Saturday, 26 May 2012

Green Party support for anti-science activism is troubling - don't destroy research





Mark Henderson's outstanding book The Geek Manifesto urges professional scientists and those who want to promote a scientific approach to public policy to unite and to make our presence felt in medicine, in journalism, in the environmental movement and above all in politics. The risks of not doing so have been laid bare all to clearly in the ongoing battle to defend a scientific experiment from thoughtless vandalism in the form of an anti-GM protest.

'Take the flour back' is a protest that aims to (in their words) 'decontaminate' a field trial this coming weekend that is planted with genetically modified wheat. More troubling than the protest itself is the apparent support for such an approach from political figures such as Jenny Jones from the Green Party. The Telegraph's excellent blogger Tom Chiver picks up the story, saying that Jones' support for the protests - an act of 'ugly, idiotic Luddism,' means that we shouldn't vote Green until they drop the anti-science zealotry:

How can a serious political party back acts of vandalism against scientific research? Until Jenny Jones and the rest of the Green Party drop this awful, damaging, stupid behaviour, no serious environmentalist should be able to vote for them.
Interestingly, Jones asked for the right of reply and Chivers obliged - a lesson for those who resort all to often to bullying libel claims to silence their critics - but Jones' reply is an object lesson in the art of cognitive dissonance.

Extolling the virtues of 'non-violent protest' (and comparing the anti-GM cause to protests against unjust war or in favour of universal suffrage) whilst disowning damage to property, Jones fails to justify her support for a movement that has as its specific aim the destruction of property.

Furthermore, she claims that the Green Party "think more research is needed [into GM crops] and are happy to see research go ahead where it is safe." So happy, in fact, that a leading member - recently laying claim to the Mayoralty of London - lends credibility to the violation of precisely the kind of research they're supposedly in favour of. Quite strange positions to hold to say the least.

Here and now is neither the place nor the time to rehearse the arguments in favour or against the genetic modification of crops, but it is appropriate to explain why it's important to defend the scientific method through which the merits or otherwise of GM technology can be decided.

Sense about Science has as usual been at the forefront of that defence, with a well-supported petition and plenty of work debunking the myths peddled by anti-GM vandals. Mark Henderson also reminded us of how the anti-GM movement is full of anti-science rubbish on his Geek Manifesto blog - and a group of scientists is meeting near where the trial is due to be destroyed to make a stance defending the advancement of knowledge against the forces of darkness.

All this may not change the hearts and minds of those who are planning to tear up the Rothamstead experiment - but it does show that they cannot, no matter how hard they try or how many politicians offer their ill-judged support, tear up the scientific approach. 

3 comments:

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pegge lee said...
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sandie gobk said...

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