Do Politics and Science Mix?

This blog post is a response to an article entitled, “Politics: An unscientific business”, in The Biologist, the Society of Biology magazine. In it a clinical scientist voices his ‘concerns about scientific illiteracy among politicians and the Government’s unwillingness to listen to the experts.’ It is an unfortunate fact that Parliament now has the lowest number of MPs with a scientific background than it has had for several decades. In addition to this, scientific understanding among the remaining MPs is generally inadequate.

I remember feeling outraged when the previous Government rejected the advice of its drug advisors and sacked Prof. David Nutt after he publicly disagreed with their policies. The coalition meanwhile has removed the need for scientists to sit on such a committee at all!

It is a shame that repeated questioning of ministers has brought to light that evidence-based clinical practice plays no part in the Government’s NHS reforms.

Education also suffers due to insufficient consideration for science when policy-making. Successive governments have sought to expand faith schools when many of these have been teaching creationism as science. However, on a positive note, the Department for Education has announced that free schools will not be allowed to do this.

Les Rose FSB (Fellow of the Society of Biology, not a the Russian security service!) goes on to ask whether arts and humanities graduates have any grasp of objective evidence. These are typically the specialisms of politicians and civil servants. As a former member of the Biomedical Sciences Committee of the Society of Biology, Mr Rose realised that while scientists’ advice to politicians may be valid, this may be watered down by civil servants before it reaches politicians.

Mr Rose ends with a criticism of us scientists – that we shouldn’t be surprised if we’re unhappy with the way politicians deal with scientific issues if we haven’t bothered to engage with them.

On a personal note, when I was a member of Conservative Future branches both in Birmingham and Swansea, I was one of a very small minority of scientists in the ranks. I’m not sure why scientists in general do not seem to want to get involved with politics, but I think it is a great shame because we certainly do have a lot to offer.



4 thoughts on “Do Politics and Science Mix?

  1. This is one of those rare BUCF blogs where I’m on the whole in agreement. We can both agree we need science based on actual science, not short-term political gain.

    The one thing I will say. You mentioned faith schools and while it is great news they can no longer teach creationism in science classrooms, I still have my distinct problem with the aforementioned schools. To one degree faith schools subvert critical thinking skills from the classroom to varying degrees. But more importantly, children are sent to be indoctrinated in a particular faith primarily based upon their own parent’s religion. And regardless of the quality of the school or the supposed importance it has to the community, it’s still indoctrination.

    • I didn’t in fact say that faith schools can no longer teach creationism as science – disturbingly I believe they still can. It is in free schools that creationism isn’t taught. I also am not keen on faith schools, you make a very good point.

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