MP Thierry Baudet and TV weatherman Gerrit Hiemstra got into a row about climate change. Baudet challenged Hiemstra to a debate to resolve the matter.
Hiemstra refused, arguing: ‘There’s always debate in science, but mainstream science is actually quite unanimous when it comes to climate change. However, semi-scientific climate quacks claim the opposite and get a disproportionate amount of attention in the media.’
I have been involved in a lot of debates and have also given debating training to students, and Hiemstra’s argument disregards the first rule of debating: your aim is to convince the audience, not the opposing party. That’s why I would support this debate. An academic wrangle with scientific arguments would be wonderful. I would watch, at any rate. Whether we call it a peer review or a discussion, a vigorous debate is the only way we have for testing an idea. Now Hiemstra seems worried about defending his ideas, worries that may not be justified.
I’m actually hoping for more of a debate. In a time of fake news, scientists should engage wholeheartedly in discussions. That is how smart people can test their ideas on other smart people. I would find that useful too. The Nijmegen professor and campaigner Roos Vonk once compared intensive livestock farming to the Holocaust and called on vets to do more to serve the interests of animals. As a nutrition scientist and vet, I hereby invite her to a debate: let’s test our ideas about intensive livestock farming against one another. Perhaps I’ll stop eating meat afterwards. I hope she reads this.