I could have told him that

Richard Black investigates the common crank claim that science is just an old boys network designed to throw sweet, sweet grant money at their friends. Guess what? The evidence of this conspiracy is lacking.

I anticipated having to spend days, weeks, months even, sifting the wheat from the chaff, going backwards and forwards between journal editors, heads of department, conference organisers, funding bodies and the original plaintiffs.

I envisaged major headaches materialising as I tried to sort out the chains of events, attempting to decipher whether claims had any validity, or were just part of the normal rough and tumble of a scientist’s life – especially in the context of scientific publishing, where the top journals only publish about 10% of the papers submitted to them.

The reality was rather different.

The sum total of evidence obtained through this open invitation, then, is one first-hand claim of bias in scientific journals, not backed up by documentary evidence; and three second-hand claims, two well-known and one that the scientist in question does not consider evidence of anti-sceptic feeling.

No-one said they had been refused a place on the IPCC, the central global body in climate change, or denied a job or turned down for promotion or sacked or refused access to a conference platform, or indeed anything else.

Whether this exercise has conclusively disproved a bias is not for me to say – I am sure others will find plenty to say, doubtless in the courteous and gracious language that typifies climate discourse nowadays.

But I will say this; if someone persistently claims to be a great football player, and yet fails to find the net when you put him in front of an open goal, you cannot do other than doubt his claim.

Andres Millan, who wrote to me on the subject from Mexico, offered another explanation for why scientific journals, research grants, conference agendas and the IPCC itself are dominated by research that backs or assumes the reality of modern-day greenhouse warming.

“Most global warming sceptics have no productive alternatives; they say it is a hoax, or that it will cause severe social problems, or that we should allocate resources elsewhere,” he wrote.

“Scientifically, they have not put forward a compelling, rich, and variegated theory.

“And until that happens, to expect the government, or any source of scientific funding, to give as much money, attention, or room within academic journals to the alternatives, seems completely misguided.”

It’s good that he researched this and all, but frankly, it was a waste of time. It doesn’t matter what the crankery is, they’re always convinced the reason people don’t listen to their nonsense is that it’s some kind of conspiracy against them. And surprise surprise, when you actually try to make them provide evidence of said conspiracy, they can offer none. From the HIV/AIDS denialists to the cdesign proponentsists, you always see the same argument again and again. Science is a church, protecting dogma! It’s biased against us! You’re just conspiring to enrich your buddies with grant money! Blah blah blah.

You don’t need to waste any time investigating such nonsense, it’s a prima facie absurd claim.