Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Shut Up!", He Explained.

Something I’ve been meaning to write about for ages – the latest skirmish in the MMR fiasco. As I hope I’ve made clear in my previous writings, I’m both agnostic and apathetic about the actual specifics. Then again, the actual details hardly seem to matter anymore in a debate that has increasingly become regarded as the Stalingrad of the science wars.

Consider, for example, this response to an article by Melanie Phillips. Stripped of the scientist's trademark horrible wiring style, all this argument boils down to is that if you don’t spend your working day crouched over a hot microfuge, you’re not qualified to have any opinion on scientific issues. Call it the chickendork argument.

Hey -anyone know what the scientific term for ‘chutzpah’ is ? These people have hijacked the ‘chickenhawk’ argument, even while they themselves can hardly go a day without criticising the military. How come the public aren’t qualified to talk about science, but a bunch of geeky lab rats are just the people to talk to about the tactics used to winkle out enemy snipers ?

No doubt these people would justify themselves by talking about the importance of civilian oversight of the military and the like, and they’d be right, but where’s the sauce for this goose ? How come science doesn’t need such oversight ?

Of course, some will see something almost Randian in the attitude of the scientific community. Lest we forget, not only do these people gobble up around £7 billion pa of taxpayer’s cash, they’re vigorous supporters of interventionist government in every other sphere of British life – look at the average edition of New Scientist for proof of that. These people don’t mind Big Government; they just think it should be out there giving everyone else a hard time.

That’s the bottom line here. The question is not whether scientists conspired to cover up evidence of a dangerous vaccine – almost certainly not - it’s how they would have done things differently if they had. The MMR debate threw a harsh light on what the scientific community really thinks about the public, democracy and the like. What was exposed was an dysfunctional sub-culture virulently opposed to principles like accountability, transparency and responsibility (but keep sending the cash anyway).

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