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Scientists should be intolerant, revisited

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At Access Research Network (November 25, 2011), David Tyler reflects on “Intolerance in the world of science”:

Earlier this year, the UK government’s chief scientist, John Beddington, delivered a speech in which he urged his audience of 300 government scientists to be “grossly intolerant” of “pernicious” and “fatuous” “pseudoscience”. Clearly, Beddington was outraged by people claiming to speak in the name of science but who are promoting views that he regarded as dangerously erroneous. This broadside resulted in two contributions to the correspondence column of Nature. The first was by Professor Andy Stirling, who last year contributed a science policy commentary to Nature. Stirling was not comfortable with the issues highlighted by Beddington as pseudoscience.

Nor was another scientist, Brian Wynne,

“However, none of the growing range of public issues involving important scientific questions can be reduced, as Beddington did, simply to “science” or “pseudoscience”. [. . .] What policy advisers anoint as ‘science’ for intended public authority always embodies unstated policy-related commitments, including presumptions over the defining questions. Such social questions in public science should be recognized and debated openly. Scientific knowledge should inform public issues, not define them.”

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