Brian Cox Has Addressed His Infamous ‘Q&A’ Stoush With One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts

"In general, it's not a good idea to engage in people who are obstinate in that way."

Brian Cox is one of the most recognisable scientists in the world right now. The English particle physicist is a frequent contributor to the BBC, and has delivered a number of fascinating TED talks. Hell, he even made a cameo in an episode of Doctor Who.

Here in Australia though, he’ll always be most fondly remembered as the guy who schooled One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts in a particularly infuriating episode of Q&A.

Cox is actually back in Australia at the moment, ahead of the premiere of ABC TV’s Stargazing Live which he is co-hosting with Julia Zemiro. In a recent interview with the public broadcaster, he addressed the strange confrontation with Roberts, while also questioning the benefit of giving climate sceptics a platform in the first place.

“In general, it’s not a good idea to engage in people who are obstinate in that way,” Cox told the ABC. “You essentially elevate them to a level they should not be at. You present to the public the impression that there is a legitimate debate to be had.”

At the same time, Cox acknowledged that you can’t simply let the misinformation peddled by Roberts and his fellow climate conspiracists go unchecked.

“Some of these people are politicians,” he said. “So they have a platform. So what do you do? I’m in two minds.”

Cox also pointed out that programs like Q&A aren’t exactly the best place to confront these issues in great depth.

“Programs like Q&A, they’re almost pantomime in a sense,” he said. “There’s clearly no time to debate the detail of a complex idea such as climate change. So really it comes down to an impressionistic game. Who do the viewers trust, who appears more plausible? It’s a difficult position to be in.”

In an interview that also grappled with the threat to climate science under Trump, Cox dismissed as “ludicrous” the views of people and politicians who continue to dispute the overwhelming scientific consensus on such an important issue.

“We’re talking about blustering people, people who are overconfident and have no humility, who don’t think,” he said. “That’s the sort of person who says ‘I know better than these people who study these things’. It’s nonsensical.”

“Imagine that we’re flying on a plane, and imagine that the passengers decide that they think they can fly the plane better than the captain. So they say ‘come on, we’ve had a vote and we all think that it’s our right as a citizen to land this plane rather than you. It doesn’t matter that you’ve studied it for 20 years’.”

You can read Cox’s full interview here, and catch him on Stargazing Live on ABC TV starting 8:30pm on Tuesday April 4.