I always enjoy The Life Scientific. I wasn’t even put off by the episode where the subject turned out to be a prominent anti-Israel campaigner as well as an eminent scientist. Well, I was a bit, and I probably learned to be even more distrustful than I already was.
Anyway, I listened to the delightful Anne Glover, professor of molecular and cell biology at Aberdeen University amongst other things, and one thing in particular resonated with me, and stayed in my mind. The strap line to her episode states: “Opposing GM crops is a form of madness”
Her expertise is in the area of science for policy, rather than policy for science. “How do we gather evidence for making those policies that we all rely on?”
“In an ideal world, all our policies should be based on evidence, because you would think, wouldn’t you, that it would be robust, long-lived, easy to defend. But of course, just to muddy the water there are a lot of other things that affect what policies we have.”
They could be social considerations, ethical, even electoral considerations - we don’t just use evidence, but we make sure that the best evidence is available. “After that it becomes political and that’s where I bow out.”
She says that all of our science tells us that the technology of genetically modified crops is no more dangerous than any other of the technologies that we’ve used for centuries, and what opponents of GM crops are really opposing is industrial agriculture.
I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Anne Glover was such an eloquent speaker and communicator that I’d probably trust her if she concluded that the moon was made of cheese.
So all our efforts to ‘forensically’ correct what we see as the malign influence of the BBC’s biases by omission and commission, are never going to be enough. People still think what they think, believe what they believe, suffer from forms of madness in the shape of prejudice or willful ignorance, despite any evidence that happens to be put before them.
However, if the evidence that was put before them by the BBC was in fact robust, long-lived and easy to defend, at least that would give people a fighting chance of making an objective judgment.
Detecting bias is not a scientific operation. But even if it were, the evidence alone, be it robust, long-lived or easy to defend, would probably not act as an instantaneous miracle cure for that particular form of madness.
All the evidence in the world - all the anomalies and all the cognitive dissonances that we’re confronted with day after day don’t appear to be enough, even to make a dent in situations that exist, but that seem to make no sense whatsoever.
For example the freedom-loving left’s support for those who would curtail their freedom, homosexuals’ support for homophobes, war and strife in the Islamic world alongside the concept of the Religion Peace, and this, from Melanie Phillips:
“It is now clear that the West will allow absolutely no evidence, however devastating, to prevent a deal being signed with Iran over its nuclear programme.”
All the evidence tells us that what Israel is really up against is the fanatical Jew-hatred of the Arab/Islamic world, but opponents of Israel suffer from a form of madness and choose to ignore the lot of it. Instead, they turn the whole thing on its head. What they won’t and probably never will admit is that what opponents of Israel are really opposing, is ‘the Jews’.