David Wootton

The age-old debate continues: are science and religion compatible?

According to the census, there are more Christians in the UK than there are atheists and agnostics – yet the churches are empty. These Christians, it seems, don’t take their faith too seriously. Nor, I fear, does Nicholas Spencer, who has written a big book arguing that science and religion are fundamentally compatible. He’s wrong;

Why has medicine been so slow to improve over the centuries?

Medicine was founded by Hippocrates in the 5th century BC. Doctors continued to study the Hippocratic texts into the 19th century, and many of the therapies, such as bleeding, purgatives and enemas, continued to be practised into the 20th. The standard Hippocratic account of disease was that it resulted from an imbalance of humours within

How far can we trust the men in lab coats?

A month ago the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine each retracted a major study on Covid-19 drug therapies. One article had been up for more than a month, the other for less than two weeks. Both were based on faked data. That the rush to publish on Covid-19 led established researchers, reviewers

The pursuit of happiness | 16 June 2016

There is a wonderful portrait of Kenelm Digby by Van Dyke. He is dressed in black. His hand is on his heart. Behind him is a vast, wilting sunflower. The sunflower is a symbol of constancy — it follows the sun. When his wife Venetia died in 1633, when Kenelm was 29, he went into

A clash of two cultures

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.’ Philip Larkin’s most famous line has appeared in the Spectator repeatedly, and there has even been a competition devoted to its refutation. Steve Jones, though, thinks it too coarse to be quoted in what he himself describes as a popular science book. This is just one of