31 JANUARY 2004, Page 29

Hear it for scientists

From Dr W. Reed Sir: Paul Johnson's amusing article (And another thing, 17 January), stripped of its condescending bigotry, makes three points worth comment.

First, that our scientific advisers, or `pontiffs', should be denied a public voice. Why? Our political and theological varieties are free to peddle any opinions they like on any subject. When Johnson met Haldane he should have learnt that scientists, alone, are obliged by their discipline to defend their assertions with documented evidence and clear rational analysis. They, at least, can be held fully accountable for their views.

Secondly, that our peer review process (Johnson's 'Holy Scientific Inquisition') suppresses minority scientific opinion. This can happen sometimes when personalities clash. It's overwhelmingly more common for such ideas to be given their say but lack the persuasive power to attract peer support. But Nature remains the harshest judge of all. With time, as Galileo and Darwin demonstrated, the weight of evidence enables truthful ideas to win against bigotry of all shades. Of course this can only become public knowledge when scientists and their discoveries are not muzzled!

Thirdly, that we 'leave the global thinking to more civilised and educated people'. Such thinking made generals of titled buffoons and now makes more palatable to some the rule of Europe by an unelected political elite. I will have none of it. Science has done more than any other endeavour to shape the culture we now enjoy. Scientists have earned the right, indeed the duty, to sit at head table.

W. Reed

Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex