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Luke O’Neill, Climate Change & The Cult of Science Worship

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.”

This is just blatant tripe. Almost everything said here is either provably wrong, or unproven speculation.

For starters, according to NASA, the blazing temperature on Venus was not caused by CO2. Rather, the hot temperature due to its close proximity to the sun caused the CO2 rise – O’Neill has the order backwards.

As seen on NASA’s official climate change website,

“Venus is closer to the sun than Earth and receives far more sunlight. As a result, the planet’s early ocean evaporated, water-vapor molecules were broken apart by ultraviolet radiation, and hydrogen escaped to space. With no water left on the surface, carbon dioxide built up in the atmosphere, leading to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect that created present conditions.”

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.

He says:

“Given that few physical differences between the male and female brain can be convincingly shown, the current view is that a gendered world will produce a gendered brain. The differences in personality and emotional intelligence are now believed to be primarily due to society as opposed to being innate. Most psychologists now agree that any differences are a result of the pink-versus-blue culture that the brains of babies and children are soaked in from the moment a parent knows the sex of the foetus.”

He also states:

“Gender has become fluid – a person’s…gender might be different from their sex.”

This is, again, outright hogwash. O’Neill’s assertion that there are few physical differences between male and female brains is simply factually untrue.

As read on Stanford Medicine’s website:

“Adjusted for total brain size (men’s are bigger), a woman’s hippo­campus, critical to learning and memorization, is larger than a man’s and works differently. Conversely, a man’s amygdala, associated with the experiencing of emotions and the recollection of such experiences, is bigger than a woman’s.”

Many more examples of such differences can be found in the article linked above, including behavioural differences from the youngest ages.

Notably, these findings were consistent with observations made in Rhesus monkeys:

“In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likeable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks.”

Unless O’Neill wants to argue that monkey society is overly “gendered” too, I’d say that’s fairly conclusive.

In fairness to Luke, he’s not the only one that this happens with. Take, for example, topical medicine specialist Professor Sam McConkey, who has been going around the media speaking about everything from climate change, to law and order surrounding cases like the tragic killing of Ashling Murphy, and more.

Again, McConkey is obviously entitled to speak about whatever he wants, but he is about as qualified to do so as my postman. His opinion on the Irish legal system is no more relevant than a professional darts player’s.

I think what people fail to realise is that lads like O’Neill and McConkey are just guys who know more than most people about one thing – namely medicine and diseases. They are not omniscient Gods who possess all knowledge in the universe.

A butcher knows all about meat. A painter knows all about paint. And a disease scientist knows all about diseases. Beyond that, they’re just regular guys.

We’d do well to remember that, and stop holding these lads up as all-knowing oracles who must be consulted on every issue.

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