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More on Britain’s “be grossly intolerant” science czar’s demands of scientists

In “Beddington goes to war against bad science” (Research Fortnight , 14-02-2011), John Dwyer and Laura Hood advise us that

Selective use of science ‘as bad as racism or homophobia,’ and

Government Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington is stepping up the war on pseudoscience with a call to his fellow government scientists to be “grossly intolerant” if science is being misused by religious or political groups.In closing remarks to an annual conference of around 300 scientific civil servants on 3 February, in London, Beddington said that selective use of science ought to be treated in the same way as racism and homophobia. “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality…We are not—and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this—grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method,” he said.

Beddington said he intends to take this agenda forward with his fellow chief scientists and also with the research councils. “I really believe that… we need to recognise that this is a pernicious influence, it is an increasingly pernicious influence and we need to be thinking about how we can actually deal with it.

Some thoughts:

;) There is no shortage of gross intolerance in the world. I was surprised that Beddington cited the nearly defunct Ku Klux Klan, and not the very active Muslim brotherhoods, whose tolerance for gays is justly famous. Indeed, the extent to which Beddington is right could in part be gleaned from the fact that the Middle East, where gross intolerance is celebrated, leads the world in science. Oh wait, it doesn’t. A Muslim friend tells me that his culture’s progress in science stalled precisely when intolerance became a virtue and people were no longer permitted to think for themselves.

;) Beddington doesn’t say exactly what he is referring to, but presumably he means views or research directions that are outside the current consensus. And what might those be? Crackpot multiverse cosmologies? No, because big names are associated with them. Flaky origin of life research? No, because a naturalistic origin of life is a must-have, in the view of many. Intelligent design theory? Yes, because regardless of evidence, it is outside the pale. To even consider the evidence implies the possibility. Same goes for Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields and the self-organization guys.

;) Finally, all debate degenerates into a paper war between tax-funded mediocrities. Not only is science progress stalled, but noone knows what progress would be. The big challenge was stifling disparate ideas, not addressing the 95% of the universe that is unknown.

Note scholar and political correctness foe Frank Furedi’s reply, starting here.

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