Review of The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism by Dick Taverne, from The Economist:
THIS cogent restating of the case for science, reason, optimism and the other values of the Enlightenment is clear about its opponents. They include anyone who uses alternative medicine, or who buys organic food, or worries about genetic modification, or opposes nuclear power, or likes post-modernism, or doesn’t vaccinate their children properly, or distrusts scientists, or believes the Bible, or dislikes global capitalism or thinks that human progress damages the environment. In Dick Taverne’s view, all these wrong-headed beliefs are part of the same batty, sentimental mindset that ultimately threatens democracy.
A former lawyer and centre-left politician who was ennobled in 1996, Lord Taverne presents a useful compendium of facts and arguments that are often drowned out by media scare stories and green propaganda. Alternative medicine is at best a placebo, and at worst outright harmful; if it worked reliably, it would not be alternative. Organic food is often worse for the environment than conventional farming. GM crops, by contrast, are hugely promising and rich western nations’ antipathy towards them is a mystifying bit of self-indulgence.