I was surprised to see that Nadine Dorries and David Tredinnick were members of the newly-formed Select Committee on Health. So surprised, I half-wondered at first if the announcement was some kind of spoof. Sadly, it appears that Dorries and Tredinnick really are on the Health Select Committee.
This blog lists some of the new members of Commons Select Committees. While I am pleased to note that Philip Davies will again be part of the committee for Culture, Media and Sport (this committee will now also cover the Olympics and is the Select Committee for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport), as he has made clear his support for reform of England’s libel laws, the appointments of Dorries and Tredinnick fill me with doom. Here’s why…
Nadine Dorries MP
Nadine Dorries has been responsible for the uncritical promotion of misinformation (that happened to fit her agenda), for example this hoax: ‘hand of hope’. Then there’s the removal of the comment facility on her blog, detailed here. Dorries decided to close blog comments (claiming she didn’t have time for them, despite still finding time to blog).
I wrote about Nadine Dorries on drugs last year and used comments made by Dorries on Twitter as the basis of my post. Her responses to comments made by others (using evidence to back up their points) were illogical in the extreme, as I detail in the blog post linked to above.
Dorries is driven by ideology to the extent that she ignores evidence that does not suit her and uncritically promotes any evidence that does suit – whether this information is at all reliable or not. God only knows what she made of the news today that the human foetus feels no pain before 24 weeks, according to a major review of scientific evidence published today. The Guardian reminds us that:
Efforts in the Commons to reduce abortion limits to 22 or 20 weeks were defeated in 2008. The reports will hamper campaigners’ efforts for an early return to the topic, despite David Cameron having suggested before the election that that might happen.
Dorries, now a member of the Health Select Committee, is one of those campaigners. How she will deal with the evidence that has been reported by researchers (research that was instigated by the previous Health Select Committee) is uncertain. If she ignores the evidence, one might ask whether she is suited to membership of the Select Committee. (Although some were asking answering that question before the sad news of her appointment was announced.)
David Tredinnick MP
David Tredinnick seems to be a rather different kettle of fish to Dorries, but is also led by his beliefs to the extent that he ignores evidence that does not suit her and uncritically promotes any evidence that does suit – whether this information is at all reliable or not.
Tredinnick is a fan of homeopathy and other alternative inert treatments. In the post I have linked to, there are quotes from Tredinnick to the effect that “homeopathy does not fit normal methods of assessment” (a point refuted a thousand times – notably by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian) and that skeptics have trouble accepting the value of acupuncture because they don’t believe in the non-existant meridians Tredinnick has such faith in.
That acupuncture is generally no more effective than sham acupuncture might also have something to do with skepticism toward acupuncture. In this paper, the authors found that the analgesic effect of acupuncture was small, could not be distinguished from bias, and was unrelated to the types of sham treatment used as control. You can (a) use ‘real’ acupuncture and place needles in acupuncture points, (b) use a sham acupuncture that places needles in points unrelated to meridians, or (c) use a sham procedure that does not insert needles anywhere. One will work roughly as well as another. (Or to put it another way, are equally ineffective.)
Tredinnick was also responsible for some bizarre comments in Parliament regarding alternative medicine and perceived attacks on alternative medicine by scientists. I’ll repeat the most remarkable claim here:
The opposition is based on what I call the SIP formula—superstition, ignorance and prejudice. It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony. They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced too, which is troubling.
Not content with referring to skeptical scientists, en masse, as emotional and ignorant, David Tredinnick also saw fit to refer to them as racially prejudiced.
The Twenty First Floor have also blogged on the odd and worrying appointments of Tredinnick and Dorries. And, because not all articles in the mainstream media are bad (however much I criticise the MSM), here is an article from Adam Rutherford in the Guardian on the appointment of Tredinnick to the Parliametary Select Committee.