Christopher Booker

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Christopher Booker is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph in the UK. He also writes regular columns for The Spectator and is a long-standing contributor to Private Eye.

He is an anti-science crank with a range and depth quite astonishing for a journalist of such eminence. Possibly, his long association with Private Eye, which habitually pokes fun at The Great And Good has clouded his judgement. In seeing scientists as "establishment" figures, with their obscure language and ivory towers, he mistrusts them as a reflex reaction. While it is possible to hold plausible opinions on politics without much expert knowledge, the same is not true of science. Many deniers and cranks do not appear to appreciate this difference - Booker is certainly among them.

Contents

[edit] Climate change denial

Climate change is one of Booker's signature campaigns. He has written a book on the global warming "hoax" that a review in the Observer described as "the definitive climate sceptics' manual".[1]

The book is in fact well argued, well written and thoroughly referenced. It is also complete bollocks from start to finish. His favoured tactic is to misunderstand (being charitable) or misrepresent the sources he quotes. As with creationists, it's only if you check what the references say that the deceit becomes plain.

[edit] Creationism

Booker is a creationist of the Intelligent Design variety. He is not particularly interesting or original in his claims; he merely regurgitates a selection of favourite creationist tropes such as Darwin's "eye problem", the fossil record, etc. As usual, he reconciles this with his world view by blaming the scientific establishment that insists on the Darwinian orthodoxy and resists any challenges to its authority.

His hook for a story in the Spectator[2] was a conference that he attended on intelligent design. This was held at a secret location, with participants that were (seemingly) there by invitation only. The meeting was bankrolled by an unnamed billionaire.[3] Booker seemed unaware that the heroes of his article represented the kind of conspiracy that he habitually condemns. The scientific bodies that make up "the establishment" can at least be named and are not secretive (at least, not in the way he implies).

[edit] Asbestos

Denying the health risks posed by asbestos is a fringe activity, even for hardcore cranks. Booker rises to the occasion. Indeed, one of his most famous claims is that asbestos "is chemically identical to talcum powder".[4] It isn't, of course, but this information has not led him to a retraction or even an acknowledgement of his nonsense.

Most people would trust a professor of chemistry to know such things as chemical structure. As a member of the scientific establishment, professors are not to be trusted. Instead, Booker turns to John Bridle, who claims an honorary doctorate from the Russian National Academy of Science and a position at the University of Glamorgan, for his information. In reality, Bridle has no connection to either academic institution: he simply says he has, and he is a known fraudster.[5]

The dubious qualifications of his source have been pointed out to Booker. Facts appear to have little impact.[6] Presumably, he either thinks that a proven liar is a reliable source or he regards this as an attempt by the scientific establishment to discredit him and his source.

[edit] Second-hand smoke

Pretty much what you would expect. No evidence that it causes cancer, a cover up to hide the evidence, blah, blah.[7]

Oh, and he's a DDT nut as well.[8]

[edit] Crusading journalism

Booker is a persistent and tenacious campaigner for victims of stupidity caused by government and other forms of officialdom and bureaucracy. This is a very worthy aim and he ought to be applauded for it. However, it appears he is just as incompetent and oblivious to reality as with his anti-science crusades. In his summing up on a case where a child was taken into care, Judge Bellamy singled out Booker for criticism:[9]

Mr Booker's articles contain significant factual errors and omissions. [...] this underlines the dangers inherent in journalists relying on partisan and invariably tendentious reporting by family members and their supporters rather than being present in court to hear the evidence which the court itself hears.

[edit] Criticism

George Monbiot has been a persistent critic of Booker's nonsense.[5][10] In response, Booker has offered a robust defence of his claims, wheeling out a set of unreliable and discredited sources in his defence.[11]

[edit] Retraction

An article written by Booker with Richard North about the IPCC chief Rajendra K. Pachauri was retracted by the Sunday Telegraph on the grounds that it was a pack of lies.[12] This seems to be part of a general attack on Pachauri by climate change deniers.[13]

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The Real Global Warming Disaster by Christopher Booker, Philip Ball (formerly an editor at Nature) demolishes the book
  2. Scientists In Hiding, Christopher Booker
  3. The sleuths at Pharyngula point the finger at Walt Ruloff, the main backer for the "documentary" Expelled. No proof, but it ticks the boxes.
  4. Christopher Booker's Notebook: Billions to be spent on nonexistent risk, 13 January 2002 (he's serious)
  5. 5.0 5.1 The patron saint of charlatans is again spreading dangerous misinformation, George Monbiot on Booker
  6. Booker’s false claims (42 articles and counting) downplaying the risks of white asbestos, Richard Wilson
  7. Christopher Booker's notebook: All done with passive smoke and mirrors, 1 July 2007
  8. Christopher Booker's notebook: EU bars a malaria life-saver, 2 July 2006 (many of the common themes here, as a bonus he gets to blame the EU - another pet hate)
  9. Court decision
  10. For How Much Longer Can This Go On?, monbiot.com
  11. Carbon capture is not here yet / The Great Moonbat is the one who's spreading 'misinformation' about asbestos, 28 September 2008
  12. Dr Pachauri - Apology
  13. See, for example Climate Audit on this in a post by Steve McIntyre
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