Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The tyranny of science

The tyranny of science spiked
Dear old Frank Furedi. He does get it right sometimes - although not completely.

His attack on the deification of science as a new de facto source of "scriptural authority" hits a nail on the head. His targeting is a bit lazy in places, but it does bring up an issue - are we creating a new "Scientific Orthodoxy". Are we allowed to hold dissenting views to that Orthodoxy? hmmm.....

Recently the Science & Technology Committee of the House of Commons presented a report that they said was based purely on scientific evidence to do with altering the lower limit for abortions. But the science was already clouded in politics, as both pro and anti lobbies presented evidence that backed their cases. Despite some excellent research on foetal pain from the States, and on surivial of infants at or below the current lower limit of abortion, the Committee produced a report that backed the view that the abortion lower limit should be maintained, and abortion regulations liberalised. The science that contradicted these findings was left out of the report to such a degree that two members of the committee submitted a Minority Report highlighting it.

The Government has now come out clearly in support of the Majority Report, so quickly that one wonders if it had all been written in advance of the official publication? The science was politicised even before this of course, and only a token number of expert opinions were taken from those who believed a lowering of the upper limit was necessary because of increased survival of pre-term infants. And those who did offer expert testimony were then "outed" as being "pro-life" (even if at least one committee member and a number of those giving evidence to the contrary were members of known "pro-Choice" groups). It seems in British public life at the moment only certain orthodoxies, of a scientific and political persuasion, are tolerated.

And now we are seeing a gradual erosion of protection for families and reproductive rights of fathers, the legalisation of human/animal hybrid embryos (for somewhat dubious reasons) and other reproductive rights and protections on a nod and a wink as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill goes through without any of its assumptions (scientific, social and moral) being challenged in the public arena (the media have kept the latter stages out of the headlines altogether). Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill Peers vote to sideline role of fathers for IVF children

This is only one issue of course, but it does seem that there is an unthinking orthodoxy emerging in British Society, and that anyone who steps up and says "hang on a mo', is that really right?" is liable to be at best ignored, and at worst vilified and discredited for daring to speak against the prevailing belief system.

Ring any bells - Spanish Inquisition, Taliban, revolutionary Iran anyone? Now it is the "scientific & secular" West that is jumping on dissenters - maybe we don't get imprisoned for questioning the orthodoxy - not yet anyway, but differences of opinion are certainly not being encouraged.

Whither democracy and freedom of thought now?