneticist who uses snails as genetic models simply because they comprise relatively immobile populations. His 1991 Reith lectures on genetics and his subsequent TV series In The Blood were also lucid expositions of science for the layman. However he knows less about global warming than anybody with a degree in physics, and I regret his hubris in the report to which you refer.

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    Gee Aye

    Steve actually threw in the serious part of his science some time ago, mainly in response to his work not getting funded, to pursue popularising science. For many years late last millenium, he attended popgroup meetings just for the socialising and contacts and sat up the back writing his books.

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