Counterpoint by Scott Freeman There’s research and then there’s madness


Now I am all in favour of research. After all, without people pushing at the boundaries of our knowledge, we would still be cave-dwelling hunter-gatherers and would never have discovered that three stainless steel blades shave closer than a sharpened rat’s shin bone.

I can’t claim to be a scientist myself – I have always leaned towards the humanities – but I have the utmost respect for those pioneering spirits who have transformed our lives and our health with important breakthroughs. You know the sort of chap: Alexander Fleming and penicillin, Marie Curie and X-rays, Steve Jobs and the iPhone.

We are daily informed of the latest research and I’m keen to hear of genuine innovation, but much of what comes out of these studies is obscure, absurd or downright pointless.

For instance, on just one day this week the national media padded out its bulletins and column inches with some ground-breaking investigation into the damage done to the British countryside by wild boar. Yes, wild boar.

BBC radio conducted a straight-faced interview with the man behind the report, live on air. He revealed that his team looked at areas where wild boar live and studied bluebell bulbs to see the effect the little piggies were having.

The conclusion? You had better sit down for this. Inconclusive apparently.

Presumably it requires a few more months of investigation to find out if – or indeed if not – the porkers are rooting up our favourite wild flower.

I could have let this pass but on my way to work I read in the newspaper that letting your children watch a cartoon dubiously titled “SpongeBob SquarePants” will cause them to misbehave, that mice can now have a microscope strapped to their heads that can monitor their blood flow, and finally – and I think this takes the biscuit – that people who use the bus to get to work walk further than those who take their cars.

It would seem this is because most people don’t have a bus stop on their doorstep and another right outside their place of work. Brilliant!