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Clive James: I’m Not Sure I Trust This Science Rock Star

Clive James, The Daily Telegraph

The floppy hair and multiple bared teeth of Brian Cox don’t convince Clive James

Floppy-haired deep thinker: Brian Cox’s smile ‘sometimes switches itself on for no reason, like a refrigerator door loose on its hinges’ 
Professor Brian Cox has been all over the BBC channels recently. The Beeb’s Face of Science, he smiles too easily for my taste, but he probably isn’t interested in my taste. He pulls in the youngsters, to whom his signature visual signs of black t-shirt, floppy hair and multiple bared teeth (did I mention his smile?) spell not just scientific deep thinker, but rock star.

Fronting Science Britannica on BBC Two, Professor Cox visited the Royal Society and Bletchley Park in his quest for examples of the scientific method. Finally he dropped in on the Royal Institution, where he and the editor of Nature puzzled together, but not very hard, over how there has come to be an “overwhelming scientific consensus” favouring the concept of dangerous man-made global warming.

Neither of them asked what kind of scientific consensus it was if, say, Freeman Dyson of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies declined to join it. Isn’t the overwhelming scientific consensus really just a consensus between climate scientists, and therefore no more impressive than the undoubted fact that one hundred percent of gymnasium attendants believe that regular exercise is vital to longevity?

But hey, the smiling Professor (the smile sometimes switches itself on for no reason at all, like a refrigerator door loose on its hinges) might be right, and certainly seems so when backed up by so much institutional power, including the power of the BBC. He might care to remember, though, that two of his predecessors in the Top Beeb Boffin role – Nigel Calder and David Bellamy – have never been allowed back on the air since they failed to join the chorus about the dangers of global warming. For now, however, he is in tune with the times: safe, as it were, for as long as disaster threatens.

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