Cunliffe on science

A reader e-mails:

Thought you might be interested in this. I am a labour supporter, but I can’t let basic scientific illiteracy like this go unpunished, so could you please do the honours? 

 The speech is at

At the very start of his speech he launches into an analogy about how we need to have an economic system with more examples of win win symbiosis, like that between plants (who breathe out oxygen and breathe in CO2) and animals (who breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2). He concludes that “the green plants and I need each other”. 

 As any third former will tell you, yes WE need plants for the oxygen they produce during photosynthesis. But THEY don’t need us for the CO2 we produce during respiration in which we burn up the fruits of their photosynthesis. They also respire and produce CO2. That is why they photosynthesise in the first place. So they can make and store food and then use it later to produce energy and CO2. 

 Scientific progress is the main reason why the economy has grown so much over the last 200 years. When an aspiring PM doesn’t know or care enough about science to get it right then this is not good. He needs to be called out on this.

The reader is of course quite right. Plants enjoyed life on earth long before us humans turned up. Scientists think photoynthesis started around 3.5 billion years ago and diverged from chimps around 5 million years ago.

To be fair to DC, plants benefit from us humans, as the CO2 they produce is not the same as what they consume, but they certainly don’t need us. His words were:

The green plants and I need each other. We trade what we produce, and both sides survive and prosper as a result of our necessary partnership.

Sadly for us, the plants can survive and prosper without us. They find us useful, not not essential!

Hopefully DC’s economics are better tested than his science 🙂

Comments (29)

Login to comment or vote