Donna Dickenson is a ……….. (fill the blank)?

All too often people who when they want to make arguments they like sound more convincing do so by claiming that the people first put them are somehow more qualified than they are. For instance, if they want to convince the general public that a statement about medical issues has come from an expert, they will claim, without a second thought, that that the person in question is a “distinguished scientist” as if this automatically bestowed on that person an infallibility lesser mortals have not got.

This thought occurred to me while reading an entry  which Julia Manning, Director of 2020health.org, made on the CentreRight.com blog, which modestly describes itself as “a high quality, multiple-authored blog written by some of the best conservative thinkers and commentators around.”

But Woman’s Hour yesterday featured the thought provoking scientist Professor Donna Dickenson who reminds us that not just our money but our bodies are vulnerable. In her new book Body Shopping: The economy fuelled by flesh and blood she reminds us of the dangers of applying consumerism and commodification to the human body.It is no longer the domain of fiction, and whereas the common concerns of social intrusion and privacy are well aired here on CR, we ignore at our peril the loss of the ownership of all our public and [not so any more!] private parts. Professor Dickinson is one of several distinguished scientists who has agreed to help 2020health consider policy implications for technologies in health, but where billions have already be staked e.g. on genetic patents, can any Government be strong enough to resist this tempting source of revenue?

Manning, given her position, should know that Professor Dickenson is not in the accepted sense of the word a “scientist”, let alone a “distinguished” one. She is, as far as I know, a philosopher, with as special interest in ethics (particularly medical ethics) and politics.You have to wonder why Manning, who, being a graduate in Optometry and Visual Science at City University, is entitled to refer to herself as a scientist, should call Dickenson a scientist. Is it because bandying about the word philosopher would not go down all that well in CentreRight.com circles? You imagine that this as a group that has more respect for good old-fashioned hard science than for that namby-pamby (probably left-leaning) philosophy.

It could be that Manning did not bother checking on Professor Dickenson’s credentials before writing, in which the casual reader, if he or she has some sense, is forced to wonder if there are inaccuracies in her reporting.

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