Activists and the danger to science

Okay, I think the tolerance of activists (1) has gone on a bit too long. It’s bad enough we have animal rights and eco-terrorists trashing labs and harassing researchers in their homes, or destroying property to fight the evils of AM radio waves. These are people whose values are so warped that they see no problem with trampling on the rights of others in ways wholly beyond the pale of a civilized, democratic society, because their cause is righteous, while all others are evil.

But terrorism in the name of chronic fatigue sufferers? Harassing and threatening scientists with death because they offer an alternative theory of the causes? Really?

Yes, really.

The full extent of the campaign of intimidation, attacks and death threats made against scientists by activists who claim researchers are suppressing the real cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is revealed today by the Observer. According to the police, the militants are now considered to be as dangerous and uncompromising as animal rights extremists.

One researcher told the Observer that a woman protester who had turned up at one of his lectures was found to be carrying a knife. Another scientist had to abandon a collaboration with American doctors after being told she risked being shot, while another was punched in the street. All said they had received death threats and vitriolic abuse.

In addition, activists – who attack scientists who suggest the syndrome has any kind of psychological association – have bombarded researchers with freedom of information requests, made rounds of complaints to university ethical committees about scientists’ behaviour, and sent letters falsely alleging that individual scientists are in the pay of drug and insurance companies.

“I published a study which these extremists did not like and was subjected to a staggering volley of horrible abuse,” said Professor Myra McClure, head of infectious diseases at Imperial College London. “One man wrote he was having pleasure imagining that he was watching me drown. He sent that every day for months.”

If there’s such a thing as a jump-the-shark moment for activism, this is it.

Not to make light of those who suffer from CFS, but the people conducting this campaign, whether themselves afflicted with chronic fatigue or not, should be thrown into Her Majesty’s Prison for a good long stay.

This behavior is appalling not only for the for threats to the safety of the researchers, but also in the longer term for the hostility it shows towards basic science and the search for truth. The heart of the scientific method is the testing of falsifiable hypotheses, to see if they stand up to empirical observation. If they don’t, you refine or abandon them and develop another that better fits the facts — and you expect that to be tested and challenged, too.

And while the actions of these, let’s be blunt, terrorists are reprehensible, they are little different at their root from the mindset of others who demand science submit to “correct ideas.” Whether in service of a secular or religious ideology, it is an attempt to corrupt science and the scientific method and it should be opposed every time it occurs, even if the cause is thought noble. To excuse or justify the threatening of scientists because they advance a theory someone doesn’t like, even when that someone claims the moral shield of “victim,” as with the CFS sufferers, is to strike at the foundations of democratic society and Western civilization, itself.

via Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt

(1) “Activist:” a noun often referring to someone who acts like a jerk in the belief that other people will be impressed and join his cause.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

4 Responses to Activists and the danger to science

  1. Activists for Chronic Fatique Syndrome? So, where do they get the energy to inflict such mayhem on the civil society?

    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  2. Sonny California says:

    The energy to type a threat from a bed they can’t physically leave? They can do that much. How many did the police say have done this? Less than 20? There are an estimated 17 million people on the planet with this condition, including one million in the U.S. and one-quarter that amount in the UK.

    Now, this part I find interesting:

    “This point was backed by Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre. “Using threats and intimidation to prevent scientists pursuing specific avenues of research or speaking out is damaging not just science. It harms society,” she said.”

    That’s from the Guardian piece. Go & look up Fiona Fox on Wikipedia.

    What’s amazing to me is that when the MSM publishes something, anything, not favorable to the Right, conservatives, understandably, have a problem with it. Bias–bad.

    But when arguably the most left-wing newspaper in the UK publishes a story involving people whose careers are substantially deep within the socialized morass the UK calls healthcare…not one suggestion that perhaps this might be worth examining a little more closely.

    After all, it’s not like Fiona Fox once wrote in a rag called Living Marxism that what occurred in Rwanda 17 years ago might not be thought of as genocide…or that she was a member of something called the Revolutionary Communist Party.

    It’s not like Simon Wessely brushed off the victims of a water poisoning accident as people suffering from hysteria.

    Oh…wait. Those things actually did happen?

    Well, good for the Guardian. On the basis of a few desperate people acting criminally and wrongly, they have got both the left and the right accepting every word uncritically. Those activists…they’ve got no reason to be pissed.

    After all, everyone knows chronic fatigue syndrome isn’t even real.

  3. Andrea says:

    Dig deeper, dear blogger, dig deeper. I know you can do it.

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