My old teacher is spinning in his grave

I read an article in Nature journal yesterday.

Now, I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I spend my time browsing the academic scientific literature. I don’t. I prefer history. No, this article was pointed out to me by a scientist friend who was apoplectic about it.

And with reason.

Remember that Nature is regarded by many as the premier scientific journal in the world. It was founded in 1869 and prides itself on being the most cited journal on record. Scientists compete ferociously to get published in it, knowing that their work will be taken seriously as a result.

But the article I will draw your attention to is entitled “Scientists should not resign themselves to Brexit“. It is written by a chap called Colin MacIlwain, a freelance journalist with a degree in “Economics and Social Change in Britain”. You can read the whole thing HERE if you like, but to save you the trouble I will summarise. He says that Brexit will be bad for science, that scientists are jolly clever people, that science is very important and that therefore Brexit must be stopped to make life easier for scientists.

I will leave it up to you to decide if a decision voted for by more than 17 million people should be overturned for the convenience of a few thousand working in one particular industry; I’m more interested in the column itself.

Nowhere does the author offer any evidence that Brexit will be bad for science. Will UK universities suddenly stop doing science? Will vast numbers of scientists be made redundant? Will British industry stop doing research to develop new products? Facts? Data? Nope, none of that.

Instead he falls back on emotional feelings. “The mood in science departments is universally grim”, we are told. And other people are upset too: “It isn’t just EU-born students, postdocs and staff who are unsettled: countless spouses and offspring feel dejected and unwanted in the United Kingdom, too.”

Again, no evidence or data. We just have to take the author’s word for it that a few thousand people are feeling a bit upset.

Helpfully, the author makes his own feelings very clear. He tells us that there was a “loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals who voted to leave Europe”. Has the author gone out and surveyed a representative sample of Leave voters to reach this conclusion? Apparently not. He is just telling us his views.

But does Mr MacIlwain want to know about our views or our feelings? Obviously not. “Commenting on this article is currently unavailable” we are firmly told.

Sadly this attitude is all too prevalent among the more extremist remainers. They consider themselves better than we Brexiteers, or at least better able to understand the complex issues involved in Brexit. They sneer at us – I particularly like that bit about “right-wing jackals”. They believe that their views should take precedence over ours. They despise the democracy that puts great issues into the hands of the people.

Well, they are entitled to their views. What I find puzzling is that a prestige scientific journal such as Nature should publish an article that is so short on fact and so long on feelings and opinions.

When I was a lad my science teacher was a strict old boy. He caned more of our class than all the other teachers put together. And he had a saying that he drummed into us endlessly. “Facts! Facts! Facts! Science is about facts. Leave your emotions at the door, boy. Here we deal with Facts!”

How he must be spinning in his grave.

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Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews is a freelance writer and historian. During the recent EU Referendum campaign he served as Campaign Manager for Better Off Out and spoke at meetings from Penzance to Aberdeen, Belfast to Dover. Rupert has written over 100 books on history, cryptozoology and related subjects. He has served as a councillor for 8 years and has stood for both the Westminster and European Parliaments. You can follow Rupert on Twitter at @HistoryRupert or on Facebook as rupert.matthews1.

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4 comments

  1. Ian H.ThainReply

    It seems to me that some vociferous Remainers are simply in denial. They cannot bring themselves to believe that the country actually voted to Leave, so they are now frantically pretending to themselves and anybody else who will listen that the referendum didn’t happen, or if it did, that they will soon wake up and find that we voted after all to remain.

    But we ARE leaving the EU, and personally I hope we also leave the single market and the customs union finally and completely, so that the fat cats in the City will have to find a proper job and do something useful instead of legally robbing us blind. Of course there will be some little local difficulties, such as the Irish border situation, but it is the job of politicians to find solutions to such difficulties. That is, after all, what we pay them all for.

    Change cannot come quickly enough or deeply enough for me.

  2. Malcolm MorrisonReply

    ‘Brexit’ has NOTHING to do with ‘science’! So, I cannot understand why Nature published the article.

    Scientists have always exchanged information and ideas across the world – long before the EU was even dreamt of! There is absolutely no reason why they should not continue to do so after we LEAVE THE EU. They have also travelled to different countries to work and do research (as they still do in countries outside the EU); there is no reason why should not continue to do so after ‘Brexit’. They may need to get a visa and work permit if they come from an EU country – as do others from non-WEU countries now.

    Maybe the author should stick to his ‘science’ and leave ‘politics’ to those (17million) who know more about it than he! Does he state what a ‘left-wing jackal’ believes?

  3. Ian HolmesReply

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Thain above.
    I’ve read extensively about the eu, the corruption, the lies and spin, the “no, no, no, we will never do that”, placating and softly spoken narrative, which a few weeks later morphs quickly into ‘”this is what we are doing, and elected MEP’s can have their say about it, but as it was all decided by unelected committee anyway, we won’t take any notice”‘, dictatorial edict.
    I’m particularly worried about the fact that one person, Mrs Merkel, seems able to ride roughshod over the unelected leaders of the eu without recrimination at all from any elected representative of any other member state. She is merely the elected leader of a single country forming a union of 28 countries, yet nobody in the unelected upper echelon of the eu has the temerity to stand up to her either, or tell her that that is all she is, no more, no less. That in itself is not democracy.
    Nest time we see a video of all the eu politicos hugging and slapping each other on the back as they ignore Mrs May in a shallow show of eu solidarity, please imagine them as they really would like to be as they heartily slap each other on the back, holding a knife and stabbing each other!
    Last point: Remainers called ‘left wing hyenas’, perhaps?

  4. Gordon WebsterReply

    Brussels has spent the last two decades, ramped up when Blair assumed office, using our money to bribe the conceited pseudo intellectual in Economics and Science to “Promote The European Project.” Every University, now no more than paper factories, thanks to Blair using them to hide youth unemployment and getting the youth to pay for it themselves, is in receipt of large sums of our returned money – which Brussels allocates. Every University gets wads of our cash for Chairs of European Study, or European Integration Studies, so Universities are definitely not unbiased. The Economist, like the Guardian and the BBC, is said to receive millions of pounds from Brussels to Promote The European Project. We are witnessing the Study of Self Interest or, as Leon Festinger put it in his Study – “The Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance.”

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