I don’t want people to be unemployed. But I do support the cessation of funding to homeopathy within the NHS. I am frustrated to hear that contrary to previous remarks, in fact Gartnavel’s homeopathy services will be retained: http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=125

People say that one day science will be on their side, but why withhold the treatement now*. Yet, I think theres a great story to be told about what real science can do now but doesn’t because the funding isn’t there to apply it. Oh if we could have more than just MRI and X-Ray facilities in hospitals but invest properly in heavy ion, proton, or other alternative SCIENTIFIC therapy in this country so that we can eliminate cancers without causing them.I remember speaking to one Glasgow MSP about this and he asked me whether as a scientist I supported his calls for more homeopathic treatment in hospital wards. He was visibly shocked by my answer.

I really think medicine should look to become a proper science, rather than a sibling to case study, anecdote and quackery.

*Maybe it is real. I don’t think it is but maybe it is. What if it isn’t science? Stressed? Have some hinduism (yoga). Sore? Have some ancient chinese religion (accupuncture). I mean there’s no chi anywhere in your body. You can’t bottle chi or sell it. If you are going to offer religion then you have to advise the patient thats what it is or they will confuse medince, science and homeopathy as all being the same thing. You’re not sticking needles in my gran, tin foil hat or not.

Oh, join the facebook group! ‘The NHS in Scotland should not fund quackery and Pseudoscience’

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Something I started on labourhome a while ago and will finish now, sligtly flinching at some of the lack of coherance in what I wrote now but here it is…

This, if permitted, should form the first of three articles on science and politics. They are not rants, although each discipline has intruded into the other’s territory with regularity to the point of the familiar. Neither are they pamphlets for one view only. I want to inform and I want to challenge. I want to take as many people along for the ride as I can. I want to look at ethics and science now, and then look at a totally new understanding of science within politics and then finally an utterly transformed approach to science policy.

I am a research Scientist in the field of experimental particle physics. Muon and neutrino physics, to be specific. By the third article that won’t sound obscure.

This first article will be a confession of sorts. I will state what a Scientist is not. I will not apologise as though ashamed for science or its contribution to economy and reason. However by considering what a Scientist is ‘not’ I am explicitely considering a negative. 

The confession is that (please bear with me here, I am going somewhere) Scientists love research. We love adding to knowledge. We will develop complex clarifications of models and extensions to theories, new technologies. However, if the complexity of these things has increased then it has been at the expense of vastly simplifying science in culture for our own ends. 

I am looked at as though a pillar of the community and that’s fine. Quite like port. But I’m looked at with deference and not just me. Scientists in general are, I believe, considered the modern witch doctors. Pillars of the community, their word goes unquestioned. We can have people repeat what we say like mantras. I’m not saying we’re evil, or that we’re not. It’s a lot of power for human beings.

Kevin Barron said:
“If medical science was telling us that we ought to…then maybe that’s something that we should do, but it should be driven by science and not driven by some of the debate that we heard last night.”

I have omitted the issue itself in an attempt to deviate discussion away from the bill in question. I am talking in much broader terms. Please do not see this as a discussion about that bill or an advocacy of a particular position, if you know what that bill was. 

He was referring to ethical debate. And here is my problem. Science won’t tell you anything. Science actually doesn’t have a mouth and it doesn’t understand language. It simply has no advice. Scientists have mouths, we sometimes understand language, we have varying opinions. Genuinely varying opinions. Do not ask science if it will be a substitute for debate or you will be utterly staggered by how right wing science can be. Yet I have heard labour put Scientists on a pedestal above activists, publicans, voters and plebs. On some issues that is ok. On any issue with an ethical component that makes me uncomfortable as a Scientist. 

Gallileo warned us to leave Scientists alone, or at the very least not arrest them. But we’ve gone too far the other way. Heidegger warned us that as technology increased debate would decrease. He foresaw a world from which we would seek to extract from faster and more efficiently, and humanity as a resource but believed that it was yet possible to have a ‘releasement towards things’ to say yes to some and no to others. To hold the conscience separate from the calculator.

I don’t want to be a witch doctor.

If you want to be a Heidegger then you will be considered mad or religious and to the detriment of culture you shalt be derided by the fundamentalist interleaving of science and state, just for disagreeing.

Still, its ok to have opinions – lets respect them (without being patronising!). It has to be democratic.

Abortion of Science

May 22, 2008

Kevin Barron, Labour, says:
“If medical science was telling us that we ought to reduce the limit of weeks that we have, then maybe that’s something that we should do, but it should be driven by science and not driven by some of the debate that we heard last night.”

I am a Scientist and disagree with this in the strongest terms.

Scientists are becoming like society’s witch doctors. They have a patriarchial stature; people go to them for almost any problem and repeat their response like a mantra over their ills. Increasingly you hear people say “Well Scientists have found…” or “Scientists say…” rather than “Science says” which is a massive difference.

In the 30s Martin Heidegger, a philosopher, argued that as technology became more powerful and ubiquitous we would begin to view the earth and human life simply as a resource from which we must extract ever faster and more efficiently. Some would draw parallels with embryonic stem cells for example. You can’t get in the way of progress, Kevin seems to be saying; science overules objections of conscience like rock beats scissors. But regardless of where you stand on this, the idea seems to me to be that science does not have to be divorced from conscience.

Heidegger also argues that we should be able to say yes to some things and no to others, based on conscience. You may be for or against abortion limits changing from six months, but don’t be cowed by science either way. No equation should tell you how to think, even though that equation can be wonderful, beautiful even, and right. Science will only tell you that you can do something. Only a Scientist would ever have the audacity to go further than that and try to tell you whether you should do that something.

Debate, on many issues, is too often beaten down in this country by a quote from an unattributed Scientist. But there is no nirvana of conscience that hits you half way through a physics PhD. Scientists should present choices to people who then use their conscience to decide. Scientists should not don a turban fold their legs, stretch their fingers out and ask you to repeat after them. Metaphorically speaking.