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National Press Club -

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KEN RANDALL: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the National Press Club and today's National
Australia Bank address which falls this week, of course, in Science Meets Parliament Week.

It's an event now in its eleventh year organised by the Federal of Australian Scientific and
Technological Societies which is turn is celebrating its twenty-fifth year. It was formed after a
former favourite Science Minister Barry Jones told scientists in this country that they're a bunch
of wimps for not selling their work more effectively to the governments that fund them.

Well they do now sell and on a large scale. There are 80 politicians and 160 science delegates
operating in the exercise this week and our guest today, Chris Mooney, is part of that effort.

Chris is a senior correspondent of the American Prospect magazine and the author of several books
that have stirred some very useful critical thinking about science in the United States. The first
was The Republican War on Science, next Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics and the Battle over
Global Warming and, most recently, last year Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy
Threatens our Future. You probably get the flavour from the titles.

And in addition to that, to his great embarrassment, Wired magazine named him one of their 10
sexiest geeks.


Please welcome Chris Mooney.


CHRIS MOONEY: Thank you. Thank you. It's a great honour to be here and to be part of the Science
Meets Parliament event which is a truly spectacular way of bridging the proverbial two cultures of
science and politics.

At the outset of the talk, let me just say I had a 14 hour flight here and it was a real incubator
of thought for me and so I figured out what I wanted to say and I have a lot to say, but that
flight can also be an incubator of germs. I have a bit of a rough throat so please bear with me but
I think I'm going to be okay.

I wish that in the United States we did as well as you do with this event when it comes to bridging
science and politics and I'd like to start off with a little story about that.

In the year 1995 Newt Gingrich's republicans took over the US Congress and they wanted to cut
budgets, so they homed in on an office called the Office of Technology Assessment which was their
own scientific advisory office.

It had a tiny little budget, just $20 million a year. In the context of government in the US that's
nothing. It had a great reputation. It was called our quote: National Defence against the Dumb.


CHRIS MOONEY: Then you'd guess what happened, right? So they dismantled it in a stunning act of
self lobotomy.


CHRIS MOONEY: And the US congress has been defenceless against the dumb pretty much ever since
then. The dumb has been rampant.

Now a few of our representatives are actually scientists, in fairness. There's Rush Holt, he
represents Princeton, New Jersey. He's a plasma physicist. He is a five time Jeopardy winner and I
lived in Princeton for a while so - if you drive around Princeton and you see the car in front of
you, the bumper sticker says my congressman is a rocket scientist.


CHRIS MOONEY: But that's the exception. Scientists in the US congress are strangers in a strange
land. There's another one who recently retired, Vern Ehlers. He represented Michigan, and he
relates the story of actually having to dash down to the floor of Congress in order to prevent his
colleagues from killing off an appropriation for game theory research because they thought it
referred to sports.


CHRIS MOONEY: So again, there's some amusing things about the relationship between science and
politics but sadly this is not really a time for laughter. These are difficult, even painful, days
for the scientific communities in both of our countries.

And you know, I've been here for 24 hours now so I've gotten to speak with many of you and I was
also at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego just a couple
of weeks ago, which is the peak scientific in the body in the US, kind of parallel to FASTS, and
I'm hearing the same sets of concerns in both places.

Our scientists in both countries are in a bit of a crisis mode right now due to the mounting
attacks upon them. And those attacks most centrally involve the issue of global warming.

First I want to say something brief then about the science of global warming. It's very firm. We
know that humans are causing global average temperatures to rise. We know from multiple lines of
evidence and scientific bodies around the world have ratified this conclusion.

Moreover this conclusion is just as firm as any other scientific conclusion, it's reached by the
same method. So an attack on it is therefore an attack on that scientific method and the whole
edifice of scientific knowledge. So no wonder scientists are so concerned to see this happen.

They're not just concerned, they're also quite surprised because what we're seeing on climate
change represents a bit of a stunning reversal. I think we all remember just a few years ago it
seemed that consensus was building that the science was serious and that there needed to be action.
It certainly seemed like that in the US and a major U-turn then occurred and it's important to
contemplate why that happened.

There are many answers but the one that most disturbs the scientists I talk to is an event called
Climategate, and I think many of you have already heard of it but if you haven't this is the
exposure of internal emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic
Research Unit in the UK.

And then a massive campaign ensued to use what were relatively innocuous personal emails to
discredit all of mainstream climate science. And this campaign got quite a lot of traction in the
media and went on for some time and still we've living with the repercussions of that.

In this post Climategate world, it's a time for introspection within the world of science because
we really need to figure out why we didn't see this coming, we didn't think this was possible, we
didn't realise that this kind of damage could be done.

And I would argue that's only the beginning of the kind of reckonings that need to occur. I think
we need to further recognise - I wrote this book The Republican War on Science - well there's a
very new and different, significantly different, sort of war on science that's afoot right now.

It's prosecuted in a different way and it's important to understand why it differs and how it
differs in order to grapple with it. And in this war - and I'm going to call it a quote: guerrilla
war. It's a metaphor that's not mine originally but I think it actually does capture a lot of
what's going on.

We really need to understand what kind of beast we're battling against. So my talk's about all
these things, if I were to give it a title it would be Why Truth Loses: Understanding and Defeating
the New War on Science.

It's a brand new speech, as I mentioned, I wrote most of it flying over the Pacific so it's a bit
imperfect but it's been kind of in my bones for a while and it grows out of the arguments in my
other books, The Republican War on Science and Scientific America.

But it goes farther because the central message I think is this. We have to stop expecting that
somehow scientific truth is always going to win out on its own without any help. Instead we need to
focus on understanding why so often that is not the case and then figure out what we can do to
prevent that.

So in order to deliver that argument let me first take you back in time to the year 1644. What
happened in this year? Many things, among them the publication of John Milton's Areopagitica, the
famous polemic for the freedom of the press and it contains many stunning, wonderful passages that
have a kind of eternal theme.

Milton is arguing for why all opinions should be aired no matter what they are and he says of the
quote truth: let her in falsehood grapple. Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open

And these words were quoted to me recently and I know how I was supposed to feel when they were
quoted to me. I was supposed to feel stirred and moved. But instead I felt something very
different. I felt well you know, that John Milton, pretty brilliant guy but, well he was really
wrong on that one.

That's sort of the theme of the talk. I mean Milton is not quite a figure of the enlightenment but
this idea that truth will win out in an open confrontation, it will win out eventually, is really -
really epitomises the enlightenment mindset.

And another figure who's one of my intellectual heroes, I'm a history of science buff, the Marquis
de Condorcet made the argument even perhaps more clearly. Now Condorcet's not as famous as Milton
so let me introduce him a little bit.

He's a leading figure of the French enlightenment, a mathematician, a probability theorist, a
political philosopher, an atheist and the writer of a constitution during the French Revolution.
The problem was he was too close to the Girondists and the falling out with the Jacobins occurred
and the constitution fell out and so did Condorcet.

His arrest was called for. He went into hiding and he penned his great work which is called
theSketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind published in 1794 after his
death, because he had to leave his place of hiding and he was captured and found dead in his cell.

It's a passionately optimistic work. Everyone should read it. Condorcet thought we would all become
fully enlightened. He thought science would ultimately triumph over superstition and tyranny
because free inquiry and reasoned argumentation would just be impossible to keep down once there
was a means of widespread dissemination of reasoned arguments, and he focused very heavily on the
power of the printing press.

He said thanks to the printing press, these are his words: truth alone will obtain a lasting
victory. And he went further. He said science would become universally popular once we just manage
to simplify all that technical language...


CHRIS MOONEY: ...and institute universal education. He thought there would be sort of an Esperanto
universal language for science that everybody would understand.

He also thought that people would develop such powerful critical thinking skills that you would
never be able to pull the wool over their eyes ever again. They would see through all the
hucksters, there'd be no more fortune tellers, there would be no more convincing the public that
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda had a connection, that we would see through it all.

Well Condorcet's arguments made me pretty passionate when I first read them. And I don't know if
you're like me but when I get impassioned I tell people about it. So I was on the phone with my
mother and I said you know this guy Condorcet's wonderful argument about how the printing press
will ensure the triumph of reason.

And I'll never forget my mother's response. She said well he didn't know about television.


CHRIS MOONEY: And he didn't know about right winged radio and he certainly didn't know about the

So today we can recognise Condorcet's dream is just that, a dream. Only half of the US public today
accepts evolution and climate change and on the latter I think our figures are significantly worse
than yours in that regard.

So this universal public enlightenment didn't quite happen the way it was planned and yet
Condorcet's ideals, the enlightenment's ideals, have been immeasurably powerful, especially amongst

The scientific mindset, the scientific identity today, it really is premised on the idea that
you've got to keep researching. You keep putting new information in journals and that mountain of
truth continues to grow and grow and grow and there's the hope that someday the mountain will loom
so high that everybody can see it looming above everything else, and they'll finally pick it out
and identify it.

Meanwhile, and I know many in this room are stark exceptions, it has not been very central to the
scientific mindset that one must communicate and really strive to get everyone in the public to
grasp that truth and one must make sure that it gets through, that it's disseminated the right way.

Somehow the spreading is just supposed to happen. It just flies off the printing press and lodges
in minds. You just get it out there and then John Milton's logic takes over and then the truth is

In modern times I would go farther. Sometimes scientists, not always but it's happened, scientists
have even in certain cases eaten alive those amongst their ranks who excelled at communicating.
There's the story of Carl Sagan who I think is inarguably the greatest science communicator in a
generation, reached 500 million people with his Cosmos series and many more with his bestselling
books, and even the Hollywood film Contact based on his novel.

He was nominated to be member of the National Academy of Sciences in the US in 1992, which is the
sort of creme de la creme, the elite body for US science but many of his peers thought that he was
not a good enough scientist, that he was just a populariser, that he dumbed things down and he was
not able to get enough votes in order to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

So I think to some extent the scientific world today still works in this truth will win if you only
get it out there model. But the stark reality is that truth does not win when it has as many
enemies as it does on something like the climate issue. That particular truth is not going to win
without a real army of defenders because there is an army of attackers.

Let me tell you about the new war on science that is afoot. The old war - let me first distinguish
the new one from the old. The old war as I wrote about it in The Republican War on Science was top
down in the US. The Bush Government staffed with many political appointees empowered those
appointees to thwart the scientists working in government beneath them. But the political
appointees tried not to get caught, tried not to leave any fingerprints.

The central goal was the control of information, the management of information, preventing
surprises for the President in the form of the release of scientific reports that contradicted his
global warming policy for instance, surprises that might embarrass the administration.

The goal was also to run out the clock on the climate issue without having to change the policy and
the President himself sort of genially presided over it all and occasionally said well there's
debate about global warming.

And by the way let me add I understand that under the Howard Government there were similar concerns
the government scientists had been gagged or suppressed.

Now such behaviour is insidious and wrong, but it is also different from what we're dealing with
today in an important way, especially on the climate issue, and to understand what I'm calling the
new war on science we have to grasp that it's not a phenomenon of government but of media and of
the internet. It is more bottom up rather than top down and it is more nasty. It is not aimed at PR
for an administration. It is aimed at discrediting an entire body of research and knowledge.

Indeed, to really understand it you need to understand, I think, someone named Marc Morano who I
want to tell you a little bit about, and he's going to love this.

He is a conservative operative in the US, formerly a reporter for Rush Limbaugh, the most popular
of conservative radio host. He was involved in the Swift boat attacks on John Kerry during the 2004
US presidential election. He was a spokesman for James Inhofe, the representative senator from
Oklahoma who was the leading global warming denier in the US Senate and famously, in 2003,
denounced global warming as the quote: greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

Morano now runs a website called Climate Depot, exceedingly high traffic, it's a project of the
Centre for a Conservative tom... sorry, Centre for Constructive Tomorrow which is a conservative
think tank and previously in the past, although I don't know in the present, this think tank had
received funding from the oil giant Exxon Mobil.

Morano practices a particularly devastating kind of jujitsu against climate science. I mean you
really have to admire it. He blasts out all these emails. They're full of little bits of
misinformation about the science of global warming and then he goes on conservative outlets like
Fox News, spreads the word. He's a howitzer. He debates a mile a minute. He can utter 10 things
before a scientist can get out one rebuttal.

And he's proud of it. He will probably cite this speech and, you know, celebrate the credit that
I'm giving him for being so effective and he is effective. And that's the point. The scientists
have someone like that.

Morano is just one of the three big highly influential anti-climate bloggers. The others are
Stephen McIntyre of Climate Audit. His site reportedly gets about a million hits per month and he
really likes to attack the hockey stick. I don't know - if you're climate science wonks you'll know
this, it's one piece of evidence in the case for global warming but it's only one piece of
evidence, and even if you were to prove it wrong - the idea that present temperatures are higher
than anything in the last thousand years or so you would not disprove global warming, but
nevertheless they fixate on the hockey stick.

Then another one of the bloggers is Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That?, reportedly three million
hits per month. He critiques the temperature data, the temperature measurements and questions
whether the warming's happening.

Matt Ridley, a conservative political and science writer, and actually I don't believe he accepts
the science of global warming, has celebrated these bloggers as the quote guerrilla warriors of
Climategate and this is where the idea of the guerrilla war on science comes from. It's not my
phrase, it's his and he's celebrating it.

And he writes: the climate consensus may hold the establishment, the universities, the media, big
business, government, but it is losing the jungles of the web.

I completely agree, you know? In some way I admire these folks. They are extremely effective. The
quote guerrillas have huge audiences online and then they feed their attacks on the science to the
conservative media that support them, who then take the arguments fully mainstream and blow what
sometimes are minor errors way out of proportion.

That's what happened with Climategate. That's what's going to keep happening. So this is why truth

Let's go back to Milton. Is the science going to win here? Not necessarily. I think the whole setup
is a textbook example of why it may not. The quote guerrillas will keep stirring up scandals. They
will keep scoring points. They will keep getting attention.

Meanwhile there's another key factor to contend with and I'm not sure to what extent this is true
here but it's certainly true in the United States, traditional science journalism is vanishing from
the media. Traditional science journalism and jobs are vanishing.

So there's not really much counterbalance to the blogs and the ideologically conservative media
from the mainstream. If anything the blogs and the conservative media stir this up and they create
a quote story and then the mainstream covers it uncritically.

Furthermore, the quote guerrillas have another advantage. They have a simple resounding message and
the message is climate science is political and corrupt, and that message may be false but the fact
is there's not really a strong positive counter message with anything like the same resonance
that's being used to counter it.

It doesn't help, further, another reason that truth loses, climate science is deeply susceptible to
this sort of attack. It's highly complicated. It's very easy to nitpick on the edges and then claim
you've slain the entire field. It's very easy to get down into the weeds and talk about principal
component analysis which is one of the reasons they argue the hockey stick study isn't right, and
everybody's eyes glaze over, and people think well there must be something to be doubtful about,
you know, people are arguing about it. The debate must undermine the consensus, just the existence
of a debate.

It takes a lot of time and it takes providing a lot of context in order to explain why these sorts
of critiques, even if partly valid or not entirely unreasonable, do not change the big picture of
climate research. But the new media aren't really about taking a lot of time or providing a lot of

Twitter is the epitome of fast information without any context whatsoever. It's fundamentally
impossible to explain nuance on Twitter. So these attacks, they succeed at raising doubt and they
move at lightning speed, and you don't have enough hammers to swat - to hit all the nails that are
being raised up.

And meanwhile the scientists are hopelessly hobbled in trying to respond. Sometimes, as in one of
the scandals, Glaciergate, which had some substance to it, the scientists actually were flatfooted
and made a real mistake. This is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United

There was a mistake in what they said would happen to Himalayan glaciers. The passage wasn't
defensible and unfortunately the IPCC circled the wagons rather than just saying we made a mistake.
And that empowers the controversialists.

But other times scientists they don't necessarily make a mistake but they're not trained to engage
in this sort of battle. Michael Mann who's a climate researcher, and one of the scientists whose
emails were exposed in Climategate told me on the podcast that I do, and I love this quote, he
said: it's like a battle between a marine and a cub scout.


CHRIS MOONEY: It sort of is. Scientists are now starting to talk about asymmetric warfare, i.e. you
put up someone like, you know, the average scientist against Marc Morano and watch what happens.
It's not going to be pretty.

But while scientists recognise in some way that they're not quite - they don't quite know how to
fight this war, it's not clear that they're ready to take the logic to its inevitable conclusion.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego there was a press
conference because this is a matter of high concern to talk about how scientists might respond to

And I was able to ask the last question at the press conference and I inquired whether scientists
should invest in training people who will be able to counter on that level somebody like Morano and
the answer was basically we're scientists, we can't go there. We can't go there. We can't get down
in the mud.

And I agree. Scientists should be ethical. Scientists should be truthful in what they say but still
I believe that we have to put up more of a resistance than has yet been done. So in conclusion the
only question is how can things change, how can truth actually win and defeat these new tactics?

First, I think the scientific community, and this change is already starting to happen, has to
place communication front and centre. It cannot be second fiddle to research. It has to be
complimentary and a first tier priority.

That means spokespeople must be trained. They must be paid. They must be promoted. They must
perhaps be tenured and treated like professionals. This is a job, a career. It's important to do
it. It's not just something you do because you weren't good enough at the other thing.

Third, media champions and leaders should be identified. Not everyone is good at this. Not everyone
has to be. Those who are should be encouraged and, again, there should be a career trajectory for
doing that.

Fourth, there will be times when you have to take the fight to the enemy. There will be times when
you have to be putting out constant information, rapid fire responses, refuting all the lies,
staying on message. There has to be an infrastructure to do that or else it won't be done.

Fifth, and I don't even know how this will happen, there has to be some sort of attempt to really
counter the climate denial movement on the web and other movements on the web that spring up in
that way, because the web is really tying together anti-science forces in a way that they were not
able to be tied together before.

Sixth, there has to be an expectation and a preparation for the worst because it might happen, and
a realisation that there will be more issues after global warming where this same kind of problem
will arise. So we should be ready for them. We should see them coming. We should see where the
controversies are going to spring up and we should have the communication strategies ready for

So to conclude, if we might revise John Milton, I would say that rather than who ever knew truth to
lose in a fair fight, the question ought to be who ever knew a fair fight, and whatever kind of
fight it is, who ever gave up?

Thank you.


KEN RANDALL: Thank you very much Chris Mooney. I liked your French Revolution stories. It reminded
me of my favourite one from Zhou En-Lai in the mid '70s who was asked what he thought was the
lasting effect of the French Revolution, and he said it's a bit early to say yet.

Anyway, our questions today start with Simon Grose.

QUESTION: Simon Grose from Science Media. You talked about truth and war and I think there's
another quote, to speak in quotes, about truth is the first casualty in war.

I feel that there's a - I don't disagree with what you've been saying about the media and the
blogosphere and the public debate about climate change particularly globally. But I don't think
it's the main game.

The main game is politics and here we are at science meets parliament. Whatever the blogosphere
said or didn't say, the Chinese Government made its own decision on what it was going to offer at

Other countries made their own decisions about what they would offer at Copenhagen and that was the
ultimate or the latest forum where the world dealt with the science in a substantive way.

And I don't think, looking at the media - for science to look at the media is the right focus.
Science has to look at politics and the political leaders to get their outcomes.

And I believe that blaming the media, whinging about the media, being distressed about how the
media deals with science is just wasting time for scientists. And that's my thoughts. I just
thought you might want to respond to that.

CHRIS MOONEY: Well I'll respond. There's something there but there's also something not quite
right. So, what happened at Copenhagen first? If the United States had turned up Copenhagen with a
legislation that had passed our Senate and been signed by the President things might have been
different and...

QUESTION: No it wouldn't have been. China may [indistinct].

CHRIS MOONEY: But that in turn was influenced by media in our country. Public opinion and politics
go hand in hand and I don't think you can really disentangle the two. So the answer would be that
scientists should be concerned about both.

In Unscientific America, the way I divide it up is I talk about the gap between scientists and
politicians and that gets a chapter, the gap between scientists and journalists gets a chapter and
they both need to be addressed and you need bridge builders who can do it.

So I just - I wouldn't put them in boxes too much because I would say that the one influences the

KEN RANDALL: Well isn't the parallel problem with that sort of - sorry to undermine your question
Simon - that politicians themselves are so media driven that that's where it starts?

KEN RANDALL: Anyway, next question's from David Denham.

QUESTION: David Denham from Preview magazine. Chris, I was just going to disagree with what my
colleague here said, I think that the media drives politics and that's really what Ken was talking
there. They interact.

The point is that the media are the good communicators. They've been communicating all their lives.
The Lord Moncktons of this world may look at bit strange but they've been soaked in communicating,
and they're very good at it, for many years. But the - so we're not - scientists are never going to
come up with a good answer to that.

But I think the other issue to me is that human beings as a race - and I don't like to use that
word but I'm going to - we're looking at the short term all the time and the media look at what's
going to be good headlines tomorrow, what can I stir up in the next headlines et cetera, et cetera.
And how can I get elected at the next election but in all - but these things that we're looking at
now are long term effects.

And if you look at climate change - there was another one in the New York Times the other day about
the golden staph infections in hospitals being linked very closely to the antibiotics fed to the
livestocks in the US and nothing's done about it, Obama's not doing anything about it and I suspect
the same thing is happening here.

So it's something to do with the human nature that we are short term animals rather than long term
visionaries. Your comments?

CHRIS MOONEY: My comment is that you're right. Can I just lift that paragraph and put it right
here. Absolutely. It's just another reason, and I guess there's a longer list of why we don't
productively functionally handle a long term collective issue like the climate one.

And so I wouldn't disagree with you at all, but I just would say you have to - you know, you have
to work with the media that you have and you have to try as hard as you can. So everything that I
would say would still be true.

KEN RANDALL: Chris, let me ask you the next question. I think most people here would appreciate the
descriptions that you gave of some of the sceptical communicators in the United States.

We've got direct parallels to all of them actually and I probably shouldn't name names but you were
talking about somebody calling climate change the greatest hoax in history.

We've got an Opposition leader who's called it absolute crap. Well, you know, that's - and we've
got these fast talking machine gun commentators who invite people on but then just swamp them with

But you put in the Carl Sagan case to the problems within the science community. Why should they
think that getting their ideas across effectively is demeaning what they do and is there any way of
getting over that?

CHRIS MOONEY: I think that's already changing and this is the good news. I don't believe that what
happened to Sagan would happen today. I think that was a different American scientific community.

Everywhere I go and speak about this I find young scientists who say I want to learn to be a
communicator. I want to do something differently. So it was a particular kind of academic focus to
the detriment of other things that was dominant for a little bit too long and I can only speak to
the US context.

In particular I think that sometime around the 1950s and 1960s, that a modern US scientific
community establishment was formed and it was formed around, you know, scientist's jobs were to do
research and to teach and the communicators were the science journalists and that was their job.

So, you know, it wasn't seen as part of the job description and the world is very different now and
as I mentioned the science journalist is becoming a rare beast.

So an awakening is happening because of the way all the issues are going - but it's an ivory tower
thing that is becoming less and less relevant and acceptable.

KEN RANDALL: Well I suppose, you know, in that sense it comes back to what's safe to do as a
scientist these days in career terms? Does it, within the establishment, affect your prospects?

CHRIS MOONEY: It still can but I think that there's a lot of ways in which it can also be
respected. I don't think that the change of the type that I'm talking about has yet occurred.

But I think that every time you see, at a big scientific meeting, a lot of panels on communication,
you know, every time you see, within scientific departments for graduate students and science, a
media course.

These things are starting to appear. They're more and more common. Those are the signs of change
and awakening and I really believe that they're already happening.

I've been fortunate enough to teach a little bit of a course like that myself, at Scripps
Institution of Oceanography and at Caltech and I'm hoping to do it at Princeton. Just a two day
thing, you know. It's fun because, you know, I pretend to be Stephen Colbert...


CHRIS MOONEY: ...and I interview scientists about their work.

So at Caltech there was this one woman, a biological scientist and she was explaining her work and
she said we do research on mouse models and I said are they attractive?


CHRIS MOONEY: And there was another one. This was a marine scientist at Scripps who said, you know,
so such and such also effects the people living near coral reefs and I said what, the mer-people?


CHRIS MOONEY: So they've got to get used to talking in a way that doesn't throw everybody for a
loop, you know, they can't assume that people understand all of the things that they understand and
they need a - they need an elevator speech.

KEN RANDALL: The next question's from Laurie Wilson but just before - who's also into this training
business in a slightly different way, apart from his television appearances - but before Laurie
asks this question I'd just like anybody who's interested in asking a question to give us some
indication and we'll fit you into the list here somewhere. Laurie?

QUESTION: Chris, Laurie Wilson from APAC which for your information is the Australian equivalent of
C-SPAN. Barack Obama increasingly looks like a lame duck President, he's passionate about...


QUESTION: ...his health care but obviously isn't going to get anywhere with it. Do you have any hope
at all that he can achieve anything?


QUESTION: In this area at least. In the area of climate change specifically, and indeed regardless
of what he might achieve, if anything, do you think he will have the political will to pursue it?

CHRIS MOONEY: I think everybody in the US is very concerned about this. To hear you say lame duck
after what he - [Laughs]. I mean it's amazing and then there's so much time. Let's be fair. Things
can turn a lot. A lot can happen but everyone is real pessimistic right now about this.

And there's a view that the President has not put enough behind it but it was also very, very hard
- and so maybe that's why he didn't put enough behind it, and so it becomes a chicken/egg kind of

But, you know, I was - you know, when he was elected and gave the speech, you know, restore science
to its rightful place and everybody was like, global warming's solved, and I can't believe we all
thought that but a lot of people thought that.

And in fairness, on science policy, the Obama administration has done everything that I would have
called for except fix that issue, except the hardest thing. So - easier things have all been done.

KEN RANDALL: Tony Melville.

QUESTION: Tony Melville, director of the National Press Club, just a couple of questions. Just on
the communications theme, when I first started hearing about climate change, before I knew anything
about it, my hackles got up a bit when I started hearing terms like denier and sceptic.

And that sort of language, you know, put me off and I just wondered what your views about that -
use of that sort of language in this debate as I notice you haven't used it.

CHRIS MOONEY: I think I did use it. I think I used it for James Inhofe. It's sort of like at some
point they deserve the label. But at some point, you know, not all of them do and so I am not - let
me rephrase - I will use both terms. I will use them in different ways, you know, depending on
subtle variations of meaning.

I'm not against using the term denier, I don't think because I think it's a spurious argument
that's been raised that if you say the word denier you're invoking the holocaust. I don't believe

That argument has been made for not using it. I believe that it refers to the fact of the state of
being in denial, which you can be about many things such as if you're marriage is ending and that's
all, you know, it means. And you can be in denial about the science of global warming, about the
science of vaccination, about what not. So I see no reason not to use it.

Sceptic is a word that's loaded in a different way because sceptic - it invokes the idea that this
is good critical thinking but the problem is, you know, you can doubt too much and refuse to accept
firmly established knowledge, which is what's happening in this particular case.

So the sceptic, when I use it I actually put quotes on it. Denier I don't put any quotes.

QUESTION: Okay, so just to follow up as well. It's just that - just the idea of science challenging
the truth which has been your theme. We heard here Barry Marshall who won the Nobel Prize for
challenging the truth. He discredited an entire body of research and knowledge over the ulcers
which grated against enormous opposition at the time.

You know, sometimes isn't it the fact that truth changes?

CHRIS MOONEY: Absolutely. Well this is the Galileo argument although - I mean the analogy's not
quite applicable but it's sometimes used in association with well, you know. What would you - you
know, are you the Catholic Church and you're stomping down Galileo?

Basically the way in which science is done now, it is exceedingly unlikely at this point that the
body of research on climate would be overturned and in fact if it were to be overturned then the
person who did it would win their Nobel Prize.

So there's an incredible incentive to do it and you would think that if it could be done it would
be done. And so basically I would argue that while I'm not a positivist - I don't believe in - I
use the word truth. This is problematic and I don't believe in, you know, any absolute term.

I believe that the best knowledge we have is the knowledge that's been through the scientific
process many, many times and it's been looked over, picked over in that process many, many times.

And not just for an individual study being peer reviewed so it can appear in a journal. I don't
find that kind of scientific information all that reliable. Individual studies are always wrong,
overturned and misleading.

What I find reliable is when you have a lot of individual studies that come together into a body of
knowledge, and then that gets put through an assessment process. Like the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change where you bring all the experts together. Or the US National Academy of Sciences
and the national academy of sciences of other countries in the world all go over the body of
knowledge and they attribute, you know, degrees of certainty to the various propositions and so

And they do it again. They do it every five years. They're starting to get to be pretty serious
stuff at that point, and I think that's the best we can do in an imperfect world.

KEN RANDALL: Question from Maurice Riley.

QUESTION: Chris, I'd like your views about where science is going globally in terms of scientists,
you know, if you had the Republican war on science it sort of leads you to the thinking that it
would discourage the best and the brightest in the US to want to be in science.

And you've done the media guerrilla war and therefore you'd wonder whether you'd want to step up
and be in that space.

I'm just wondering whether, you know, we've seen China on the rise and we're seeing massive
investment in those parts of the world, do you think there's any serious danger that the Americas
and the wests in the future won't be the leading scientist nations?

CHRIS MOONEY: I think it's - well it's - the question is, is it a danger? I'm not sure if that's
the word I would use but it's already happening and I don't think - you know, I wouldn't want to
argue that it's a bad thing for science to be spread around the world.

I think it's a very good thing to have science spread around the world. US politicians have to
please their constituencies so they'd be aware, they've owned the fact that we're, quote, falling

And I think that last I looked, in terms of the number of science PhDs produced the US's number is
rising and is extremely high but China's on a slope that's like this and if it hasn't met - if it
hasn't hit our line it's going to hit it in the next year or something which is exactly what's
happening with the greenhouse gas emissions from China.


CHRIS MOONEY: It's interesting to think about the analogy between those two things. I don't have
anything as profound as I would like to say about the globalisation of science but I think it's an
inevitable trend.

You know, it goes back to Captain Cook, you know, getting, you know, iron tools stolen from him or
traded [laughs] with him on the beaches.

And once that happened it was just inevitably going to be the case that technology disseminated and
now it's becoming a much more - a world with much more parity in it and it's not just, you know,
science goes out from the European centre to the periphery.

There's really good science all over the place and that's just going to continue, and it might be
the case that in order to succeed in the world of global science you really have to be able to
collaborate with people in other countries and tap in and have these trans-national teams. Maybe
that's what good science will look like.

KEN RANDALL: Let's go back to Simon.

QUESTION: Simon Grose from Science Media. Let's throw up another issue where science meets politics
and rubbish happens. On the 1 March this year our government, our Federal Government, approved
imports of beef from countries like the US and Canada which formerly had mad cow disease.

On March 8 this year the Government turned around totally and started a two year process charging
Biosecurity Australia to assess the safety of beef from places like the US.

In reaction to political populist pressure from both the Conservatives in this country and the
Greens. What can you tell me about - what can you tell us about your perception of the safety of
American beef and...


CHRIS MOONEY: I can tell you I'm a coward and I'm not going to answer. I don't know. I don't know.


QUESTION: What can you tell us about the...

CHRIS MOONEY: I haven't done enough reporting on that topic.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about your perceptions of the process in America of assessing and
regulating the safety of things like your beef for, of course, your -the country's own domestic

CHRIS MOONEY: So it's tough because I'm a science journalist and I get my assignments and I go out
and do them and I do my books and I've never done this story so I'm going to - you know, so I'm
really unable to answer your question. But would I - am I 100 per cent confident? No. That's a...

QUESTION: [Indistinct]?



KEN RANDALL: You have a question in the middle?

QUESTION: Okay, Thank you. Mamet Tschuka(*) from Murdoch University. Thanks for your talk. I

I know that you talked about it a lot in your books and in your talk, you know, War on Science but
I hope that you can write the next book on how science can make a difference in the world.

And you just touched base on the globalisation of the science and what impact can that make but my
question rather I think - you touched about the communication issue and I've been actually
attending to Science meets Parliament here last couple of days, and has been great meetings for us
to find out that actually how much our policy makers needs input from our scientists.

And I think that was really surprising to me. Despite the fact that, you know, they have so many
advisors and government officers and managers and so on.

And this morning when I met with our local MP from, senator from Western Australia, first thing he
told us, you know, send us your outputs, papers. Just email anything. To me it was really

CHRIS MOONEY: Oh, you know... anything.

QUESTION: So they need any information from us that they could but then the question is then comes
I wonder, we scientists are a little bit to blame in not getting the message out to actually first
the public.

You know, we ran into this problem with the GMO issue. You know, us scientists knows that the
really main problem with the GMO is the language that we actually talk to general public and make
them understand what is it.

I think there was lack of that and the same issue in the climate change. You touched base on that.
The vocabulary that's being used. Perhaps we need to develop a way of communicating with general
public with very common language so they understand.

Then they start influencing their own MPs and local MPs and we create spiralling effect from there.
Thank you.

CHRIS MOONEY: Thank you. Absolutely. I mean I don't have the [indistinct] full optimism that we can
simplify everything and that we can really purge scientific language of all of its difficulties.
But I mean I'm glad to hear that they want your input. I think that that's really heartening and I
hope you'll continue to give it.


QUESTION: Niall Byrne from Science in Public. Chris, to extend your battlefield metaphor, there's a
danger in fighting on the opposition's battlefield. It's better to choose your own field and in
focusing on defending IPCC and those kinds of issues, are we choosing the wrong battlefield?

If you were to choose your own battlefield on which to fight would it be another area, like for
example, highlighting the local examples of climate change, going back to reminding people of the
papers? For you what would be your preferred battlefield if you had the opportunity to create one?

CHRIS MOONEY: Well absolutely and so I don't disagree with you and it's unfortunate that we've been
in a defensive posture and haven't done the defensive posture well. There will be times when there
has to be a defensive posture but you obviously don't want to be on that footing.

So then you're asking well what would be the ideal posture and one would be let's talk about the
fact that this is already happening in your back yard.

And in fact that is definitely one effective way of personalising. Anytime you want to communicate
an issue you make it relevant to the audience. That's the most obvious thing. And so if it's
relevant to your life because it's happening in a place that you live and this is likely to be an
effective communication strategy.

I think that another strategy that has been lost or at least has been pushed off of the front
burner because of the need for defensiveness is the idea - it's a different communication technique
but it's been effective I think - the idea that fixing the problem is not economically damaging but
in fact is an economic opportunity.

And that's one that I thought was getting a lot of momentum for a while until everything turned
negative again. So those are two that I think I would focus on.

In the US, for the US context, I know that - my colleague Matthew Nisbet is a communications
scholar. He's pressed two other communication angles. He believes that climate change should be
talked of as a matter of national security, bringing in a whole military theme, completely changing
the issue and also as a matter of public health. So those are two more.

He thinks those are strong rounds based upon public opinion research that has been done. I couldn't
speak in enough detail about why he thinks that but that's four different frames that...

KEN RANDALL: Yeah. Next question down here.

QUESTION: My name's Laurence McCook. I'm from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. I
wanted to - actually it segues nicely from what you were just saying because in that context I
think in terms of the scepticism about climate science compared, for example, to ulcers, it's a
matter of when science meets policy.

The question is what do you do if the climate is changing, if the climate is not changing, if
ulcers are caused by different pathologies? And I think it's that science meets policy thing that
I'd like you - to hear - discuss in the context of climate change scepticism.

What are the consequences of getting it right, the consequences of the uncertainty in terms of what
we do about it?

CHRIS MOONEY: Absolutely. Well I think that - I almost think that climate change scepticism
wouldn't exist if not for that context. I kind of believe - there's no way of proving it right now
- that if the policy issue were to be solved the scepticism would go away.

Not entirely. There'd be some people that would hold onto it but it would cease to be a live issue
because there would be no political relevance to it. I think that's what happened with ozone
depletion scepticism, which used to be a big thing. There was a lot of it. It followed many of the
same patterns then suddenly Montreal protocol, you know, issue solved, move on.

There are still people who don't think there was any problem with the ozone layer but we don't hear
from them as much anymore.

So, yeah my answer is that you can't even discuss this without thinking about the way that it's
intended to feed into the policy interface. And the way it's intended to feed into the policy
interface is it's intended to just create enough doubt that the issue is - ceases to be as high of
a priority.

It's a very simple strategy. We're not sure enough and so let's not, you know, there's a million
other things to do, so just that smidgen of doubt can be really corrosive for a policy maker who's
not, you know, or a member of the public who's not up to speed and has many, many other stimuli at
any given time. So that's how I think it plays.

KEN RANDALL: Next question's also there.

QUESTION: Daniel Price from Monash University. I just wonder if we've missed the kind of elephant
in the room here. That climate change, the debate reminds me so much of the debate about
creationism or intelligent design that I wonder if it's - deep down it's really about religious
faith and the interaction with science.

And in particular, as scientists, if we allow science to become a kind of vehicle for what is in
the end philosophy, so take new atheism which has been heavily pushed as a kind of...

CHRIS MOONEY: I think Richard Dawkins is in the country.

QUESTION: Absolutely and, you know, he's a wonderful science communicator but the response to that
kind of thing from, you know, from as you see, very much of the republicanism in America is not to
say well, yeah maybe I should think about my beliefs, it's really to then say well science must be

And I just wonder if that's really at the heart of this debate, that arguing about science is not
ever going to get you anywhere because in the end the debate's not really about science, it's about
science being used to argue a belief system which is in the end a belief system.

And the reaction to that is very strong and very swift and I wonder if we've - we just need to be a
bit more careful about explaining how science can fit in with lots of different kind of...

CHRIS MOONEY: Well it's - so climate and evolution are different and they need to be regarded as
different, and the role of outright religion in one is much stronger than in the other but I
believe that there is a political ideology that is - can be as strong as religion [laughs] that
influences the climate issue.

So then the question becomes, you know, how do you dislodge that? How do you move people who are
extremely ideological? And there I take your suggestion to be that you sometimes don't careen
straight at them because it leads to a defensive reaction and no progress.

The New Atheists don't like me because I tell them that all the time and they get very upset when I
tell them that. There's some truth to it but in terms of talking about communication, we have to
sort of segment the public and there's the knee jerk people that you're talking about.

There's the sort of - there's usually the middle ground people who can kind of either go either way
and then there's the people that are on your side and the communication strategy is to grow the
middle and move it a little bit this way. Move maybe some people from here into the middle.

So there's always, you know, there's always a reason to get your word out and to try to have at
least a little change occur and at least a little inroads happen into the most dogged ranks.

KEN RANDALL: We've got time for one more question. It's right down here in the front.

QUESTION: Anna-Maria Arabia, executive director of FASTS. Thanks for being here Chris. We really
appreciate it.

You know, I think you're right, climate change has probably sparked this fire. Coming up in
Australia this year is a review of legislation that changed what we can do with stem cells which
you'd be all too familiar with given the American experience as well.

And no doubt that will be another reason where science and ideology go head to head. So whether
it's stem cells, whether it's climate change, I think you've spoken about the role of media and
good effective science communication and the role of politics.

But in this room we've got about 150 early to mid career scientists and if you - and some very
significant business leaders - so if you have one message, a take home message to these people who
are embarking on a career that is of great substance and integrity, what would that be in terms of
being effective when science and ideology do clash?

CHRIS MOONEY: My advice would be, be ready. Some time in your career likely - I don't know about
likely. Not all of you will experience the extreme media feeding frenzy that some scientists have
to go through. It depends on what your area of research is and it has a lot to do with timing.

My second book Storm World was about the scientists who got the category five meteor hurricane
hurled at them when they published a paper saying global warming makes hurricanes worse right after
Katrina, and right after Rita and Wilma.

And so everyone was paying attention to hurricanes they came out and said it and they just - they'd
never seen anything like it. I don't think every scientist is going to have that experience with
the media.

But I think every scientist can sort of think in advance about, you know, what's the - you know,
what could happen and also just more positively how do I want to communicate.

So just be prepared. Don't make it afterthought. You know, don't leave it as an afterthought and
you will be much better off if it happens and if the bad thing happens and, you know, also you'll
be much more successful on hopefully the good thing.

KEN RANDALL: Thank you very much.


KEN RANDALL: Stay here Chris. Thank you very much. It's been a very instructive and a very
illuminating hour. Sorry you have to go back to the United States tomorrow, particularly given the
climate difference but if you get back within the next year we'd like you to come back and...

CHRIS MOONEY: Well thank you.

KEN RANDALL: ...see us as a member.

CHRIS MOONEY: Thank you.

KEN RANDALL: And thank you again.

CHRIS MOONEY: Thank you.