Today’s first question;- Why are there still journalists who try to cultivate public fears and hack back at the flourishing of public understanding?
The Mail on Sunday today invented a “storm” of controversy over Kew Gardens’ upcoming Intoxication Season, where the public will be recklessly endangered by learning things about plants with …(whisper it)… drugs in them. The comments posted below their laughable article show how easily readers see though this. The comments give the encouraging feeling that the attitude taken by the Mail here is losing its foothold in the UK. Given that, it would be totally unnecessary to write a blog telling you how silly these journalists are. But it might be fun…
Kew’s Intoxication Season will I think inform and excite anyone who visits about the plants and fungi that contain drugs. Perhaps the understanding gained might even help a visitor to more safely navigate life in a world where, like it or not, intoxicating plants exist. We hope you’ll come along.
But will the Drugscience experts speaking at Kew, including David Nutt and Val Curran, be endorsing drug use? Only in the sense that a heart-surgeon’s lecture can be taken as an endorsement of cutting people with blades. To understand heart surgery or pharmacology is to understand that a knife or drug has no intrinsic good or evil, but that humans, with knowledge guiding their choices, can minimise the harm they can cause and maximise their benefits. The Mail journalists on the other hand believe in a black-and-white world in which use of certain drugs is harmful and wrong, and they imagine we at Drugscience see the same drugs as helpful and right. Their mistake is to see ‘harmful’ and ‘helpful’ as contradictions, when of course we are familiar with countless things which can be both;- cars, fire, journalists, doctors. The opium poppy and the cannabis plant both have the potential to be used in ways that harm and to be used in ways that help, that is simply a statement of well-established fact, not of opinion or ideology.
David Attenborough’s infectious enthusiasm about the natural world informs and enthuses us, but it doesn’t necessarily make us want to come face to face with a polar bear! The exhibits and events at Kew will illustrate another miraculous side of the natural world, and demonstrate that plant chemicals can both hurt and heal.
The UK is home to some of the greatest scientific and educational institutions in the world. The best of these, such as the Natural History Museum, London Zoo and Kew Gardens, bring these two complementary missions together: they are research hubs and repositories of knowledge, and they welcome the public to share in this wealth. The attack from the Mail makes one wonder - what mind-alteration are they really scared of? Behind their horror of drugs lies a deeper terror of the intoxicating force of information, knowledge, understanding. These forces do change minds, they give people an alternative basis on which to ground their decisions; reason, not prejudice, tradition, or the word of unchallengeable authorities.
Come join us at Kew, and if you want to live in a world where the public have access to more drugs information rather than less as these journalists would like, support us. We rely on your donations.