Politicians and science

Just an update to yesterday’s post on mitochrondial disease. I have to say I was rather surprised to see Professor Robert Winston – now Lord Winston – cited in the motion, as he is usually a leading supporter of genetic research. I’ve now seen a Twitter exchange between him – @profrwinston – and Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Commons Health Select Committee – @drwollastonmp – in which he tells her this:

@drwollastonmp @jeremybradley let me clarify – I was not consulted and I was misquoted re EDM – shabby & dishonest

In commenting on the debate Sarah Wollaston also tweets this: 

“Scientific evidence has been selectively quoted; seems to me those opposed would oppose regardless of further research”

A few months ago I was interviewed by someone on behalf of a group of scientists who wanted to set up an expert group to advise MPs on scientific matters, so that we could be better informed in debates. I said then that the problem was that many MPs only want to seek out the science that support their already formed views. We see this in so many areas: I mentioned to him the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the badger cull and climate change. I could also have mentioned the debate on banning smoking in public places, with various ‘expert’ views being bandied around on the extent to which passive smoking is or is not harmful.

The one which really frustrates me at the moment is the establishment’s determination to ignore the growing body of evidence about the environmental and health consequences of a meat-based diet. (And yes, I’m very much aware I could also be accused of seeking out science which supports my prejudices – but when everyone from the UN and the WHO downwards, as well as the likes of Al Gore and Bill Gates, are saying it, I don’t have to look very hard). 

We saw yet another study published yesterday about the impact of meat-eating on greenhouses gases, based on research at Cambridge and Aberdeen universities. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29007758

The lead researcher was quoted as saying: “There are basic laws of biophysics that we cannot evade.” But will we see any political action – words or deeds – as a result? I very much doubt it.





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