“Nothing shows more clearly the scientific illiteracy that prevails in the House of Commons”

As David Colquhoun’s Improbable Science blog notes, 55 MPs [and counting – Ed] have signed Early Day Motion 908, expressing “concern at the conclusions of the Science and Technology Committee’s Report, Evidence Check on Homeopathy” – previously mentioned here. Among the signatories of the EDM are the DUP MPs, Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell, William McCrea, Ian Paisley Snr, and David Simpson… and the UUP’s the independently minded Lady Hermon. [What?! No Peter Hain? – Ed] Not yet… As the Guardian’s Ian Sample says

We don’t have the most scientifically literate bunch of MPs in the House today and what a desperately depressing thing that is.

And DC’s Improbable blog lists the culprits

Here is the roll of shame, updated on 12 March (the last six signed in the last 24 hours)

Tredinnick, David Con
Simpson, Alan Lab
Russell, Bob LibDem
Pound, Stephen Lab
Dismore, Andrew Lab
Simpson, David Democratic unionist
McDonnell, John Lab
Campbell, Gregory Democratic unionist
Cohen, Harry Lab
Corbyn, Jeremy Lab
Drew, David Lab
Gray, James Con
Hancock, Mike LibDem
Hermon, Lady Ulster unionist
Key, Robert Con
Hemming, John LibDem
Bone, Peter Con
Davies, Dai Independent
Mates, Michael Con
Dodds, Nigel Democratic unionist
Wyatt, Derek Lab
Sarwar, Mohammad Lab
Hamilton, Fabian Lab
Winterton, Nicholas Con
Davies, Philip Con
Leigh, Edward Con
Barlow, Celia Lab
Ellwood, Tobias Con
Leech, John Lib Dem
Main, Anne Lab
Robinson, Peter Democratic unionist
McCrea, Dr William Democratic unionist
Paisley, Ian Democratic unionist
Brady, Graham Con
Cook, Frank Lab
Hall, Patrick Lab
Binley, Brian Con
Pugh, John Lib dem
Davey, Edward Lib dem
Weir, Mike Scottish Nationalist
Sharma, Virendra Kumar Lab
Abbott, Diane Lab
Williams, Mark Lib dem
Horam, John Con
Widdecombe, Ann Con
Browne, Jeremy Lib dem
Spicer, Michael Con
Maclean, David Con
McCafferty, Chris Lab
Buck, Karen Lab
George, Andrew Lib Dem
Vis, Rudi Lab
Walter, Robert Lab
Whittingdale, John Con
Farron, Timothy Lib Dem

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  • joeCanuck

    It might have helped the scientifically challenged here on Slugger if you had included the following nugget about the initiator of this EDM, David Tredinnick Con..

    “The MP for Bosworth struck a deal with the parliamentary standards commissioner to pay back the £755 which he claimed for a computer programme that states it can help users to predict their health via the stars.”

    Some people will sign any nonsense put before them.

  • Pete Baker


    It’s in the links.

  • joeCanuck

    I know, Pete. But we also know that some folks here are allergic to links.

  • Pete Baker

    Tough, Joe.

    Time they started clicking.

  • I’m genuinely surprised by some of the names on this list that seem to be endorsing quackery, and it kinda suggests something that I’ve thought for a while – that some MPs don’t always even look at what they’re signing.

    I’ll check it out but there are two names on there that I don’t think would have signed it if they’d read it themselves (though there are a few names there that I’ve always suspected of hippydom).

  • Pete Baker


    “it kinda suggests something that I’ve thought for a while – that some MPs don’t always even look at what they’re signing.”

    Either that, or they don’t actually know all the details, and arguments, about what they are signing – not necessarily the same thing.

  • joeCanuck

    Pretty sure it’s the former, Pete. A pal, acquaintance or whatever, comes over at lunch or whatever and says “hey, would you sign this for me?”. Bob’s your uncle.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Reasonable enough petition……Id sign it. Twice.

  • pauljames

    Glad to see that my own MP Sammy Wilson has taken a principled stand on the side of science by refusing to sign

  • joeCanuck


    Twice is not enough. You need to sign at least a thousand times to make it meaningful.

  • Driftwood

    My MP Eddie McGrady hasn’t signed it either, though he probably didn’t know about it anyway. No surprises that the DUP took the bait.

    Quackery is just a continuation of the illogic of religion or superstition. We want easy answers. We want to know we can influence our world.

    People feel the need to be powerful, so they rely on religion, astrology, conspiracy theory, quackery and the like to pretend we are on top of the situation. In many peoples mind, the illusion of control is as good as the real thing. It’s not what you can do; it’s how you feel.

    So the DUP believe the earth is 6000 years old. They believe in the power of prayer, and they believe in quacks telling us exactly what they want to hear. How have we ever made it this far. Oh,I remember, science.
    The Blessed Atheist Bible Study @ http://blessedatheist.com/

  • Driftwood

    And I see Iris’s remedial therapy is coming along nicely.


  • villager

    That would be enough for me to vote against any one of those plonkers. What does IJP think, what about the shinners?

  • David Crookes

    Is NI disproportionately represented on the list? Not really. What is nearly always referred to as ‘the homeopathy’ is big business in NI. You pay for the whole package, which includes lots of personal attention from your saintly distinguished-looking physician. It is impossible to satirize pseudo-medicine.

    PHYSICIAN Now Mrs McKittrick, I know it will sound strange, but for the first four or five weeks of the treatment you many actually FEEL WORSE.

    MRS McKITTRICK (nodding solemnly) I understand.

    PHYSICIAN There are areas of discord in your persona which must be made obedient to the law of infinitesimals. You have already sensed the existence of those areas.

    MRS McKITTRICK I have indeed.

    PHYSICIAN DO you accept that water has a memory?


    PHYSICIAN Are you prepared to suffer pain?


    PHYSICIAN Oh, good. [Pauses.] Tell me one thing before we discuss the exact nature of your treatment. Did your mother’s father ever smoke cigars?

    MRS McKITTRICK I believe that he did.

    PHYSICIAN (knowingly) Aaaahhh.

    [And so on. And so on. And so on. For ever.]

    Is it possible that some of our MPs have acted with an eye to the votes of believers in homeopathy? There are plenty of them. But maybe I’m being uncharitable.

  • wee buns

    Pete Baker says:
    ‘…or they don’t actually know all the details, and arguments, about what they are signing – not necessarily the same thing’ (as not caring/looking what they sign.)

    Exactly correct.
    They do not have the time, nor expertise to get embroilled in this argument.
    (Neither do Slugger commentators, bar a single comendable effort by BOO, have the time nor expertise, as has been shown…still no takers boys?)

    This ‘roll of shame’, as DC calls it, is actualy a responsible (gulp..yes, said that in reference to our beloved leaders) acknowledgement that they are not in this instance best placed to judge community needs. Maybe an admission they should make more often…that the community, might, just MIGHT know what is in our own interests?! At least consult the full evidence?
    Yes please.

  • villager

    I see the Dawkinsites have picked up on this, they’re trying to figure out who the small band of fruitcakes called the ‘Democratic Unionists’ are.


  • wee buns

    The Sluggerite, I repeat, has shown him/herself equaly inacpable of the real debate about homeopathy/placebo; so for ONCE in my life I am behind the above list of representitives.
    Bring it on, those of you who think they have even a slither of notion on the argument!

    Goldacre of course is drug company funded philistine whose opinion is not worth a curse. As for Colquhoun, not being well aquainted with his particular brand of dogma, it can nonetheless be told at a glance by his term “pure gobbledygook” in relation to (the ancient & prevailing) herbalism & acupuncture, that he is markedly cosy in his wee psuedo scientific box.

    David Crookes:
    There are NO huge bucks in homeopathy.
    The mega bucks lie where big pharmas are currently losing patients who seek better (non supressive) results elsewhere; they even self prescribe (how dare they) by ordering cheaper anti-biotics on the net etc. EVEN did not take up the flu-na-muc vaccine with the servility which is normally expected of them (esp having fostered te normal fearmongering in it’s wake.)
    What’s that? You sir at the back? You say people are more informed now about medicine due to the intranet? Soon people will be taking responsibility for their OWN health! How dare they!
    Big White Daddy God Of Medicne may find himself…er…marginally poorer from now on.
    It is a hard hard life.

  • David Crookes

    Wee buns (#17), when the revolution comes we’re going to get rid of the pharmafia as well. If you took oil and drugs out of the Western political equation you’d make the quare difference.

    I’ve nothing against honest herbalism. What I’m against is dissolving a pound of sodium bicarbonate in Lough Neagh and then selling the water for £5 a bottle.

    You do us all a favour by pointing a monitory finger at the pharmocrats.

    I’m going to bed or people will think I’m sad.

  • Driftwood

    Ulster Unionist (1 of 1, 100 %) – an individual of concern

    Democratic Unionist (6 of 8, 75 %) – this small band of nut jobs clearly all think very much alike
    Liberal Democrat (10 of 63, 15.9 %) – shameful, considering that, of the three biggest parties, I had thought them the most rational
    Scottish Nationalist (1 of 7, 14.3 % [3 s.f.]), Independent (1 of 8, 12.5 %) – not worth reading too much into that
    Conservative (16 of 193, 8.29 % [3 s.f.]) – unsurprisingly, worse than Labour
    Labour (20 of 346, 5.78 %) – well, at least the party in power is the best performer here, with some exceptions below whose numbers are so small it may indicate nothing:

    Independent Conservative, Independent Labour, Plaid Cymru, Respect, Sinn Fein, Social Democratic & Labour Party and Speaker and Duties all 0 %

    Long story short – Labour, then Conservative, then Lib Dem. Democratic Unionists are the only minor party to come out of this looking unambiguously good or bad – bad, sadly.

  • joeCanuck

    This must be a record for comments on a N.I. science (or non-science) blog. Keep it going.

  • joeCanuck

    Bring it on, those of you who think they have even a slither of notion on the argument!

    wee buns,
    You just don’t get it. People can, of course believe what they want to, but it’s not the responsibility of skeptics to prove that something doesn’t work (proving a negative is impossible, check out black swans) but the responsibility of believers (in anything) to prove that it works or is true.
    Homeopathy has been successful only in removing money from the pockets of the weak willed (and, in some cases, the weak chinned).

  • Garza

    What would the world be like the Homeopathy ruled over science?

  • Rory Carr

    I’m more than surprised at DUP support for this motion. Not that I find it at all odd, given their unscientific (indeed anti-scientific) views on so much of life, that they might be eager to give voice to quackery. Indeed they are regarded as the Ballymena Duck of Quackery in political circles.

    What surprises me however is that they are keen to lend their public support to something that comes so phonically close to another human exercise that is so roundly condemned in the Bible (and on that bible of the airways – Nolan).

    Indeed I wonder who explained to them that homeopathy did not necesssarily involve a keen interest in interior design, having one’s nipples pierced or swooning over the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Oh, and just a little correction to the list of MP’s supporting the EDM – Ann Main is the Conservative M.P for St Albans and not Labour as indicated, which means that the party % figures will need to be revisited.

  • Drumlins Rock

    ok, just read the motion, its not exactly endorsing homeopathy, is it just saying they should have given it a fairer hearing before rejecting it? fair enough, then reject it, or if it is shown to have some benefit above that of placebo, try to work out where they come from.

  • BryanS

    Is Sammy Wilson the only DUPer with an independently functioning brain?

  • wee buns

    You assume, as does the unquestioning majority, that conventional medicine has proved itself to ‘work’ in a superior way to all else, or even ‘work’ at all in very many instances, vaccination being but one example. Not true.

    I would like to imagine that among the ranks of thinking people, the dismissal & rubbishing of any field of work, should at least be a semi-qualified one. Hence my invitation to debate. Apologies for not standing by to meekly wittness DC’s or your own Sun-reader type diatribes on a complex and indespensable field.

  • wee buns

    Drumlins Rock
    ‘its not exactly endorsing homeopathy, is it just saying they should have given it a fairer hearing before rejecting it..’

    Yes. Thankyou.

  • coconnor

    wee buns, if you deny that vaccination works then I’m afraid any debate would be rather pointless.

  • coconnor

    Incidentally, if Goldacre is a big pharma shill, then he’s going about it in a strange way:

    “But drug companies have repeatedly been shown to bury unflattering data.

    Sometimes they bury data that shows drugs to be actively harmful.
    Alongside these deep-rooted, systemic problems with the pharmaceutical industry, the single issue of SSRI antidepressants, and these new findings, becomes almost trivial. Biased under-reporting of clinical trials happens in all areas of medicine. It wastes money, and it costs lives. It is unethical, and it is indefensible. But most damning of all, it could be fixed in a legislative trice.”


  • “seem to be endorsing quackery”

    It isn’t endorsing homeopathy either, Paul. Apparently some commentators have jumped the gun. Perhaps they should have read the motion!!

    further notes that 206 hon. Members signed Early Day Motion No. 1240 in support of NHS homeopathic hospitals in Session 2006-07; and calls on the Government to maintain its policy of allowing decision-making on individual clinical interventions, including homeopathy, to remain in the hands of local NHS service providers and practitioners who are best placed to know their community’s needs.

  • Driftwood

    Horizon investigated this over a year ago;


    Result. Homeopathy is useless.

    I would like Parliament to call to account any NHS Trust wasting the taxpayers money on a fraud.

    Surprised to see Lady Hermon embarrass the UUP by puting her name to this crap. maybe she did it for badness.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You assume, as does the unquestioning majority, that conventional medicine has proved itself to ‘work’ in a superior way to all else, or even ‘work’ at all in very many instances, vaccination being but one example. Not true.

    Conventional medicine is not guaranteed to work in all circumstances. The parameters are generally well understood and are determined through testing and study. Using these studies, and experiences, doctors can estimate the probability of a treatment working.

    Since there are no tests or studies that prove that homoeopathy works. You can’t estimate the probability of a treatment working. We know that this is the case, otherwise someone on the planet would have claimed the JREF’s $1 million. Therefore you’re not even on the same level.

    Incidentally, there are debates all the time about conventional medicine and whether or not the NHS should fund it. A particularly high-profile example is the drug “herceptin”. Studies, trials and tests, AFAIR, determined that there was no solid evidence that the drug worked and initially it was not offered on the NHS. Politicians intervened and the rest is history, and none of it is anything to do with pressure from “big pharma”, although they certainly manipulated the breast cancer pressure groups. Just mentioning that to point out that it isn’t only homoeopathy that is subject to this stuff.

    And yes, Sammy Wilson is one of the few MPs we have who, by and large, has a good eye for bullshit.

  • Do we need a transfer test for politicians? Should they have to pass a science + statistics examination before they can be appointed as a Minister? Can we organize a test of all Ministers and Shadow Ministers before the election?

  • Greenflag

    ‘homeopathy , astrology , scientology , voodoo, new age, necromancers , religions ,end of worlditis , 2000 -2012 etc – cows bulls and calves -cattle one and all ‘

    Horseshit by the motherload and poor folks lining up to get scammed and ripped off -millions 🙁

  • joeCanuck

    It’s not so much the being ripped off that concerns me but the possible dangers to people if it makes them inclined not to seek out proven conventional therapies.

  • David Crookes

    If something is truly efficacious, it won’t be ‘controversial’.

    Why do we never see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?

  • wee buns

    This is an extremely aggressive campaign by ‘scientists’ who should know better. The group it does a greatest disservice to is patients.
    They are wrong when they suggest conventional medicine is always safe.
    They are wrong when they claim that all complementary therapies are unproven – and equally wrong to say that all, or even most, conventional medicine relies on scientific evidence.
    And they are wrong to dismiss patients’ views from their calculations.
    There is an unforgivable lack of compassion to abandon patients who cannot be helped with conventional medicine.
    It is unethical behaviour by those whose task it is to improve the health of the public.

    The astounding arrogance of Colquhoun’s position perhaps suggests that he too has not bothered his arse to read the motion? Which begs the question: what is so threatening about a comprehensive body of evidence?

  • wee buns


    ‘Horizon investigated this over a year ago;’

    More science fiction than science fact.