Science is a bit shit, says the Daily Mail

The front page of the Daily Mail has this masthead: “Do dogs have a sense of humour?“.

I don’t know who originally observed this, but it has been said that if the Daily Mail ever uses a question mark at the end of a headline, the answer is usually ‘no’. In this particular case however, we are assured, scientists don’t know the answer either. Indeed, it is a lead in to an article by the Mail’s science editor in which he is promoting his new book “Ten questions no-one knows the answer to (Yet)”.

As this book is brought to you by the guy who happily spends his days attempting to scare the living shit out of his credulous readers by presenting the most speculative and shoddy of research as incontrovertible fact (as long as it is seeking to prove a link between something and cancer/autism/piles/whatever), I’m not entirely sure he is exactly a reliable witness. In fact, the main agenda of this book appears to be to cast insinuations about scientists. If we can ‘prove’ that scientists don’t know what time is, then how can they claim to know anything about mobile phone masts? Eh? EH?! Etc.

I find the links between right wing, nasty politics and credulous anti-science fascinating. Tony Blair goes off to have rebirthing mudbaths; his buddy George Bush has conversations with God. Both consider intelligent design to be a subject worthy of discussion. Both think human rights should be compromised and the US should be able to trample on any country which annoys it. And there’s nothing neo-cons like more than to cast aspersions about climate change science. What is it about conservatives and the indulgence of irrationality? Answers below, please.


  1. Reminds me of this quote by Melvyn Bragg:

    There are still those who are affected enough to say they know nothing about the sciences as if this somehow makes them superior. What it makes them is rather silly, and it puts them at the fag end of that tired old British tradition of intellectual snobbery which considers all knowledge, especially science, as “trade.”

  2. It is not for me to defend the hard left, and I certainly agree that elements within it are anything but rational (how could I not?) but organisations such as Greenpeace are hardly part of the left tradition. Lord Melchett a commie? I don’t think so. A lot of the more irrational greenies come from a deeply conservative tradition: look at Zac Goldsmith and his tinfoil hat salesmanship. For that matter, look at his uncle.

    Ditto animal rights. I think your mistake is to assume that someone who doesn’t wash must automatically be leftwing.

  3. I’m not sure its the right wing, or left wing – its ideologies.
    Some people use bad science to push their ideology – be it environmental, authoritarian, racial supremacy or even libertarian…

    Science is seen as a tool for manipulation of people by politicians rather than a means of finding out how the world works.

  4. Tom,

    I wouldn’t call the pomos left wing either. If the left is all about messianic belief in certain well-intentioned but ill-judged values, postmodernism is nothing like this – it is a rejection of facts and values, it is obscurantism and elitism. It is conservative, and it has served a conservative agenda by thoroughly confusing much of the left (even more).

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