Science lobby equally guilty

May 1, 2008

As a scientist, a Jewish atheist and a supporter of abortion rights, I have no brief for Cardinal Keith O'Brien. But every charge that Gerard Kelly makes of the Cardinal can be laid at the door of the science lobby, and with interest (Leader, 17 April).

Take "manipulation of the political debate". How about the Newcastle scientists' publication by press release of their creation of hybrid embryos?

Or how about "rhetorical thuggery"? Nothing O'Brien has said can compare with the effusions of invective aimed at scientists who publish uncomfortable data, such as Andrew Wakefield (MMR/autism) and Arpad Pusztai (GMO food safety).

The science lobby has, on the hybrid embryo question, persistently misled the public over matters of basic scientific fact. They have insisted that "cytoplasmic hybrid" embryos are "really" or "essentially" human, even though the majority of their molecular components will come from the animal egg.

Even when Sir Ian Wilmut, the initial champion of human-animal hybrids, has abandoned hybrids in favour of the obviously scientifically and ethically superior alternative of induced pluripotent human cells, the science lobby continues to insist that human-animal hybrids are "vital medical research".

Avoiding dealing with critical voices from the Left and the environmental movement results in the vast majority of people, who feel distinctly uncomfortable with human-animal hybrids but who do not want to be labelled as religious obscurantists, unable to get their doubts heard.

David King, Director, Human Genetics Alert.

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