Keep Evan Harris in parliament, Oxford West and Abingdon

May 5th, 2010 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, politics | 55 Comments »

It’s the election tomorrow and I want to ask your help to get one MP re-elected for the good of science in the UK. In an era when so many of our elected politicians have acted out of self-interest, dipping their fingers in the till, Evan Harris has stood out by being smart, hard-working and informed, but more than that, by being genuinely brave in taking on causes in science and human rights that many believe in, but few would have the guts to stand up for.Recently we were comparing hate mail, and it occurred to me that you could only really pay tribute to the vital contribution Evan has made by listing all the groups who despise him, and the vicious hate campaigns they have mounted. The antivaccination conspiracy theorists hate him, because he drove for more and better evidence on the MMR and autism hoax, and helped expose it through the GMC. The animal rights protestors hate him, because he has dared to stand up for necessary and well-regulated animal experiments, an unpopular cause even among those who quietly benefit from their results. He is despised by fundamentalist christians, because he defends stem cell research and a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body when she is pregnant. Homophobic christians (not all christians, but the homophobic ones) despise him, because he is clear that if you run a B&B, you have to let a gay couple stay, the same as any other (and although nobody ever mentions it, if you’re gay and run a B&B, you have to let a christian stay too). He is despised by homeopaths because he dared to examine the evidence for their magic beans, he is despised by climate change denialists for the same reason, and alongside all of this, he has led the field on libel reform and on free speech, on disentangling church from state while remaining respectful on religion, he has stood up and been a clear thinker on the role of scientific advisors and evidence on policy, and much more.

In return for taking a stand on issues like these, which I think you care about, Evan has been repeatedly subjected to unending unpleasant and personal attacks. Anonymous individuals in this election have paid for hate pamphlets to be posted to every household in his constituency. Evan, sadly, does not have a billionaire in Belize, so it falls to us to support, from a distance, his work in Oxford West and Abingdon.

I’m giving him some money for a final push on leaflets, expenses, cars, taxis, phones, and badgering. I don’t really care what party he’s from but it just so happens that he’s a Lib Dem, and they are at least the least odious of the bunch.

This is how you can help:

1. If you can help to telephone constituents to encourage them to go out and vote for Evan, any time today or tomorrow, email info@evanharris.org.uk and you will get almost by return a script and some numbers.

2. If you live nearby you can deliver leaflets info@evanharris.org.uk

3. If you want to donate, with a guarantee that your funds will only be used to overthrow the religious anti-science state, then you can do so here:

www.evanharris.org.uk/pages/help-Evan.html

4. If you know anyone who lives in Oxford, ring them and ask them to vote for Evan, and to tell their friends to do the same.

Things like this really do make a difference, and Evan really has made a difference, more than any MP I can think of. I can guarantee you I wouldn’t do this under any other circumstances, and frankly, being this nice about someone doesn’t really come easily. Please help to keep Evan Harris in parliament any way that you can, with money or time.


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If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

55 Responses



  1. fontwell said,

    May 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Might I also make a brief case for my local MP Nick Palmer, standing for Labour in Broxtowe near Nottingham.

    I wrote my first ever email to an MP urging him vote against the alternative medicine licensing thingy, which I felt would confer faux credibility on their practices.

    He not only emailed back personally very promptly in complete agreement but it turns out he has a PhD in maths and has all the rational views on everything from MMR to misleading statistics. He even gave us margin of error figures and sample size in his latest doorstep poll(which, incidentally, took him from being in front to showing no clear leader).

    He was also one of the people who helped organise the rebellion against the Digital Economy Bill and as you might expect from such a decent bloke he is a very good local MP too, with little interest in party politics for its own sake. I will be crushed if he doesn’t get back in.

  2. fontwell said,

    May 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Might I also make a brief case for my local MP Nick Palmer, standing for Labour in Broxtowe near Nottingham.

    I wrote my first ever email to an MP urging him vote against the alternative medicine licensing thingy, which I felt would confer faux credibility on their practices.

    He not only emailed back personally very promptly in complete agreement but it turns out he has a PhD in maths and has all the rational views on everything from MMR to misleading statistics. He even gave us margin of error figures in his latest doorstep poll(which, incidentally, took him from being in front to showing no clear leader).

    He was also one of the people who helped organise the rebellion against the Digital Economy Bill and as you might expect from such a decent bloke he is a very good local MP too, with little interest in party politics for its own sake. I will be crushed if he doesn’t get back in.

  3. fontwell said,

    May 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Apologies for the double post, the site went wibbley on me, if anybody can delete one of them please do.

  4. HobbesLondon said,

    May 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    He has my sister’s vote already. There are unpleasant anonymous leaflets circulating referring to Evan Harris as Dr Death – nice.

  5. ianhitchman said,

    May 5, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Wouldn’t hesitate to vote for Harris if I could. However, I do have an internal conflict when it comes to animal experimentation, between the science-lover and the hippie in me.

    I don’t dispute the benefits (or the downsides), but my issue is simply with the implied right we feel have over other species. As an atheist it doesn’t sit right with me, as it assumes superiority over sentient beings, that just don’t happen to be of the human variety.

    I guess I don’t know enough about it, and I know it’s not all crazy sadists fiddling with monkey brains or whatever… but how much do these experiments actually tell us, genuinely? Is it really useful to perform tests on creatures which, physiologically, are completely different to ourselves? Actual question there, not a rhetoric.

    Not all animal rights protesters are scary nut jobs by the way (not that I inferred that, but it’s a common assumption). Peace man.

  6. williamsjk said,

    May 5, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I’ve got to say that Evan Harris lost my vote over a number of issues – some you’ve stated above, as well as his support for increased government spending at a time when we need to reduce it by at least 25%.

    On the other issues it was his attacks on us ‘denialists’ as in those that want more scientific proof before committing to plans that will cost hundreds of billions of pounds. Is that really too much to ask that those scientists who are looking into the errors and misrepresentations made by his preferred scientists are treated with respect?

    As for those homophobic Christians. I’ve argued it on my blog, and I’ll say it again here. Why is it any of the governments business what individuals decide o do with their private property? If those backward looking B&B owners want to ban gay people from their business it’s their own problem that they’re losing business. Not the governments. Simple?

    Oh and I feel the same about the smoking ban that he supports as well.

    Leave us alone to enjoy our lives, even if that means we die 10 years before the government says we should – it’s our own choice. Not Evan Harris’.

  7. InfoJester said,

    May 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Here is the anti Evan Harris leaflet from the The Animal Protection Party.

    It is clear to me it is full of untruths. I’m particularly interested by how someone can be a ‘vocal supporter’ of secret programs.

    www.thestraightchoice.org/leaflets/4612/

  8. muscleman said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    @Ianhitchman

    Animal physiology is not ‘completely different’ to our own. A rat is still a warm blooded mammal, it regulates its blood pressure using the exact same mechanism we do, it even does postural upregulation when it stands on its hindlegs. Better than this human does anyway (I have to eat salt). Yes, there are differences. For eg back in 3rd year undergrad physiology lectures on breathing regulation they gave us the primary literature showing for eg that goats are more sensitive to rising CO2 levels (like us) than are rabbits, mice and rats are in the middle. Rabbits are relatively insensitive because they inhabit stuffy burrows. But that is a matter of set point, not how the system works. They still use the same sensors to measure blood pH (a proxy for CO2 as dissolved CO2 is acid) as goats, rodents and great apes do. So that does not mean you can’t use rabbits for respiratory physiology experiments, it just means you have to take the set point into account.

    Knowing rats stand on their hind legs means you can investigate postural adjustment mechanisms, even in an anaesthetised, catheterised animal (you tip the table in essence, I’ve seen it done). There are whole areas of ‘Human’ Physiology that gets taught to Medics and ‘Health Sciences’ students that has never been formally demonstrated to be true in humans. But works when applied in the emergency room. I’m fortunate I think in being educated as I was (a conscious effort, there were two classes). We got the proper background, warts and all.

    Remember, you share a decent percentage of your genes with a banana, and at the cellular level much is completely interchangeable. In a famous proof of the interchangeability principle a mouse Hox gene was put into a fruit fly mutant lacking the equivalent fly gene. It worked perfectly, correcting the mutation. The last common ancestor between us vertebrates and a fly would be some sort of worm back in the early or even pre Cambrian.

    A huge assortment of genes got discovered in flies (and memorably named) before their equivalents (generally 4 mammal genes for every one fly, our genomes having duplicated 4 times since that worm) were found in the mouse. They were pulled out because large chunks are conserved absolutely (which is why that mouse Hox gene worked in the fly), which makes pulling them out cross species, genera, phylum, class is entirely possible, even easy. I have personally cloned several chicken genes that way and know someone who did the same for dogfish and sticklebacks (model systems for early, simple limb development).

    So disregard the animal rights literature that completely overemphasises the minor differences. We share orders of magnitude more than divides us. Shave a mouse, shorten the snout, adjust the limbs, grow it a bit and you have a pot bellied, whiskered human. Actually shave it and nip and tuck, nude mice are heavily wrinkled, mice are very loose in their skins.

  9. HungryHobo said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    @williamsjk

    The problem with the “it’s their property” thing when people discriminate against one group or another is that it leads to house rental ads with “no cats, no dogs, no irish” and employment ads with “blacks need not apply”.

    It’s your house: shouldn’t you be able to set whatever rules you like when renting it out?
    It’s your business: shouldn’t you be able to not employ black people if you don’t want to?

    Would that kind of discrimination be acceptable to you?

  10. BigEoinO said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    @williamsjk
    I thought we had left the era when people had signs like
    “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” outside their premises and it was seen as fine …
    I believe your interpretation of private property may be in error (I’m not a lawyer though) – by becoming a B&B you forfeit the right to exclude people based on racial or sexual lines.

  11. BigEoinO said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    @HungryHobo
    Same point but put a lot more eruditely!

  12. HungryHobo said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    @williamsjk

    On the note of the smoking ban:

    If I worked in a factory and there was as much smoke and crap in the air as in the average bar-(pre smoking ban) then that factory would be in breach of any number of workplace safety rules.

    Why should bar workers have less workplace safety protection than factory workers?

    Public places where nobody is working or forced to be I’m with you, you have every right to damage yourself in any way shape or form you choose.

  13. Colonel_Mad said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Most animal experimentation is not actually experimentation at all, rather data generation by companies having to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make for EU registration reasons (LD50s, LC50s, NOECs (No Observed Effect Concentration) etc etc).

    Surely some of this can be cut back, especially if humans and the environment are never going to be exposed to concentrations anywhere near the LD50, LC50, NOEC.

    ….and keeping on topic. Good luck to Evan. Oxford West is one seat I’ll be keeping my eye on tomorrow night along with my own. Fingers crossed.

    Jonathan

  14. HungryHobo said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    @ Colonel_Mad

    Is there a good reason why companies have to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make?
    Before such requirements were put in place did people ever die because some ingredient turned out to be killing them?

  15. Veronica said,

    May 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    But the thing is Ben, climate change deniers are right! See www.wattsupwiththat.com. Otherwise I would vote for him but I am the neighbouring dark blue constituency of Henley on Thames.

  16. HungryHobo said,

    May 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Personally I’m of the opinion that climate change is genuine but branding people as “deniers” for challenging the consensus is unscientific.

    Now there’s also one hell of a marketing campaign in progress to make the general public believe that climate change is fake or that it has nothing to do with the gigatons of crap we pump into the air and it’s working.

    A large portion of the general public has been convinced that climate change is a myth and that the climate researchers out there who agree it’s happening just all own stock in solar power companies and are trying to get rich.

    It’s depressing the siege mentality that some academics have developed when it comes to this issue, any questioning of their data or methods, even from people who agree with their conclusions becomes “denialism”

  17. muscleman said,

    May 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    @HungryHobo

    “Is there a good reason why companies have to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make?
    Before such requirements were put in place did people ever die because some ingredient turned out to be killing them?”

    Um you do know that the figure of the Mad Hatter was based on reality, don’t you? Hatters went mad, because they used mercury to soften the felt they used so it could be moulded. Mercury is a neurotoxin, as we now know. It also used to be used as a medical medicine, again until we knew it made no good and was more harmful than beneficial. Here in the modern world where the Daily Fail obsesses over the carcinogenicity of ever more substances we forget how things were in the past. We have picked all the low hanging toxic fruit and are left with all the stuff where the risk/benefit equation depends on context. Of course everything is toxic in the right dose, including water. That understanding has helped us put things in perspective, well those of us who use our brains, at least.

  18. jodyaberdein said,

    May 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    At risk of thread drift, but:

    OED 1989 edition:

    [f. DENY v. + -ER.]

    One who denies (in various senses of the verb).

    c1400 Apol. Loll. 99 And {ygh}et {th}ey deny to men {th}e understonding of {th}e gospel..{th}ei wel bi deniers [printed deneris]. 1530 PALSGR. 212/2 Denyer of a thynge, escondisseur. 1558 KNOX First Blast (Arb.) 46 Deniers of Christ Iesus. 1660 JER. TAYLOR Duct. Dubit. I. ii. rule iii. §12 He must be a despiser of the world, a great denier of himself. 1741 WARBURTON Div. Legat. II. Ded. 23 The Deniers of a future State. 1876 BANCROFT Hist. U.S. VI. xxvi. 33 One state disfranchised Jews..another deniers of the Trinity.

    I think I’d develop a siege mentality too if I were subject to this:

    www.tiny.cc/y7vnj

  19. hyperdeath said,

    May 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Have you seen this Daily Mail attack piece on him:

    “Meet Dr Death, the Lib Dem MP Evan Harris who backs embryo experiments, euthanasia and freer abortions”
    www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-490815/Meet-Dr-Death-Lib-Dem-MP-Evan-Harris-backs-embryo-experiments-euthanasia-freer-abortions.html

    It’s bad even by Mail standards.

  20. jdc said,

    May 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    @ColonelMad

    Most animal experimentation is not actually experimentation at all, rather data generation by companies having to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make for EU registration reasons (LD50s, LC50s, NOECs (No Observed Effect Concentration) etc etc).

    Surely some of this can be cut back, especially if humans and the environment are never going to be exposed to concentrations anywhere near the LD50, LC50, NOEC.

    I’m probably being a bit dim here, but are you suggesting that we shouldn’t collect data on the LD50 of a substance if people aren’t going to be exposed to concentrations in the region of the LD50?

    Surely if we have no data on the LD50 of a substance we cannot know whether people will be “exposed to concentrations anywhere near the LD50″? (Unless it is, say, a food ingredient that has traditionally been consumed without significant problems becoming apparent. In that case, it would possibly be fair to assume that, whatever the LD50 was, such an amount would be unlikely to be consumed by a human.)

    tl;dr – No data, then no LD50, so no idea whether ppl likely to be exposed to LD50.

  21. Timix said,

    May 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I will be voting for Evan Harris in West Oxford tomorrow, -even though he is a politician!
    He does strongly advocate protecting NHS front-line services, which I see as an oversimplified solution to a complex problem.
    Ring fencing health care makes it difficult to build partnerships with other public services (social care) that are not protected in this way; it encourages an inappropriate system push of service users into health care and out of those unprotected services.
    Furthermore the preservation of the status quo for NHS front line services would lead to increasing numbers of those needing health care being left untreated, as demand and costs increase due to demographics, expectations and new costly treatments. The situation has not been helped by NICE having raised the quality-adjusted life-year threshold for end of life drugs last year. (I’ve never seen a pharma on a bike either!)
    Will Evan Harris advocate closure of surplus hospital facilities and the transfer of provision out into community settings, to work more closely with primary care and closer to the homes of service users? Or will Dr Harris instead press for a top slicing of NHS management, mergers of PCTs and closure of SHAs – thus perhaps leaving compliance and governance more exposed?
    I guess the decision will depend on whether he feels more comfortable politicking or doctoring.
    I am not allied to any political party, but Evan will have my vote this year.

  22. SteveGJ said,

    May 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    @ianhitchman

    Animal experimentation is, indeed, and ethical dilema. However, there are some clear things which must be understood first. The most important one is that there are very few researchers who actually want to experiment on animals. That also goes for large companies. It’s very, very expensive, it’s unpopular with a lot of people (sometimes dangerously so), it’s heavily controlled and it’s not something you are going to want to talk about at parties.

    Animal experiments are only carried out where there is no viable alternative. Whatever their shortcomings as a human substitute, absolutely nothing comes remotely close to being able to test in a complete system. That goes especially for safety. The Thalidamoide disaster is one which shows what happens when shortcuts are taken on safety tests using animal models. Despite what some people will (erroneously) say, the effects of Thalidimoide on fetal development are very clear on a number of animal species.

    So, if it is accepted that there are no viable alternatives, what do we do? Test on human volunteers? Do without?

    Note that this is not just drugs virtually every modern surgical process will have been carried out on animals first before being performed on people.

    I’m afraid to say that, ultimately, you do have a personal moral choice. You just refuse all modern medical treatments that have used animal testing. You might confine yourself to those treatments developed before an arbitrary date.

    You might argue that the medical industry gives you know choice. However, it’s simple – if there weren’t the animal tests available, then neither would those treatments be available. It’s called the courage of your convictions. Those that claim you can have these things without animal experiments are either lying or delluding themselves. For the forseeable future, for very many treatments, there will be no realistic alternative to animal experiments. Understand that then work through the consequences.

  23. Brady said,

    May 5, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    “Evan Harris … he dared to examine the evidence… by climate change denialists.”???

    Evan, please try to “dare” a bit harder!

    You might like to dare more deeply with some of this recent evidence:
    pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/update-to-andy-revkins-question-in-2005-is-most-of-the-observed-warming-over-the-last-50-years-likely-to-have-heen-due-to-the-increase-in-greenhouse-gas-concentrations%e2%80%9d/
    Please Evan, try to read the scientific references yourself and maybe not listen, exclusively at least, to just your advisors of the “green persuasion”. A list of the classic (think: 2500 year old, Protagoras) argumental fallacies by your bedside would probably come in handy too :-)

    Evan ” …a clear thinker on the role of scientific advisors and evidence on policy”?

    Reality check Evan:
    rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/05/reality-check.html

    Reality check Evan:
    web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Entries/2010/4/27_Nails_in_the_Global_Warming_Coffin.html

    Sorry, am I repeating myself ;-)

    Well said williamsjk and Veronica. And HungryHobo, you might like to cross check your “marketing campaign” with:
    joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/
    … and there are “problems” with other of your statements too.

    Otherwise I can admire your ability (a seemingly rare quality with CAGW theory “supporters”) to understand that name calling should not be a part of any rational argument. Ben please take note!

  24. mpk said,

    May 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    I have a double interest here – I’m registered to vote in Oxford West & Abingdon (although I’m currently living outside the UK, I can still vote and still have ties there) and I lived in @fontwell’s constituency of Broxtowe back in 1997. I too will be very sad if Nick Palmer loses his seat – he always struck me as one of the good guys, and I’ll always remember seeing him eating in McDonalds one evening soon after he was elected in May 1997 with that “I wasn’t actually expecting to be an MP..” look that was common around that time. It’s just a shame he happens to be a Labour MP who’ll get people not voting for him because of what other Labour MPs have done.

    The good news is that as we moved to Oxford in 2007, I’ll be able to cancel out Harris having lost @williamsjk’s vote since then by voting for him myself. Hurrah for democracy!

  25. HungryHobo said,

    May 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    @muscleman

    “Um you do know that the figure of the Mad Hatter was based on reality, don’t you? Hatters went mad, because they used mercury to soften the felt they used so it could be moulded.”

    I’m quite aware.
    I find it better to pose people simple questions, the answers to which lead to the challenges to their position or the answers to their own questions rather than just making statements.
    It works a hell of a lot better when it comes to making people think for themselves.

    Unfortunately so many people on here desperate for any chance to show off that such tactics rather falls flat on their face here.

  26. Sili said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:32 am

    I’m having trouble following your logic, HungryHobo.

    Now there’s also one hell of a marketing campaign in progress to make the general public believe that climate change is fake or that it has nothing to do with the gigatons of crap we pump into the air and it’s working.

    How is this not denialism? These are the people we label “denialists”.

    branding people as “deniers” for challenging the consensus is unscientific.

    So this is clearly a strawman. Plenty of people attack ‘the consensus’. In the literature where such a debate belongs.

  27. Josie said,

    May 6, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Veronica: Since you recommend his wonderful blog, you should watch this short video which is an honerable testiment to that most rational, honest of men: Anthony Watts.

    www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/21/dcxVwEfq4bM

    I recommend watching Peter Sinclair’s other videos too. www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#g/u

  28. Dr Aust said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:35 am

    @ianhitchman

    Muscleman is spot on; there are “species differences” (e.g. between you and a rat), but they are absolutely dwarfed by the “species similarities” between us and our mammalian relatives. A human heart muscle cell has far more in common with a rat heart muscle cell, in physiological terms, then it does with a human heart muscle cell grown in tissue culture. No-one in research would use cells from animals if the cultured cells provided a viable alternative. Unfortunately, for many purposes, they just don’t.

    And that is just cells; when it comes to responses of intact systems (like whole organisms) it is even more true. Anyone who tells you the science can be done with computer simulations is not a scientist, and is most likely one of the folk from the animal rights organisations.

  29. Quick2kill said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Nice. I’d add that he has proposed by far the best plan address tge huge funding crisis for the stfc which funds very important research in physics like particle, nuclear, solid state and astrophysics. The funding problems have already caused a lot of damage but without action now uk physics research could be in dire straights.

  30. Shakeel said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:48 am

    @HungryHobo

    “Is there a good reason why companies have to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make?
    Before such requirements were put in place did people ever die because some ingredient turned out to be killing them?”

    Thalidomide: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide
    Rofecoxib (Vioxx)
    bis-phenol A
    X-rays (shoe salesmen)
    Mercury teeth fillings
    Asbestos
    Methanol (used in medicine, food packaging in the late 1800s in the US)
    Diethyl ether, formerly used as an analgesic
    Lead paint
    Formaldehyde was a commonly used solvent in polymer manufacturing until it was determined that outgassing in homes was a serious problem
    Sulfide-leeching drywall recently in the United States
    Benzene used to be commonly available in hardware stores
    Arsenic poisoning in West Virginia in the United States due to destructive mining practices
    Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)…also horribly toxic. Used to be commonly used in dentistry.

    These are off-the-top-of-my-head examples. Sure, some of them are modern, but why would you stop checking these things when companies clearly aren’t doing it voluntarily either?

  31. Crocoduck said,

    May 6, 2010 at 3:46 am

    @Josie

    Thanks for the great links!! Anyone who quotes Watts as their primary source on anthropogenic climate change is probably not even worth engaging with… right up there with Monckton.

  32. latsot said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:05 am

    @HungryHobo:
    “It’s depressing the siege mentality that some academics have developed when it comes to this issue, any questioning of their data or methods, even from people who agree with their conclusions becomes “denialism””

    There is a marked difference between ‘questioners’ and ‘deniers’. Nobody has the slightest problem with people who use proper methods and data to examine the world, whether we like their conclusions or not. We call these people ‘scientists’. Deniers, on the other hand, repeatedly make false and/or unsubstantiated claims, cherry pick data and perpetuate myths because they want them to be true, not because that’s what the evidence says. This is what people mean when they complain about denialism, not honest scientific research or genuine and informed questioning of methods.

  33. Filias Cupio said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:42 am

    @jdc

    There is a wide gap between ‘knowing what the LD50 is’ and ‘no data on the LD50′. For instance, if you feed your rats 1mg/kg body weight of something and none of them die, then you can conclude that LD50 is greater than 1mg/kg. (I.e. you do have some data on the LD50.) If it is exceedingly unlikely any human will ever consume over 1mg/kg of this substance, of what benefit is it to kill rats to discover that the LD50 is in fact 253mg/kg?

    Disclaimers: I’m not the poster to whom you responded – I just think you missed their point. I am not generally a producer or consumer of LD50 data, so I do not have a feeling for how often you could sensibly short-cut the process as I describe above.

    My personal take on animal experimenting: I do feel a human life is worth more than an animal’s, but not infinitely so. I’d happily have 10 rats die a painful death if doing so would save a human, but not 1,000,000 rats.

  34. Brady said,

    May 6, 2010 at 6:52 am

    @Josie

    You may like to consider the other side of the argument to Peter Sinclair’s Video:
    wattsupwiththat.com/2009/07/30/on-climate-comedy-copyrights-and-cinematography/

    Well done Veronica! :-) It is so refreshing to have a voice, with Watts Up With That, different from The Media’s one sided shout :-)

  35. bluecat said,

    May 6, 2010 at 7:55 am

    @ hungry hobo
    “Is there a good reason why companies have to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make?
    Before such requirements were put in place did people ever die because some ingredient turned out to be killing them?”
    Yes, and recently.
    sciencewatch.com/dr/fbp/2010/10febfbp/10febfbpFili/
    home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/badfood.html

    The Food Acts in the UK were brought in because people died from (for example) toxic colourings in sweets…

  36. benjeapes said,

    May 6, 2010 at 9:24 am

    That Daily Mail article and the Dr Death leaflet both contain exactly the same paragraph. I wonder which one pinched it off the other?

    Anyway, I’m happy to report I just voted for Dr H. Quite apart from all the reasons Ben gives, he is the only MP I’ve ever had who has actually turned up on my doorstep to canvass – and that not even in an election year. I was impressed.

  37. Brady said,

    May 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Ooops … my “inconvenient” comment seems to only appear when I log in ???
    Let’s try a little scientific experiment, shall we ;-)
    ——————————————————

    23. Brady said,
    May 5, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    “Evan Harris … he dared to examine the evidence… by climate change denialists.”???
    Evan, please try to “dare” a bit harder!
    You might like to dare more deeply with some of this recent evidence:
    pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/update-to-andy-revkins-question-in-2005-is-most-of-the-observed-warming-over-the-last-50-years-likely-to-have-heen-due-to-the-increase-in-greenhouse-gas-concentrations%e2%80%9d/
    Please Evan, try to read the scientific references yourself and maybe not listen, exclusively at least, to just your advisors of the “green persuasion”. A list of the classic (think: 2500 year old, Protagoras) argumental fallacies by your bedside would probably come in handy too
    Evan ” …a clear thinker on the role of scientific advisors and evidence on policy”?
    Reality check Evan:
    rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/05/reality-check.html
    Reality check Evan:
    web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Entries/2010/4/27_Nails_in_the_Global_Warming_Coffin.html
    Sorry, am I repeating myself
    Well said williamsjk and Veronica. And HungryHobo, you might like to cross check your “marketing campaign” with:
    joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/
    … and there are “problems” with other of your statements too.
    Otherwise I can admire your ability (a seemingly rare quality with CAGW theory “supporters”) to understand that name calling should not be a part of any rational argument. Ben please take note!

  38. Kavafy said,

    May 6, 2010 at 11:01 am

    @Brady

    “Well done Veronica”?? Apart from the fact that stories on the front page of the site she pointed to don’t even support her point, Watts is not an expert and has been debunked many times over.

    tamino.wordpress.com/2008/08/03/jump/

    or:
    answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090801100833AA2IxO9
    for the story on the YouTube video which Watts tried to have taken down.

  39. SouthernHawker2 said,

    May 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    ColonelMad

    “Most animal experimentation is not actually experimentation at all, rather data generation by companies having to prove the safety of every ingredient of every product they make for EU registration reasons (LD50s, LC50s, NOECs (No Observed Effect Concentration) etc etc).”

    That’s not actually correct. In 2008 only 13% of animal studies undertaken in the UK were for toxicology, and 79% of the toxicology studies were for pharmaceuticals rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs09/spanimals08.pdf

    In the UK the overwhelming majority of animals are used in either basic or applied biological and medical research.

    While REACH des require safety data for many chemical to which people might or will be exposed there are exemptions for chemicals produced in small volumes and animal studies are not required if there is already sufficient data available for a particular chemical.

    ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/pdf/2007_02_reach_in_brief.pdf
    ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/pdf/reach_animal_testing.pdf

    I wish I could vote for Evan Harris, but unfortunately I live in Cambridge rather than Oxford:-( I do however get to vote for Julian Huppert, a bioscientist who is standing for the LibDems in Cambridge and has a good chance of winning:-)

  40. owl said,

    May 7, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Well, personally I’d like to see Evan Harris out of parliament. He can then go back to being a doctor.

  41. Martin said,

    May 7, 2010 at 4:27 am

    The result is just in. Evan lost by 176 votes. Bugger. A voice for reason in the wilderness has been lost.

  42. rugbycomont said,

    May 7, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Evan’s just lost his seat – and to a Tory. Bollocks.

  43. owl said,

    May 7, 2010 at 4:30 am

    How unfortunate!

  44. rugbycomont said,

    May 7, 2010 at 11:58 am

    At least he’ll have another chance to stand in a few months when the hung parliament collapses!

  45. kevinbradshaw said,

    May 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Perhaps we can get him in the Lords, or following reform whatever replaces the Lords.
    kevin-bradshaw.blogspot.com/2010/05/idea-for-electoral-reform.html

  46. J.McGuinness said,

    May 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    It’s a disappointment that he wasn’t elected. The Lib Dem’s policies on Science and Research were the best of all the (major) parties, in my opinion… and Dr Evan Harris was at the fore of their Science policies.

    At least with the Hung Parliament, the Lib Dems are likely to have some influence in the formation of any new Government. Which could at least mean Electoral Reform (and hopefully Libel reform, independence for Research funding, and maybe, just maybe, evidence based drug policy.

    I think though, we need the Electoral Reform more than anything… I haven’t looked any more into this, but I’ve just read that “if you divide the number of votes each party received by the number of seats they won (as things stand now {I think this was with 2 seats still to announce}), you get these figures:
    Conservatives: 35,021
    Labour: 33,338
    Liberal Democrat: 119,397″

    It’s a Friday afternoon, 5pm and time to stop thinking, I’m tired and can’t be bothered to get into it in any detail, but I think somebody is being short changed here.

  47. dbaynard said,

    May 7, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    @SouthernHawker2

    I also voted for Julian Huppert. As a scientifically literate MP, perhaps he will be able to perform a similar role to that of Evan Harris.

  48. Brady said,

    May 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh ….back in the light again!
    Only 2 days in the Sin Bin … and the elections are now over? How inconvenient.

    Sorry Ben, I promise to behave more “consenus”-like in the future ;-)

    …. Ha ha! No I don’t! :-)

    Evan, I hear you have a bit of free time coming up?
    How about a bit of bed time reading?
    rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-many-choices-do-we-have.html
    or maybe you prefer to dig into some “colourful” scientific facts?
    wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/06/hotness-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder/#more-19273
    As warned previously Evan, please consider the evidence for yourself, rather than supporters’ rhetoric.

    Now Gentle Readers, please observe the behaviour that follows … noting the difference (yourself) between scientific facts and argumental fallacies:

    Helloooooooooo Kavafy!
    Helloooooooooo Crocoduck!
    icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/testimony_of_the_viscount_monckton_of_brenchley_before_congress_may_6_2010/
    :-)

  49. msjhaffey said,

    May 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    One wonders how someone so well-trained in rational thought can sloppily dismiss all politicians as odious. I know some particularly fine ones, regardless of politics.

  50. Xobbo said,

    May 8, 2010 at 7:20 am

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, Nadine Dorries has increased her majority. I despair.

  51. wintermeister said,

    May 8, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Check out this hateful little blog

    blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/georgepitcher/100038685/the-best-result-of-the-election-lets-rejoice-that-lib-dem-evan-harris-has-lost-his-seat/

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