I have sent the ten Skeptical Voter questions to Stephen Goddard on the 8th April 2010, along with three others which I though may be of interest. If a question has been re-phrased or added it has been marked as such and initialed. He gave the answers below. Importantly he pointed out that his answers are necessarily briefer than if he had more time to spend expanding on the answers.
Do you support the use of public funds to provide unproven alternative "treatments" such as homeopathy?
Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus? [The question referred to in the answer is: Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive? - see below]
"As per my previous answer, I think there is room for an element of personal judgement"
What is your view on the practice of testing on animals (within strict criteria) as a part of the development of medicines? [I rephrased this one. - LF]
"I have serious reservations about the use of higher animals, such as primates, but do consider testing on animals for medical purposes (as opposed to, e.g., the testing of cosmetics) to be justified."
What is your policy on the funding of so-called "blue-skies" research in areas such as physics, where economic impact is not always immediately obvious? [Added -LF]
"As someone whose research area is in 19th century French literature, I don't subscribe to 'economic impact' as the sole valid way of judging the value of research."
Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
"No (although I have no objection to its being mentioned: but it should be made clear that evolution is backed up by clear scientific evidence)."
Should Sharia law be allowed as an alternative system within UK law?
Do you believe that religious belief should be legally protected from ridicule?
Should religious leaders be entitled to vote in the House of Lords?
"Only if they can get themselves elected to it! (I believe the House of Lords should be fully elected)."
Evidence Based Policy Making
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?
Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?
"Not necessarily: there should be room for personal judgement, and an awareness that different scientists can and do come up with different answers."
What is your view with regard to evidence-based policy in all areas - not just those specifically mentioned above which are mostly science-based, but also wider ranging topics. Should policy always be implemented based on evidence? (As an example, should studies on the effectiveness of long prison terms be taken into policy decisions on their implementation. This is just an example - what I am asking about is *how* the policy is fashioned.) [Added -LF with apologies for lengthy question!]
"I believe that scientific evidence is one element, and an important one, in the formulation of policy -- but as mentioned above, the fact that different scientists may come up with contradictory conclusions means in my view that an element of personal judgement can and should be exercised by policy-makers: indeed, if it were the case that scientific evidence could simply be applied directly in the formulation of policy, it would be possible to argue that the role of the legislator could be omitted entirely, which for obvious reasons I do not believe."
Do you support the reform of English and Welsh libel law? [I edited this one. -LF]
"I don't believe that the threat of libel should be allowed to deter scientists from carrying out their research. It therefore may be necessary to reform the law to prevent this from happening."
What are your views on electoral reform, such as the introduction of the alternative voting system and the introduction of a fully-elected House of Lords? [Added -LF]
"I would prefer to see the Single Transferable Vote as the electoral system for the House of Commons, as it gives more power to the voters and less to the parties. However, I am open to negotiation in this area, subject to the basic assumption that the current system, with its gross inequalities, is not an option. I would, as mentioned above, wish to see a fully-elected House of Lords."