Foreword to Andrew Montford’s Nullius in Verba: The Royal Society and Climate Change
Andrew Montford provides a straightforward and unembellished chronology of the perversion not only of The Royal Society but of science itself, wherein the legitimate role of science as a powerful mode of inquiry is replaced by the pretence of science to a position of political authority.
The simple chronology speaks for itself, though one cannot read it without thinking, at least, about the motivations. Already in the 19th century, gentleman scientists, like Darwin, noted the potential constraints on scientific inquiry that were associated with functioning within universities. The potential in recent years is obviously magnified by the near monopoly over science support exercised by governments. In the US, our National Academy of Science (NAS) has always had official status as adviser to the government. However, the role was relatively passive until the 1970s.
The 1970s saw a marked expansion of the National Research Council, the branch of the National Academy of Science responsible for responding to government requests. With the presidency of Frank Press (1981-1993), the staff of the NRC increased to over a thousand. Frank often boasted that The Royal Society was envious of the position of the NAS and the existence of its NRC. The global warming issue, it would appear, has offered The Royal Society the opportunity to rectify this situation.
Nevertheless, there are certain peculiarities of The Royal Society’s behavior that are perhaps worth noting. The presidents involved with this issue (May, Rees and Nurse) are all profoundly ignorant of climate science. Their alleged authority stems from their positions in the RS rather than from scientific expertise. This is evident in a variety of ways.