Friday, January 16, 2009
A nice editorial in the Financial Times:
... Many scientists and liberal politicians regard the rising creationist tide as a side-show that they can safely ignore. They are wrong, for several reasons. Wide areas of research, from biology to cosmology, would suffer directly if it became politically difficult for governments to fund fields that depend on such a basic a part of science as evolution. The cost would be economic as well as intellectual.
But Darwin is also worth defending because attacks on evolution symbolise a wider and more varied assault on policies based on evidence rather than prejudice. Some of this assault comes from the same religious forces as creationism – think, for example, of those ranged against embryonic stem cell research. Sheer ignorance plays a role too and so do the mass media.
The campaign against the MMR vaccine, which has cost many lives by delaying the elimination of measles from Europe, demonstrates the harm that can come from ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence. A faulty study suggesting a possible link between MMR and autism was quickly picked up by anti-vaccine campaigners and amplified by the media. Scientists could have limited the damage with a quick response, pointing out the defects in the study and the evidence for the safety of MMR – but, as so often happens, they reacted slowly and reluctantly. ...
We need far more scientists than are available today to speak out quickly and firmly when reason is under attack. And in the long run we need a scientifically literate population, better educated about what constitutes valid evidence to support a particular viewpoint.
I always had a soft spot for the Financial Times, though, it was often dull but usually worthy, unlike the Daily Mail.