Peter Thompson Bates
Skeptical Voter Questionnaire Response
1. Do you support the use of NHS money to provide unproven health products such as homeopathy?
Widely accepted alternative health systems should only be available on the NHS in specific circumstances. For example with Homeopathy this may have a benefit to the general wellbeing of a patient simply because of its wide acceptance. When conventional (modern) medicine has been found to be ineffective, alternative therapies can offer a final comfort to patients relieving the pressure on the service from demands for more substantive medicine.
2. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
I was educated at a time when both creationism and evolution were both taught as fact. The facts of creation were taught in a religious context and evolution in a scientific context. Each had its place and it was up to the student to balance the teachings if they felt a need to. As a result of this style of education I remain open minded on the subject. I am of the opinion that education on this subject should remain in context. Creationism is fundamental to religious teachings and the theory of evolution is fundamental to scientific teaching and should be taught in this way.
3. Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
No. Human nature is such that we seek humour in adversity - this will always result in a certain amount of riducule of one section of a community. The line is crossed if the humour amounts to incitement to hatred. We have become over obsessed with political correctness and protecting one element of society in this way will ultimately result in restriction of freedom of speach and expression.
4. Should an independent government adviser whose views in their area of expertise conflict with government policy be able to express those views publicly?
All government decision making should be open to public scrutiny which requires the public to have all information available to the decision makers. The only exception being in relation to security matters. It would not however, be acceptable for an advisor to present one view to government and claim an alternative view in public. Government will often need straightforward black or white advice. We all know that in many areas of expertise the assesment of a situation is rarely so clear cut.
5. Should religious courts such as Sharia and Beth Din be recognised as alternative systems within UK law?
No. If you live in the UK you are subject to the UK law and legal system. Within matters of religion it is the individual choice whether or not to abide by religious strictures. These courts and Papal law can co-exist only when the results do not conflict with UK law and individual rights.
6. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
I am not involved in the development of medicines therefore I am not in a position to judge whether any animal testing is necessary. However as a general principle animal testing should only take place if there is no alternative and if the results could be proved to directly translate to the human population. Testing on animals purely for compliance with law is abhorrent. Legislation would be needed to address this issue.
7. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
Our knowledge of science is constantly growing. Scientific fact therefore changes with time. As a result scientific evidence can only be used as a guide to current thinking and policy makers have to asses this alongside other matters which would need to be taken into account in decision making.
8. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
No. Would the experts be willing to guarantee that if the current scientific and medical consensus should change, that they would personally make reparation for suffering caused by their earlier error? The Government is the responsible body and should take into account scientific and medical consensus alongside social, religious, secular other relevent concerns when making decisions.
9. Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
Yes. Leaders of the Anglican church in England have a role to play in the government of this country for as long as the church retains its status of the religion of the state. Parliamentary rules allow for decisions of the House of Lords to be ignored by the commons therefore any vote in the Lords is ulrimately only an advisory action. It is my opinion that the influence of the Anglican Church should be retained but that no other religion should be party to the decision making process. By the way I am not an Anglican.
10. Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law to allow a stronger 'public interest' defence?
Strong "public interest" defence exists under laws relating to "whistle blowing". We have a vast array of law and it is up to the legal services and judiciary to maintain the balance to ensure that the wishes of parliament and ultimately the people are properly protected. Libel or defamation is a matter of fact. A man may be called a liar if he has been proved to lie, if there is no lie then he has been defamed. This is different to having the right to question. Under the present legal system it is perhaps too easy to bring a libel action which undermines the right to question due to the costs and time involved. This issue needs to be dealt with under in the wider context of a review of the legal system.
You state that you wish to document where each candidate stands on science, secularism and evidence-based policy. You do not however suggest which areas of science you include in the evidence based determination of policy. Science deals with everything from basic chemistry to the sciences related to the human condition. The wider references include the needs of society to understand the role that humanity has within existence. Therefore science without recognition of the human need for belief systems excludes the role of those wider scientific elements.
Our society is not secular therefore any policy must take account of the fact that other belief systems exist and accept the effects that decisions will have on society.
Without giving the historic examples that any scientist would know, it is possible that todays absolute scientific fact will be tomorrows myth. As a result scientific evidence can only ever be used as one of many tools in the decision making process and should not be the overriding consideration.