Tom Switzer, a scientific illiterate

By June 6, 2017Australian Politics

I am getting sick of this. It seems that recently, every time Switzer writes something for Fairfax it is getting more moronic. In his first piece, I thought he was attempting comedy when he extolled the virtues (?) of Tony Abbott as PM and his expected return once Turnbull achieves the required number of disappointing opinion polls1. In his second piece, he then bemoaned the budget delivered last month by Scott Morrison, which was perceived as less unfair and less bloodthirsty that the laughable bungle of the 2014 Hockey cockup, and actually had the courage to raise taxes on banks (although they are never called taxes, but, um, levies), and not screw the less well off as Switzer would have preferred2. Switzer’s grasp of modern economics seems to be limited to the drivel he gleans from the IPA. Maybe he should stick to history (he has a BA [hons]), or international relations (MA) as he is completely out of his depth in economics. If he wasn’t so economically out of touch, he would realise that the days of trickle-down economics are over, and the days of moving cash from the working and middle classes to the wealthy are finished3,4. People will not take it any longer and it has to change. The pendulum has swung too far away from labour to capital. It now must swing back again.

Switzer’s latest piece reinforces my belief that he should stick to what he knows. Part of the problem with Switzer is that he writes stuff and Fairfax publishes it, perhaps because they are perceived to require a conservative somewhere to argue against reality. As a consequence, he thinks he can do no wrong. Hubris follows. However, in this latest effort, he states “In Europe, climate change has become a fundamentalist religion, with Paris as its article of faith. The adherents of this new faith want the Americans on trial because their leader has blasphemed. … Domestic energy production, especially natural gas and oil, is imperative to reviving growth and lifting wages, especially in energy states”. The first two sentences of this are ridiculous, and the last sentence looks like it was written 30 years ago.

As a professional scientist, it is clear to me that Switzer has not the slightest understanding of science. If he did understand it, he would know that it is a process which is always refining, doubting and challenging itself, and in which it is impossible to perpetrate a conspiracy involving more than a couple of people for any length of time. That is because science is the ultimate democratic process. Someone puts up an hypothesis, and everybody in that field, in any country, has the opportunity to kick it to death by making observations or doing an experiment. If these results confirm the original hypothesis, then it lives to undergo another test. If they are contrary to the results predicted by the original hypothesis, then that hypothesis is either modified to take account of the new results, or it is jettisoned and a new hypothesis developed.

Climate change deniers would normally amuse me if the situation wasn’t so dire. One of the questions I usually ask them is ‘which parts of science do you ‘believe’ in?’ Do they believe in Evolution? Do they believe in Radioactivity? Do they believe in Relativity? If they say they do, then I ask them why? Never have I had one of them answer the latter question. This is because they know what the answer is: ‘because that’s what the scientific consensus says’.

In human behavioural psychology, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality, as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. The motivations and causes of denialism include religion and self interest (economic, political, financial) and defence mechanisms meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally disturbing facts and ideas5. That sort of attitude is anathema to science, as disturbing facts and ideas are its lifeblood. If only Switzer understood that.





  • Jon says:

    It’s an unfortunate fact that Fairfax attempts to assuage ludicrous claims of “lefty” bias by employing lightweights like Switzer and Vanstone to provide conservative perspectives. This suggests two things: (1) there is a dearth of reasoned, reasonable and unblinkered conservative commentators; and (2) Fairfax is having a lend of its readers.

    • admin says:


      It is probably both. Switzer is hubris personified, whereas Vanstone is just out of her depth. I remember years ago, Howard asked why there weren’t right wing ‘Phillip Adams’-like commentators. At the time I thought it was self evident that if you were erudite and could actually think, you could not be right wing. I still think that is the case.

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