For sheer chutzpah, one can’t go past Michael Cook’s piece in The Australian today, in which he attacks the prestigious medical journal The Lancet for “politicising science” after it accused the Howard Government of silencing independent opinion within the research community.
The problem’s not simply that Cook doesn’t mention the real reason that The Lancet now turns up so regularly in conservative cross-hairs: namely, its much-publicised estimate that the Iraq invasion caused 655,000 deaths.
Indeed, if one sought an obvious example of the politicisation of science, one need look no further than the response to The Lancet‘s figure by Messrs Bush, Howard and Blair, all of whom dismissed the estimate with a shrug, even as the British Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser privately described its methods as “close to best practice” and its design as “robust”.
No, what makes Cook’s diatribe against “politicking editorials” so disingenuous is his failure to identify the connection between Bioedge, the journal he edits, and Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic sect to which he has belonged for 30 years.
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“I am alarmed at this heady mix of politics and medical science,” says Cook of The Lancet. “[…Readers of] medical and science journals […] naively expect that the white-coated gods of science speak truth to power in words uncontaminated by ideological prejudice.”
Indeed they do. That’s presumably why Bioedge’s publisher Australasian Bioethics Information coyly describes itself as “a clearinghouse for information about cutting-edge bioethical issues” and “completely independent”, even though its only other spokesman is a certain Dr Amin Abboud — who is, funnily enough, the former information officer for Opus Dei in Australia.
Opus Dei’s members are, of course, as entitled as anyone else to opinions on matters bioethical, even if said opinions owe as much to faith as to science. But it’s a bit rich for them to do so while lecturing others about remaining politically independent.