ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

8 December 2001


Dr Wainwright poses the question: where is the Royal Society while scientific critics are persecuted for challenging the views of a science establishment in bed with big business?

Answer: orchestrating the attacks...


Science should support its heretics

Dr Milton Wainwright
The Guardian (London), December 7, 2001

The harassment that Dr Andrew Wakefield has experienced as a result of questioning the established view on the safety of the MMR vaccine is not an isolated case of abuse (It is not about science, it is about belief, G2, December 5). A number of scientists have recently disagreed with the orthodox view on BSE, Aids and genetically modified food only to have their careers severely damaged.

Not surprisingly the root of these problems is money. Since the early 1980s, medical scientists have had to devote increasingly more of their time fighting for funds. This competition for scarce resources has concentrated money in the hands of a few who have the power to decide which research is funded and which findings are believed.

Science needs heretics, yet instead of being nurtured those who fail to toe the line risk being humiliated and the loss of their jobs. Where are the university unions, the Royal Society, the royal colleges and the general scientific community when fellow scientists suffer such treatment?

If the government wishes to avoid science-related problems in the future it should make sure that such abuse is not tolerated. It should also ensure that anyone with a valid, rogue viewpoint on a life and death issue is listened to and funded, even if (or especially if) their views are contrary to the established view.

Dr Milton Wainwright
University of Sheffield

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