BBC Question Time set, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/
The inspiration for today's blog  results from the confluence of two infuriating but undeniable facts. Fact number one: since the last UK general election in May 2010, the former apprentice candidate and current right wing 'social commentator' Katie Hopkins (non-British readers should see footnote ) has appeared on the UK's flagship political debate programme Question Time as many times as all scientists on planet Earth put together. Fact number two: Katie Hopkins is a [EXPLETIVE]-ing idiot. This was demonstrated extremely clearly by her recent 'performance' on This Morning, in which she describes at length how she judges children based upon the names their parents happened to give them. This kind of daftness might be good for ratings but doesn't really get us anywhere.
I am, of course, ignoring the first commandment of the internet here; thou shalt not feed the troll, but there is a very important point to be made here about how science is viewed by the media and in public debate. If a ridiculous pantomime figure like Hopkins is afforded the same representation on Britain's most important debate show as the whole of science, it is simply impossible to properly discuss the numerous issues that face society that have science at their heart. Surrendering problems like climate change, power generation, healthcare and drug policy to the entrenched positions of political parties, print journalists and the occasional attention seeking oddball is not an effective method of reaching useful conclusions.
However, the problems with public debate go far deeper than just those described above. Not only is there a lack of attention shown to scientific opinion, there is also a lack of respect for the truth itself. For example, how can we hope to fruitfully debate about UK welfare policy when, on average, people believe the 41% of the welfare budget goes to the unemployed (actually it's 3%) and that 27% of the budget is lost to fraud (when it only 0.7% in reality) .
To try and disperse this truth obscuring cloud of BS we need proper evidence-based discussions and a good start would be to improve the ratio of red to blue in the graph below...
Question Time appearances since May 2010, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2013/jun/14/bbc-question-time
 So the blog's back after a long hiatus, in which I completed the very enjoyable third year of my four year physics degree.
 Hopkins is a sort of failed, wannabe Sarah Palin, but without ever having actually achieved public office. Just imagine what that must be like, a failed version of Palin... nightmarish...
 Sisyphus was that guy in Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a boulder up a hill over and over again forever. Greek myth and the f-bomb in one blog, not bad eh?
 Source: a poll conducted by YouGov in January this year http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/01/07/welfare-reform-who-whom/