Thursday 15 March 2018

Never argue with a chemist about conspiracy theories

Nothing to do with BBC bias, but here's a fascinating Twitter exchange between a former research chemist and a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan. The former UK ambassador to to Uzbekistan loses and then vanishes in a cloud of nitrogen triiodide

Its startling point is a Craig Murray post in which my conspiratorially-minded former-ambassadorial near namesake argues that "The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam". Former research chemist Clyde Davies read it and thought it didn't exactly hold up to scrutiny.

Here's what happened next....

Craig ByersTweet text


  1. One to throw in the mix:

    1. Yes, I'm joining you for a much-need small sherry now!

  2. Because someone doesn't post within a few hours isn't reason to claim a victory.

    Where does Clyde Davies relate his chemical knowledge of these molecules to Russia? He himself says
    "*All* molecules with the same formula have *exactly* the same properties and will exhibit the same characteristics as any other."

    That would hold true whether or not they were made in Russia!

    All Clyde Davies says about Russia is 'they have proven form'. Well that part is not chemistry. As if there are no other countries that could have made it!

    And that's the part of the jigsaw that is missing.

    He also adds

    "Then we can triangulate the motive and opportunity against the means. The motive was to send a clear message to Russians at home that opposing Putin was high risk"

    How is asserting a motive science? Given the immediate political use to which this is accusation against Putin being put, other countries could obviously have greater motives!

    You seem to be asserting victory due to a show of chemistry knowledge, that didn't actually address the question asked.

    1. You could well be right. I fell too easily for the old 'argument from authority' fallacy.


  4. Oh, and:

    “Israel has extensive stocks of chemical weapons but has always refused to declare any of them to the OPCW. Israel is not a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention nor a member of the OPCW. Israel signed in 1993 but refused to ratify as this would mean inspection and destruction of its chemical weapons. Israel undoubtedly has as much technical capacity as any state to synthesise “Novichoks”.

    (and I hear he's a member of Palestine Live)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.