LETTERS: Myth of disinterested science

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Like Lewis Wolpert, I am profoundly sceptical about most claims to paranormal activity ("Hypotheses", Review, 19 May). Unlike him, I am not convinced that normative science is fit to police research in areas outside those it already approves.

He expresses surprise that scientists who have investigated Matthew Manning do not rush into print in the pages of Science or Nature. Has he forgotten the treatment meted out in 1988 to the scientist, Jacques Benveniste, when he published results that seemed to confirm homeopathic theory? The magazine accompanied the article with an editorial claiming that it must be bunkum, then sent the editor, a magician, and a doctor to his laboratory. On the basis of a three-day visit, these "researchers"believed that error had crept into the investigations and published a crushing rebuttal. Scientific research, as Wolpert says, should be "painstaking, slow and difficult". Some chance.

Has he forgotten the results of a study on the Bristol Cancer Help Centre, which concluded that women treated by non-conventional methods were more likely to die than those receiving orthodox treatment? Or the near-silence when the researchers admitted flaws in their methodology? It is sad that so many people swallow the claims of astrologers and the rest, but much sadder that men like Lewis Wolpert swallow the myth of an objective, disinterested and rational pursuit as science.

Dr Denis MacEoin

Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

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