Letter: Good science is no mere '-ology'

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Sir: In her scattergun attack on "-ologies" (4 April), Suzanne Moore lumps mysticism together with science. She confounds the use of the scientific method to answer trivial questions with its use to answer important ones. She regards regulation and information provision as the same approach to risk-control, when they are policy alternatives. She includes psychologists among the experts she accuses of ignoring the unconscious when, in fact, they are the ones who study its contribution to our behaviour. Good journalism, like good science, requires discrimination: we need less of some "-ologies" (graphology, astrology) but more of others (good psychology, good neurology).

The study showing effects of environmental stimulation on brain and behaviour is good behavioural neuroscience demeaned by a whimsically misleading reference to the animals in the more stimulating environment as "middle- class". Sometimes attempts to render good science palatable for public consumption result in its appearing as trivial as bad science. This makes judgement of the true quality and relevance of the work harder for the lay person. Nevertheless, journalists should be competent in such judgements.


Reader in Experimental Psychology

University College London