“For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/…

Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes”

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Sue Blackmore wrote for The Guardian of 12 Jan 2010:

“Hearing the news that Susan Greenfield has lost her job at the Royal Institution threw me back 40 years to when she and I both went up to Oxford, to the same college and to read the same subject. This was the tail-end of the hippy era, an age of wearing wild clothes, smoking cannabis and taking LSD, listening to Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.

We got on well but were not close friends: we were so very different. I was obsessed with investigating the paranormal and consciousness, and cared little for fame or career. She was ambitious from the start. In later years, we were often confused with each other (two Susans talking about brains on TV), although I worked at the fringes of respectable scientific topics – out-of-body experiences, memes, consciousness – without grants and usually without a job – while she went for the big time…

…what bothers me, and other scientists, is that she does not seem much to value science itself. The absolute heart of what it means to care about science is that you care about the evidence – that your opinions are based not on what you would like to be true but on what is found by research to be true.

Greenfield has, for instance, been vocal about the harms of drugs, the way they damage the brain and destroy lives. She campaigned against the reclassification of cannabis to Grade C, making meaningless comparisons with alcohol (such as that only 0.7 mg affects the brain whereas you need 2,000 mg of alcohol) – meaningless because you smoke tiny amounts of one and drink large glasses of the other. She scared people by claiming that cannabis changes who you are – but so does alcohol, so does falling in love, so does making scientific discoveries. She claimed that cannabis damages living human brain cells based on evidence from lab studies on isolated rat neurons. Worst of all, she ignored evidence on the actual harms of each drug, so painstakingly collected by Colin Blakemore, David Nutt and others.

These studies clearly showed cannabis to be less harmful than either tobacco or alcohol. We need this reliable evidence to give truthful drugs education and to create a less damaging drugs policy, but such progress is set back by Greenfield’s evidence-free, high-profile pronouncements.

Then there are her dire warnings about the harms of playing computer games. This story would be funny if it were not so serious…”

Clive Cookson interviewed Susan Greenfield for the Financial Times of May 24 2013:

“…In some ways Greenfield is part of the scientific establishment: Oxford professor, former RI director, lots of honorary degrees and awards – and since 2001 a member of the House of Lords as a cross-bench (non-party political) baroness.

In others she is an outsider. She remains unchosen as a Fellow of the Royal Society – the top domestic recognition for a British scientist – and her lab is supported by private and philanthropic donors rather than the bodies you might expect to fund promising science in this field, such as the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust or Alzheimer’s Research UK. “We did apply to an Alzheimer’s charity but they said our work was too early stage for them,” says Greenfield.

Reflecting more widely on her ambivalent status, she adds: “If you’re doing something very new it is harder to garner peer support, because people might feel undermined or threatened. Sometimes I seem to attract more heat than light.”

Greenfield’s second research interest is not so much early stage as grand stage: how do we generate consciousness and an awareness of our own identity? It is a long-standing enthusiasm, dating back to her undergraduate years studying psychology and philosophy.

“Consciousness is truly subjective – a qualitative, ineffable phenomenon – which is anathema to scientists,” she says…”

Cole Moreton interviewed Susan Greenfield for The Independent of 23 October 2011:

“…Young Susan experimented on her brother, too. “I bullied him,” she admits. “I made him learn the Greek alphabet. And Shakespeare – he could say, ‘Out, out, brief candle!'” She was 16 at the time. How old was he? “Hmm? Yeah. He was three.” Three years old and reciting Macbeth? “He had no idea what he was saying. He just did what I told him. I thought it was funny.”

She still does, by the look of her face…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s