Conservative MP David Tredinnick thinks the moon influences human behaviour and believes that homeopathy works. The Commons science committee is about to get a whole lot more interesting.
What made you join the committee?
I’ve come onto this committee as someone who wants to see it take a broader view of science. I don’t believe that science is about defending the status quo: it’s about pushing boundaries. It’s really significant that I got onto this committee and I think it should be a wake-up call to those in the scientific community who don’t want to explore alternatives.
What do you mean by exploring alternatives?
In the past, the committee has published quite negative views of, for example, homeopathic medicine. Its report did not look at the treatments around the world. It was completely out of line with what’s happening in Europe. For example, in France homeopathic medicine is used by 80 per cent of pregnant women and it’s widely used in India and across the world. I think it would be more helpful if the scientific community tried to work out why homeopathy is so popular.
What else do you think the committee should look at?
Looking at healthcare, one of the mysteries of Western medicine is acupuncture. And there’s a lot of criticism of it saying it doesn’t work. But I’ve used Chinese medicine for years, and I cannot work out why this isn’t more widely used in the health service. The same for herbal medicine, we need to get back to some natural remedies that have stood the tests of time. But there are also a lot of scientific issues that have got to do with Britain’s involvement in the space industry. There’s also the way science is taught in schools, we’re about 50,000 scientists short every year - why is that? So there’s a lot of work to be done.
Are you worried about what your fellow committee members will make of your views?
No not at all. I’m already an elected member of the health committee, which has had the task of scrutinising the government’s health and social care bill. I hope to bring fresh insights but also make a contribution to their main work.
Jeremy Hunt, who is also supportive of homeopathy, recently became health secretary. Could this be a sign that the tide is turning for alternative medicine?
Well I can’t speak for him but … I think there are some good, double-blind placebo-controlled trials that have been conducted by the Integrated Healthcare Hospital, formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. But there’s also an enormous amount of evidence available through the observation of patients, so we shouldn’t ignore that. The other thing is that is very safe and very inexpensive. It should be more widely available on the NHS. And we should be teaching people to use simple homeopathic kits to stop unnecessary visits to doctors’ surgeries.
One of your more controversial statements concerned the moon’s effect on behaviour. Would you like to, once and for all, settle what you really think about this?
That was a particular phrase taken out of a speech many years ago but there is a large body of opinion that would support what I said. I was looking at Ayurvedic medicine; I was simply quoting what other people were saying in other parts of the world. But I think that if the sun has an impact on our lives and the moon has an impact on the tides and cycles, it is logical to suggest that it might have an impact on other aspects of our lives as well. It’s accepted that at certain times certain people’s behaviour gets more extreme at the full moon—that’s, I think, scientifically proven. Hormonal reactions to increased positive ions in the air—the full moon effect—can cause hyperactivity, depression, violent behaviour, etc.
Do you think you’ve been unfairly portrayed by the science media?
No, I should be flattered because generally speaking when you’re attacked in this way it usually means that you are on the right track and that people with vested interests are frightened by you.
Who’s your favourite scientist?
He was a ground-breaker.
Do you think we’ve got the right funding balance between applied and blue-sky research?
I’m not sure at time moment: I need to spend more time studying it. I think it’s very difficult because applied research sort of limits you to particular fields, and it can mean that minds are restricted in their ability to think in an expansive way—so I do think you need a balance. But you also need research directed to particular topics.
Many people in science circles are concerned that tightened immigration and visa rules are harming UK science. What’s your view on that?
I would be concerned, it’s something I’d like to consider. But immigration is a difficult issue: it was completely out of control under the last government. We clearly need to attract well-qualified scientists so it’s possible for them to come here. So maybe there is a need to change the policy but I haven’t really looked at that carefully.
This article was published in Research Professional, the UK’s leading independent source of news, analysis, funding opportunities and jobs for the academic research community.