Science in Society

What is the role of science in any food and farm plans? We hear about antibiotics, hormones, drones, robots, GM, pesticides. Some believe science is the answer, others are concerned. This debate was had in the last century between the famous authors H.G. Wells and George Orwell but seems as relevant today: "Confronting challenges such as climate change and feeding the 2 billion people who lack a reliable source of food, it might be natural to regard science as humanity’s only hope. But expecting from science what it cannot deliver is just as hazardous as failing to acknowledge its great potential."

March for Science

In the book I made the case for better evidence to underpin decisions, and that science was going to become even more contested than in past. So we have to learn what to look for. The March for Science has set about that. And here are some of the things to look out for in Science Bullshit.

I knew from early age that while ‘the test tube was filled’, somebody had to do ‘I filled the test tube. Just changing the verb from active to objective did not mean you are objective. And = as many scientists do, just staring at the numbers, ignoring all else, does not mean you are objective. Throughout the book, I make clear what my position is, and then shine that view on events. Believe that highlights the issues – can agree or not, so that end up with a more objective result.

Most scientists have to work for capital. I said that I didn’t want to become a white coated imperialist. Long gone are the days when they could afford to look after themselves, like Darwin could. The very nature of present day science usually requires expensive equipment. Only capital can afford to employ most scientists. Us agricultural scientists have less choice in my day. Then there was a good chance of being employed in the public sector. But with land based science reduced to a quarter since then, much fewer opportunities

When I was doing a bit of campaigning to stop one research station closure, some friend asked ‘do they do GM?’ as if this was a cross of disapproval. GM was a sort of proxy for capitalism (but called ‘industrialism’), but missing what capitalism was really doing to our food and farm system, while promoting some long lost past.

I decided to be a scientific worker for ‘labour’, just have many scientists before me - witness Haldane. I have never regretted doing so, despite lots of disapproval and curiousness. I also realised that there is much to analyse in the following subjects, all important to better food and farm systems...