The Independent: Scientists face 'shocking levels' of vilification over discoveries

Mick West

Staff member

Scientists are being subjected to shocking levels of personal vilification and distrust, Britain's most senior scientist has warned.

Sir Paul Nurse, the new president of the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of sciences, urged scientists to take on those critics who have cast doubt on the veracity of scientific discoveries ranging from the link between climate change and man-made carbon dioxide to the benefits of GM crops.

Sir Paul said many scientists felt under attack from critics in the blogosphere and the mainstream media, but rather than retreating into their ivory towers they needed to speak directly to the people who paid their wages.

"Scientists have got to get out there. They have to be open about what they do ... even if it does put their reputation in doubt," Sir Paul said in a BBC Horizon documentary that airs tonight. "This is far too important to be left to the polemicists and the commentators in the media. Scientists have to be there too. We've got an unholy mix of the media and the politics and it's distorting the proper reporting of science and that's a real danger to us if science is to have its proper impact on society."

I think this is part of growing trend of anti-intellectualism that has somehow corrupted the media. In the US, and apparently also in the UK.

What's sad is that the pressure could actually be preventing scientist from doing quite ordinary honest science. Science that does nothing but better the position of mankind.

So, yes, scientists, get out there and be open about what you do.

Alhazred The Sane

Senior Member.
"...the benefits of GM crops". It's not really down to the scientists in this instance, the actions of the big corporations, and in particular Monsanto, is the key factor in the growing distrust of GM foods. A recent article in the LA Times makes it all too clear why people, and scientists, are slow to give their support to this new tech:

"We don't have the complete picture. That's no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically engineered crops. They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they've set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options...

Beyond patent law, agricultural companies hold a pocketbook advantage in terms of research. For example, they fund much of the agricultural safety research done in the U.S. And when deciding whether to allow a genetically engineered crop onto the market, the Department of Agriculture and other regulatory agencies do not perform their own experiments on the performance and safety of the product; instead, they rely largely on studies submitted by the companies themselves...

...As the technology spreads, it's likely that more, and more complex, genetic traits will be introduced in more crops. As a result, future genetically engineered crops could pose even more risks than current ones. Without robust independent analysis, it will be impossible to adequately assess these potential pitfalls.

The companies that produce the seeds claim that genetically engineered crops are safe and are better than traditional crops in a range of ways. It's time for these companies to back up their rhetoric. The only way to test their grand assertions is to let independent science take its course."


Anti-intellectuallism is disturbing and I think some of it is misdirected from anti-tech where amoral profit-driven corporations aren't helping in this regard. Then there is the classic anti-intellectualsim/anti-science because it's exposing ancient scriptures as demonstrably false (e.g. garden of eden, talking snakes and magical fruit of knowledge). Sigh.
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