IoS letters, emails & online postings (21 December 2014)

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The Independent Online

DJ Taylor confesses to be ignorant of physics ("Don't know much biology", 14 December). This reminds me of a special University Challenge in which one of the teams was a group of MPs. There was a round of questions on chemistry in which the MPs failed to get a single correct answer and, at the end, they said, "You don't expect us to know anything about chemistry, do you?" This scientific ignorance is a very British thing – you will find a much rounder concept of general knowledge in the Netherlands and Germany. What we need is better education, producing more rounded people who know as much about chemistry and physics as they do about Shakespeare, Picasso, Mozart and the Hundred Years War.

Ian K Watson,

Carlisle, Cumbria

I agree with DJ Taylor that the ignorance displayed by educated people towards science is striking. But this mainly applies to arts and humanities graduates: it is far less common for students of science to display the same ignorance of music and literature. Science and art enrich our lives in different ways, and the national curriculum should require children to study them both equally. Britain would be so much better governed if it were run by well-rounded polymaths rather than the narrow band of PPE types we have at present.

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

John Rentoul ("The spirit of the Thirties lends Ed a withered hand", 14 December) notes that Ed Balls has been more right on the economy over the past 10 years than George Osborne but that still might not win Labour the election. Why? Rentoul argues it is because Balls is bad at "selling" his analysis and policies. Labour can rarely expect a reasonable hearing from much of the media but that hasn't stopped it winning elections. It has relied on an army of activists in the trade unions and in communities to get its points across in a far more direct and personal way. Labour still has some of that activist base, and far more of one than the other parties. However, it is diminished and in some areas hardly functions. That is a problem for Labour and more widely for democracy, though the rise in support for the Greens, nationalist parties and Ukip suggests that, as ever, nature abhors a vacuum.

Keith Flett

London N17

Your article states "More and more countries are now taking climate crisis seriously" ("Rich square up to poor at climate talks", 14 December). It is worth recalling that world leaders all agreed to prevent dangerous anthropogenic climate change as long ago as 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio. Since then, annual emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 60 per cent, the United States has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has withdrawn from the protocol, and China has become the largest emitter on the planet. In truth, the world is reneging on the promises made 22 years ago.

Robin Russell-Jones

Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Simon Barnes ("Conservation begins at home", 14 December) comments that if Prince William wants to be a conservationist then he must stop shooting. Unfortunately, this might not have the desired effect. Our research shows that well-managed shoots (including grouse moors) are a force for good. A study of an abandoned grouse moor recorded that, in less than 20 years, lapwing became extinct, golden plover declined from 10 birds to one and curlew declined by 79 per cent.

Andrew Gilruth

Director of communications, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

In last week's issue, I have read Ellen E Jones commenting on Alan Titchmarsh and the royal mushrooms, and Jane Merrick referring to the same Titchmarshian discovery. In the Arts & Books supplement, Food for Thought was by Alan Titchmarsh. In the New Review, he's there again, under Agenda Credo. If you give us such extensive exposure of anyone in future, can it please be someone more deserving than this ubiquitous and vapid self-publicist?

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

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