Vernon Coleman, Colin Blakemore and Wikipedia

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

Critics eager to embarrass me and distract attention from my campaigns have recently dug up all sorts of old bits of nonsense.

Suppressing and distorting the facts and demonising the messenger are all parts of the never-ending conspiracy against the truth.

And although it may have been founded with good intentions, Wikipedia, edited by volunteers, has always seemed to me to be vulnerable to those with prejudices to nurture.

A couple of months ago, one or two anonymous enthusiasts with axes which they perhaps felt needed grinding decided to alter the Wikipedia entry that has carried my name for nearly two decades. They began by removing anything that might sound `good’. So, they removed the explanation that I had resigned from my column on The People newspaper when the editor refused to print a column criticising the Iraq War. They removed the fact that in 1988 the Government admitted that it had changed the legislation about benzodiazepine tranquillisers because of my columns – helping millions of patients. They removed the fact that in 1983, I helped write the first medical software for home computers. No longer does Wikipedia report on the numerous TV and radio series I made or the fact that for several decades I wrote a good many national newspaper columns. Wikipedia does not mention that the legislation was changed after I refused to put diagnoses on sick notes. The anonymous Wikipedia editors deleted the fact that my books have been translated into 25 languages and published in the UK by many leading publishing houses. They ignore the magazines I have edited and the campaigning I have done.

And so on and on.

Having removed all these things they searched the internet for bits of scrappy old news that might make me look bad. Perhaps the aim was to damage my campaigning for freedom and truth.

I have already commented on about Wikipedia’s reporting of the curious judgement from the Advertising Standards Authority – which refused to look at a mass of scientific evidence when assessing a complaint from the meat industry, and which then came to the bizarre conclusion that I was wrong to report that eating meat causes cancer. If the ASA had taken the trouble to look at the 26 scientific papers I submitted they would have seen that I was right. Both the British Government and the American Government agree with my view. And so does the WHO. Wikipedia baldly reports that the ASA `found that I had made misleading claims about the link between food and cancer’. As Wikipedia should know, my claims about the link between meat and cancer were entirely correct. Wikipedia reports that I was censured by the Press Complaints Commission but carefully omits the fact that, like the ASA, the PCC refused to look at the 26 scientific papers I sent them as evidence proving my claim that meat causes cancer.

And Wikipedia reports that in 1994 a High Court Judge granted a temporary injunction preventing me from publishing the home address of Colin Blakemore.

I confess I had forgotten all about this incident.

So, who is Blakemore? And why on earth would he think I would want to publish his address? (Something I would never have done, incidentally.)

I’m delighted to say that I have never met nor spoken to him but I think we did exchange faxes at one point. And I wrote about him in a couple of books.

Here, for example, is an extract from a book called The Health Scandal which was published by Sidgwick and Jackson in 1988 and then in paperback by Mandarin. As far as I know both editions are now out of print.

`Blakemore leads a research team at Oxford University and for some time his work has been sponsored by the Medical Research Council. For the best part of the last twenty years he has been conducting research into vision.’

`For example, in 1986 Blakemore and a colleague published a paper entitled `Organisation of the Visual Pathways in the Newborn Kitten.’

`These two intrepid researchers used thirteen new-born kittens in their experiment. Each kitten was injected with chemicals. Some of the kittens had the chemicals injected directly into the part of their brain that helps to provide sight. Twenty four hours later the kittens were killed. And their brains dissected.’

`Blakemore and his colleague concluded that they `had gained further information about the organisation of the visual pathways in the new-born kitten before the onset of visual activity’. At the end of the paper the two scientists listed no less than 88 presumably relevant references – most of them dealing with similar experiments with cats and kittens. This experiment was similar to many conducted by Blakemore and his colleagues.’

`For example, in 1985, David Price, who works with Blakemore, reported on an experiment in which a total of seventeen kittens were used. Five of the kittens were reared in complete darkness from the day they were born. As far as I can see the conclusion Price came to at the end of his research was that kittens do not develop normally when they are reared in the dark.’

`In 1985, the Journal of Neuroscience published a paper by Blakemore and Price entitled `The Postnatal Development of the Association Projection from Visual Cortical Area Seventeen to Area Eighteen in the Cat’. As usual the experiment was funded by the Medical Research Council.’

In this experiment eighteen domestic tabby kittens were used at various ages. Two of them were binocularly deprived by suturing the conjunctiva and eyelids. For `binocularly deprived’ you can substitute `blinded’. Albeit temporarily. Their eyes were sewn up.

Also in 1985 Blakemore and two colleagues published an article in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. For this research project they used fifty nine golden hamsters. In about half the animals the left eye was removed on the day of birth. (The authors seem to me to be rather sloppy scientists – they actually say `about half’.) The eyes which remained were injected with chemicals.’

`And so it goes on. I have a huge file of papers by Blakemore and his colleagues. They sew up the eyelids of animals. They inject brains. And to what end? I don’t know. I have read many of Blakemore’s papers and I cannot think of any excuse for what this man does in the name of science. Indeed, Blakemore claims that his work does not have to be justified in clinical terms. The Medical Research Council funds Blakemore’s terrible experiments but I challenge either the MRC or Blakemore himself to point to a single human being or animal and say that that person has benefited because of his work.’

That, as I say, was published in my book The Health Scandal in 1988.

Sadly, neither the MRC nor Blakemore ever accepted my challenge.

I gather from Wikipedia that at some point Blakemore was given a knighthood.

I’m afraid I have no idea why.

Copyright Vernon Coleman May 8th 2020