Today I are bin mostly lookin' at skeptical-voter.org
They are assessing parliamentary candidates on their attitudes to science and stuff, and they are big Evan Harris
fans, so they get points for that. They have a questionnaire for candidates
which, even though I am a lowly council candidate and not a PPC, I decided to answer anyway.
Health 1. Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven health products such as homeopathy?
I don't support the use of public funds to provide any
unproven health products, but I do
support the use of public funds for research into what actually works. I think big pharma have too much of a stranglehold on the market. 2. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
Abortion rates are barely affected by the legal status of abortion. Whether abortion is totally legal or totally illegal, similar numbers of women will try to have one
. I therefore think that access to abortion should be as easy and safe as possible, because the only effect the legal status of abortion has is on the health of the women who have abortions; coat hangers up the chuff are much more dangerous than a proper medical procedure.
Science 1. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
Hmm. Sometimes. There should be a lot more human testing, and there should be much stricter welfare standards for medical testing on animals. Animals are not
humans, and testing on them can never produce an exact equivalent of effects on humans (see Thalidomide) but testing on live subjects is always more valuable than petri dish cell culture testing. And, of course, testing human medicines on animals does sometimes lead to advances in vetinary medicine too...
There is a lot of pointless animal testing which is done for legal reasons, and I object to that. I don't think any creature should be made to suffer for box-ticking purposes. And I am totally against cosmetic animal testing. But some medical animal testing, I can see arguments for, within very
strict limits. Currently there is no other option. However, I don't think we should cling to animal testing and forego research into alternatives.
Religion 1. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
Creationism should absolutely be taught in schools. I think it is very worthwhile to talk about it in science lessons to the extent that it is a useful and object lesson in how not
to do scientific method. But no, Creationism is not an equivalent theory to evolution, and it should not be taught as if it has the same, or even remotely similar, scientific value. 2. Should religious courts such as Sharia and Beth Din be recognised as alternative systems within UK law?
I think that if people are strong religious believers then they will possibly be more comfortable using their own systems for dispute resolution, but that those decisions should only have the force of any other agreement under English Law, and that English Law should always trump religious law. 3. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
No. I don't think ANYTHING should be legally protected from ridicule, so long as the person or thing being ridiculed has a right to reply. I'm a Liberal, and free speech is very important to me. For the record, I think that racists and sexists and other misguided fools should also have total free speech. This way we can see who they are and point and laugh at them. 4. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
Any person who is a member of the House of Lords should be entitled to vote there, but people should not be able to become
members of the House of Lords just because they are religious leaders.
Evidence-based Policymaking 1. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?
Yes, absolutely, or what is the point in having experts? I also think that free, open and public debate should be much more normal in British politics in general. 2. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
Policy makers should assess all evidence according to rational scientific principles. Lots of
studies are nothing of the kind, and policy makers should not just blindly trust anything that is labelled
. Is the study in question biased? How big is the sample studied? Is the study a double blind one? How leading are the questions asked? etc. etc. These should all be questions borne in mind by anyone
assessing the merit of a scientific study, whether they are a policy-maker or not. To this extent, for myself, I would answer no. Because of my upbringing (thanks Dad) scientific evidence which appears counter-intuitive to me
is generally Bad Science, and I am not going to just blindly trust something said to me by people in white coats with lots of letters after their names. Dogmatic adherence to norms is bad be it religious, scientific, or political norms we are talking about.
Libel Law 1. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?
I support wholesale reform of the Libel Laws in this country to prevent Libel tourism and stop the stifling of rational debate by vested interests with lots of money. This does not just apply in a scientific context (like Simon Singh's case) but in all
contexts. Like I said above, I'm a Liberal and believe in (and actively enjoy) free debate.
Conclusions, then? Well, I object to the American spelling of sceptical for starters, and some of the questions are badly worded, but I have tried to answer them in a way that answers the question they actually wanted to ask, rather than the one they did
ask. I think that if enough candidates take it up, the skeptical voter wiki
could be a useful resource for geeks if they are floating voters. But mostly, I would say to floating voter geeks that if they can't be bothered looking at it, a good guiding principle would be to vote for the one major party in British politics that forms ALL it's policies in free and open debate by examining evidence - and we know who that is, don't we, boys and girls