A story concerning politics, science, vested interests and “selectively edited, out-of-context data” is not uncommon: recently there have been several about homeopathy. In this case I’m referring to a Washington Post story on petitions denied by the US Environmental Protection Agency in a story which was tweeted, earlier this afternoon, by Caroline Lucas (the Green Party’s leader and sole MP).
Caroline Lucas has proved herself an interesting an intelligent politician who has developed the Green Part in the UK into a far more credible political force than might have been imaginable a few years ago. She has speaks well crucially not just on affairs environmental but also on affairs economic, international and judicial. I haven’t heard her speak on health, but that’s probably because I missed it. As their sole MP, Ms Lucas is effectively their spokesman on everything and she does it well. The Green Party in the past have been vulnerable to claims that they are a single issue pressure group, and that they have an axe to grind on that issue. By demonstrating a breadth of expertise, and by providing solid, evidence based arguments for her case, Ms Lucas has been an effective debater both during and after the election.
On Thursday she tweeted that she had signed David Tredinnick’s Early Day Motion calling for NHS Trusts to be able to pay for homeopathic “treatments”. This strikes me as a dangerous position for such a progressive Green politician to take. Given the attacks on climate change science from the “sceptics” and the UEA email scandal, associating herself with an anti-science agenda like this seems to both to undermine her scientific credibility and promote the perception that she is pandering to a “new age” lobby in her constituency. While she is trying to make the issue local choice, the fact that she will not give her position on homeopathy does not help (this is precarious fence-sitting).
What is perhaps even more sad is that this does a disservice to those who believe that such arguments should be decided by having a better informed evidence-based debate. When he received his honorary fellowship here in Cardiff, Stephen Fry spoke of the values of the enlightenment being under attack from many sides. Those who believe in the value of evidence, science and knowledge cannot afford to indulge themselves. You cannot pick and mix with science or selectively choose the evidence to confirm your prejudice. It goes wherever it goes, and if we are interested in the truth then that is where we must follow.