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Steve Jones appears somewhat irked at the criticism that has flowed his way since the publication of his review of the BBC’s science coverage. Referring to the demonstration by Alfred Russel Wallace of the curvature of the Earth he expounds

Wallace was described as a “pitiful dastard… a swindler and impostor, a coward and a liar” and several newspapers published virulent pieces on the supposed dishonesty of the scientific establishment and its unwillingness to allow debate on such a contentious issue.

Of course, that could never happen today and all this has nothing to do with the tsunami of criticism that greeted my suggestion last week in a report to the BBC Trust that the BBC should stop giving excessive time to those who oppose science on the basis of belief rather than evidence and should promote debate between scientists instead.

This is quite interesting. Jones says that he has recommended that the BBC should reduce airtime to “those who oppose science on the basis of belief rather than evidence”. If this were the case I imagine the “tsunami of criticism” would have been a minor ripple at most. However, Jones’ description of his recommendations does not match the actual wording of his report:

I recommend that the BBC takes less rigid view of “due impartiality” as it applies to science (in practice and not just in its guidelines) and takes into account the non‐contentious nature of some material and the need to avoid giving undue attention to marginal opinion.

So far from seeking to sideline non-scientific criticisms, Jones delivered recommendations that focus on non-mainstream views. According to the recommendations I have quoted, you can be as scientific as you like, but if you are “marginal”, you can be ignored. Far from defending science, Jones is actually building barriers to the scientific method.

And this from a medallist of the Royal Society.

Bishop Hill, 2 August 2011