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The age of endarkenment

James Kellerman

Great colum in the Guardian science section on the rise of dogma, irrational belief and the devaluing of truth. This is a subject passionately close to my heart, I have argued often that we appear to be entering an age of unreason, where dogma and belief matter more than truth.

David Colquhoun puts it better than I

A minor aspect of the endarkenment has been a resurgence in magical and superstitious ideas about medicine. The existence of homeopaths on the high street won't usually do too much harm. Their sugar pills contain nothing and they won't poison your body. The greater danger is that they poison your mind.

It is true that consulting a homeopath could endanger your health if it delays proper diagnosis, or if they recommend sugar pills to prevent malaria, but the real objection is cultural. Homeopaths are a manifestation of a society in which wishful thinking matters more than truth; a society where what I say three times is true and never mind the facts.

If this attitude were restricted to half-educated herbalists and crackpot crystal gazers, perhaps one could shrug it off. But the endarkenment extends to the highest reaches of the media, government and universities. And it corrupts science itself.

Even respectable newspapers still run nonsensical astrology columns and respected members of parliament seem quite unaware of what constitutes evidence. Conservative MP David Tredinnick advocated homeopathic treatment of foot and mouth disease and Lord Hunt, as health minister, referred to 'psychic surgery' as a "profession" in a letter written in response to question by a clinical scientist.

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