Hands off science 1

November 14, 2003

The pressure group Sense About Science is not a force of enlightenment (Opinion, THES , November 7) but yet another vested-interest group aiming to crush dissent. This one automatically labels as "nonsense" any criticism of the majority view, such as that on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and genetically modified crops.

The case of stomach ulcers exemplifies the dangers of this approach. In the early 1980s, the majority scientific view was that stress caused ulcers. Thousands of patients needlessly had their stomachs removed.

The scientists who found that a bacterium causes ulcers would have been pilloried. Thousands more people would have gone under the knife instead of taking antibiotics.

Today's "high priests" should leave the scientific process alone - it has weathered many a storm.

Milton Wainwright
Department of molecular biology and biotechnology
University of Sheffield

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