Dear old A. N. Wilson has an article over that the Daily Mail, prompted by the recent sacking of the chair of the Government’s drugs advisory committee (Yes, scientists do much good. But a country run by these arrogant gods of certainty would truly be hell on earth).

There’s a cracker in the article which kind of gives the game away:

The trouble with a ‘scientific’ argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.

Quite why the author of this anti-scientific diatribe sees fit to enclose the word scientific in quotes is beyond me.  To paraphrase that sentence: “The trouble with a ‘scientific’ argument … is that it…[relies]… solely on empirical facts”.  Well, that’s a more solid foundation, it would seem than superstition and politics.  He spends most of the article displaying an almost shocking lack of understanding, from MMR to the evils of Nazism, from BSE to the foot and mouth epidemic:

Do you remember the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001? All reasonable farmers and vets believed that the epidemic could be contained by vaccine, or simply by isolating animals. But the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, David King, insisted upon a massive cull.

As I recall, the reasoning against mass vaccination was more to do with the fact that all those vaccinated animals would be excluded from overseas markets, either live or as processed food.  That’s an economic judgement.  On Nazism, we get:

The only difference between Hitler and previous governments was that he believed, with babyish credulity, in science as the only truth. He allowed scientists freedoms which a civilised government would have checked.

Nope, Hitler has a peculiarly defective set of moral values, that revolved largely around particular views on the worth of groups and individuals – in numeric terms mostly, but not exclusively, the Jews – that in large part derived from a long (and in no small part religiously motivated) tradition of anti-semitism.  And on MMR, he has this to say (even irrelevantly having a go at Darwin):

In fact, it is the arrogant scientific establishment which questions free expression. Think of the hoo-ha which occurred when one hospital doctor dared to question the wisdom of using the MMR vaccine.

The point here is not whether he was right or wrong – it was the way in which the scientific establishment closed ranks in order to assassinate him. There was a blanket denunciation of his heresy, just as there is if anyone dares to point out some of the mistakes made by that very fallible genius Charles Darwin.

It’s clear to anyone with a modicum of understanding that the real problem in the MMR-Autism fiasco, were the researchers who performed bad science, with undeclared interests, and the appalling British media (including the frequently deluded Daily Fail).  Read Ben Goldacre for a clear summary of where he at least believes the real failings lay.  And in the meantime measles cases rise.

This is a deeply stupid article.