Being a scientist in the early 21st century is a pretty sweet deal.
Long gone is the era when men in white coats would spend their days behind-the-scenes in labs, dutifully working on their field in obscurity. The scientists of today are something halfway between a rockstar and a prophet.
They are celebrities in their own right, and benefit from all the perks that go with that: money, fame, public adulation, and more. The media hangs on their every word and takes anything they say as gospel truth – even if they stray wildly outside their area of study.
And nobody exemplifies this better than the media darling himself, Trinity College Professor Luke O’Neill. Which is why we see articles like the following from the Independent:
“Standing at a crossroads on climate change fixes,” by Luke O’Neill
In the piece O’Neill states:
“Yet again, a stark picture is painted on the lack of progress when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, which is essential to decrease global warming…To avoid the temperature increase, the world has to reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050-55.”
Now, needless to say, Luke O’Neill is entitled to his opinion on climate change, or any other topic. But it’s interesting that the Independent would specifically seek out his view on this issue, when he has absolutely zero background in the climate field.
O’Neill is, as we know, an immunology professor. He studies diseases and the human immune system for a living. And so it was at least understandable why we would see him on the airwaves during a public health issue like Covid.
Climate change, on the other hand, is a totally different story. An immunologist is no more qualified to speak authoritatively about climate science than any randomer on the street. Luke O’Neill saying “Climate change is a serious threat and here’s what we should do about it” is, for all intents and purposes, some random guy’s personal opinion.
And yet, media outlets like the Independent will take that opinion deadly seriously, and imbue it with enormous weight in an article, simply because Luke O’Neill is a kind of scientist – as if “science” was a single, monolithic thing, and all people who study an area of it know what they’re talking about on every issue.
After all, we have good reason to question O’Neill’s knowledge on this topic.
In 2020, he penned a book entitled “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Science: A Scientist’s Guide To The Biggest Challenges Facing Our Species Today.” This wide-ranging tome discussed everything from Covid-19, to gender, to climate change, addiction, euthanasia and more.
In the book, O’Neill expressed the view that if we don’t get our act together vis-à-vis CO2 emissions, the earth may end up resembling the planet Venus:
“The planet Venus illustrates what can happen when there is a runaway greenhouse effect. CO2 levels built up in the atmosphere millions of years ago, coming from rocks and soil. The warming of the planet led to more CO2 being released until eventually the atmosphere was 96 per cent CO2. This led to a surface temperature of 462 ºC and all of the surface water boiling off. The earth is heading in a similar direction. Have we the willpower to stop it? Might we reach what is called a ‘tipping point’? This is where climate change starts to accelerate to such a point that it becomes irreversible.”
In other words, the precise opposite of what O’Neill said.
Moreover, it’s not even been established for certain that Venus ever had surface water. That’s a point of speculation which is still debated – according to one climate model from 2021, Venus never could have had oceans at any stage.
So for O’Neill to declare this as if it was a categorical fact is simply not borne out by the evidence.
Finally, he says that this kind of global warming is “irreversible.” Yet scientists now believe that the earth once had a Venus-like atmosphere at one stage, and now it doesn’t anymore, showing that such a state is reversible.
That’s at least three major mistakes in just one short paragraph.
In the same book, O’Neill asserts that there is no such thing as a “female” brain or a “male” brain, and that any perceived personality differences between men and women are merely cultural.