Scientist's 'bury politicians' plea
Politicians who persistently mislead the public about science should be "crushed and buried", one of Britain's top scientists has said.
Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, launched a blistering attack on MPs and ministers who "cherry pick" scientific findings that suit their agendas.
Addressing journalists ahead of this year's British Science Festival, he condemned the way some politicians put "opinion and rhetoric" before evidence and logical argument.
He especially targeted those who twisted the evidence relating to genetically modified (GM) crops and climate change.
"There have been ministers, or recent past ministers, who pay attention to one part of what science says with respect to GM and apparently not other parts to do with climate change," said Sir Paul.
Scientists should try to sympathise and engage with politicians - but if that failed, should show no mercy, he argued.
"When they are serial offenders, and there are serial offenders, they should be crushed and buried," Sir Paul declared.
"Two approaches: one sympathetic; you make friends and do your best with them. And if they're serial offenders, you crush them."
He also had truth-distorting lobby groups representing causes and companies in his sights.
"What I mean is we have to be robust in the public domain," said Sir Paul. "If we can't get the politicians or lobbyists to take the science seriously we have to take them on."
Sir Paul, who shared the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on the cell cycle, is the in-coming president of the British Science Association, organisers of the science festival taking place at the University of Birmingham next week.
Giving a preview of his presidential address, he maintained that nothing had as big an impact on society, culture and the human race as science.
It was therefore crucially important to ensure that the public was not given a warped and misleading version of scientific evidence on issues such as climate change.
"Science has long-standing consequences for society, acting as a major driver of culture and civilisation, and of changes in the ways that we live," said Sir Paul.
"We need to be aware of those who mix up science based on evidence and rationality with politics and ideology, where opinion and tradition hold more sway ...
"We have to beware of politicians who cherry pick scientific views, even ministers; who listen to scientists when it's about GM crops for example, and ignore them when it's about climate change.
"We have to be suspicious of the relativists. Anything goes .. what a nonsense ."