In the Eye of the Storm: The autobiography of Sir
John Houghton with Gill Tavner
Bookshop £9 (Use code CT127 )
MISCONCEPTIONS and ignorance still stalk through the public's
perceptions of science in our modern world. The illusion, for
example, that scientists deal only with factual certainty, or that
they pursue their work alone in sterile labs, is part of the image.
Even worse, perhaps, is the assumption that all scientists are on
an atheist mission to rid the world of religious faith and belief,
fuelled among many Evangelical Americans by the suspicion that the
theory of Darwinian evolution is part of a plot, a conspiracy, to
Sir John Houghton, by telling his own story, deftly puts the
record straight. In the Eye of the Storm focuses mostly on
his incredibly busy professional and scientific career as director
general of the Meteorological Office (balancing the intrinsic
uncertainties of weather forecasting while wading through the
treacle of bureaucracy), as founding member of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and as a tireless
campaigner for the truth.
He is non-political, and passionately concerned that society
should understand the evidence for global warming, and the part
that humans play in it. Team work - which he clearly enjoys - has
been the hallmark of all his research.
Houghton's scientific research spans an immensely important
period in the history of science: the development of space
technology and the exponential growth of computing power have
transformed what we can do in seeking to understand the workings of
planet Earth, its weather systems, and global climate.
He reveals himself to be equally adept when working with a team
designing an experiment such as the "Selective Chopper Radiometer"
as he is at steering difficult meetings of the IPCC to find the
right balance of words, in statements meant for public consumption,
about global warming. He is appalled, incidentally, by the
dishonest lobbying methods of some climate-change deniers.
Explaining his belief in God, he writes that he has always found
the analogy that God is the fifth dimension helpful. "I was baffled
that science and faith are so often seen as contradictory."
The Revd Adam Ford is a former Chaplain of St Paul's School
AFTER giving up church ministry, having been a priest for 16
years, Mark Silversides read Richard Dawkins's The God
Delusion. His experience of church was different from the view
expressed in the book, and so he decided to get to grips with
Dawkins's views, and, using his analysis as a starting-point, to
ask what is the place of Faith in the Age of
Science. He concludes that there is such a place (Sacristy
Press, £9.99 (£9); 978-1-908381-04-0)