As of June 16, 2015 ,the United Kingdom is poised to elect a demonstrably anti-science politician to the most influential medical position in government. In my opinion it would be a disastrous outcome for the people of the Untied Kingdom and give cause for quacks everywhere to rejoice. Tory Member of Parliament (MP) David Tredinnick is attempting to become the chair of the influential Commons Health Select Committee, of which he is currently a voting member. Although I am a resident of the United States, I’m still appalled that a person who openly advocates for magical nonsense could be in such an influential position in a socialized health system, and even worse that he intends to head that same committee. Let’s review some of his publicly available positions on healthcare and take a really hard look at how bad politicizing your healthcare can get.
David Tredinnick is an old style Conservative MP, being an Eton-educated former Guards officer, who has sat in the Commons since 1987.
However, his ambition for high office was thwarted by his role in one of the sleaze stories which helped to sink the Major government. He accepted £1,000 from an undercover reporter to ask parliamentary questions about a fictitious drug. He was obliged to resign from his role as a PPS and was suspended from the Commons for 20 sitting days. He has not sat on the frontbench since.
[He has] carved himself a niche as the Commons’ most enthusiastic supporter of complementary medicine. He has wearied successive health secretaries with his persistent advocacy of any and all homeopathic remedies. He has also supported their use in prisons and even suggested them as an aid in alleviating the foot and mouth crisis.
He openly espouses alternative healthcare as a replacement for science-based medicine. That’s not unique in itself, but the woo doesn’t stop there. He openly advocates that astrology (yes, you read correctly, astrology), should be an integral part of the healthcare system.
David Tredinnick said ‘consulting the stars would take huge pressure off doctors and predicts astrology will have a role to play in healthcare.’
Bizarrely, Tredinnick, 65, who is chairman of the All-Party Group for Integrated Healthcare, went on to say people who opposed astrology were “racist”.
My personal favorite of all his quotes is an almost Lewis Carroll-esque in its literary nonsense. The Telegraph continues, quoting him:
‘The opposition (to astrology) is based on what I call the SIP formula — superstition, ignorance, and prejudice.
‘It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony.
‘They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.’
Superstitious scientists? Ironic, really, since he espousing primitive superstition as a replacement for medical science. I recommend The Skeptic’s Dictionary for a thorough treatise on astrology. Basically it is pre-scientific superstition that has morphed into a non-scientific idea about planetary motion and gravity affecting everything from current events to personality. It is not just impossible based on what we know about astrophysics, biology, physics and human physiology but it is inaccurate. It doesn’t even correlate with real celestial movement that we can see. More importantly, astrology just doesn’t work. Research has repeatedly shown that astrology is no more accurate than mere chance in predicting human behavior or events.
Many claim astrology is accurate and useful, but humanity is an unreliable judge on its own. Although there are many satisfied customers who believe that their horoscope accurately describes them and that their astrologer has given them good advice, such evidence does not prove astrology so much as it demonstrates the Forer effect and confirmation bias. Bottom line: it is not a basis for medical treatment or diagnosis; it is superstitious medievalism. Mr. Tredinnick is recommending that people use it as a replacement for modern medicine.
Like many true believers in alternative medicine he insists that there is something inherently wrong with the scientific process, since it seems to disprove their convictions. He has defended his advocacy of alternative medicines and said it should not get “bogged down” by the need for evidence.
It’s not that I mind his views in particular; people can believe a whole host of crazy ideas and still be a good politician. When you have a politician who serves on the the Science and Technology Select Committee you want someone who actually knows something about science. This individual has direct control over funding for science and technology. This is akin to having an atheist head a Select Committee for Religious Life and Scripture. Tredinnick’s chairmanship of the Health Select Committee would be a recipe for disaster and an embarrassment. You don’t want someone whose views are so obviously disdainful of science deciding who gets scientific funding and who doesn’t or making policy for the health of a nation. He already has a discordant amount of influence in the UK being on the committee. He should not be given more.
Realistically, those of you living in the UK need to sort this out. I am not entirely familiar with your parliament and its procedures, but in the US we would say call and write your senators and representatives showing your displeasure.
It is my understanding that this page is the route for complaints in the UK. Any residents please correct me if I am wrong.
or this email
A person who publicly and openly says that the scientific method needs to be discarded, simply because demanding proof that something works is inconvenient, shouldn’t be in control of the purse strings for research. In the US a similarly fervent ideologue, Senator Tom Harkin, caused a regulatory nightmare for the FDA that we still can’t dig out of 20 years later. Don’t make our mistake, demand science in your health committee.
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