Questions & Answers
On the 7th April 2010, in an email exchange with Al MacLeod, Alan gave the following answers to the Skeptical Voter questions.
1. Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven alternative "treatments" such as homeopathy?
- This is an 'it depends question' if it can be proved to benefit the patient then perhaps.
2. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
- Yes, so long as both are taught with equal balance.
- It's my opinion that the creeping in of any religious influence into education (particularly science education, such as evolution) is damaging, and will have serious long-term implications for scientific literacy in this country. Science should be kept in the science classes, and religion (e.g. creationism) kept in religious education classes. Would you agree with that?
- Yes that would seem an obvious place to teach each point of view.
3. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
- Yes, though this should be in equal measure. Christians should be free to wear a cross, muslims the Hajib. If we are to have freedom, it has to go both ways.
- That covers freedom of expression, but what about freedom to criticise? For example, a blogger or newspaper columnist describing a religious belief as ludicrous, or mythical?
- Yes, now I read it again from that point of view, perhaps I misinterpreted the question. How far do we go with this? It's the monty python life of Brian / Danish cartoons, issue all over again. OK, lets get radical... We should be free to say what we like so long as it does not incite hatred against an individual or group of people. Believers are also free to defend their faith.
- My basic principle on all things is that people should be free to do what they like as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.
4. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly without fear of being sacked?
- Yes, isnt that the whole point of 'independent' government advisors.
5. Should Sharia law be allowed as an alternative system within UK law?
- No. We have English Law which should be sufficient to protect the rights and freedoms of people from all faiths.
6. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
- Another 'it depends question' Yes, though care should be taken to minimise this as far as possible and avoid suffering.
7. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
- Scientific Evidence is often counter intuitive. So policy makers should trust evidence so long as it has been properly scrutinised.
8. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
- On the whole, yes.
9. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
- The entire house of lords needs reform. I fail to see why we have so many Bishops in the lords. I would elect the Lords.
10. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?
- This is complex and I do not have a straight answer to this. I do feel private lives of public figures are too often invaded.