Saturday, June 06, 2009

Critical Thinking Part 2

In the last couple of decades (and possibly before that) we have been fortunate to have a number of people who have written well about science. Some have just skirted the edge of being difficult for the public to understand, such as Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Others are easy to read but might skirt controversy, such as Ben Goldacre's excellent Bad Science. (In my view, Ben gets away with using emotive language because behind the indignation is scrupulously researched information. If he calls you an idiot, chances are better than even that your age exceeds your IQ.)

Sense About Science is, in its own words, a charitable trust to promote good science and evidence for the public. If you want to know about detox, climate change, radiation, MMR or a host of other subjects, you will find a sensible description of the topic on their web site, which is why it appears in my Links on the right.

But there is danger here.

The Simon Singh and BCA controversy has received wide coverage and I don't plan to cover this ground again here. If you're not familiar with it, click on the link. In essence, he criticised the British Chiropractic Association and they sued.

Sense About Science has begun a campaign in support of Dr Singh. free debate
I've read the preamble and I broadly support it and so I have signed. However, I feel there is a need for caution. While science must be open for rigorous debate if it is to advance, I am concerned that the approach taken by some may invite legal retribution. Ben Goldacre is breezy in style but thorough. He may spawn imitators. He probably already has. While Ben can pull this off, others may go beyond what is acceptable, either morally or legally. I don't believe Simon Singh did this, but it would be a great pity if others did, resulting in a series of court cases resulted which might stifle scientific debate.

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