Steve Jones

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Steve Jones Professor Steve Jones, born on 24 March 1944, is a geneticist and writer. He is professor of genetics at Galton Laboratory at University College London. He is a regular broadcaster and writes popular science books. He is also a humanist and outspoken critic of creationism and its damage to science.

He writes regularly in the media about science. The Royal Society describes him as “our number one communicator on evolution”. [1]He has a science column in the Telegraph newspaper “View from the lab”. [2] He has also appeared on Newsnight, Question Time and the Today programme. [3]

He is a fellow of the Royal Society. [4]

Science Media Centre

Jones was a member of the scientific advisory board of the SMC between 2002-2012.

GM crops

In 1999 Jones featured in Leviathan, a BBC 2 programme about genetically modified crops. He spoke about potential risks of GM crops and the concerning speed with which the GM crops were being introduced. Jones stated that the field trials to test GM crops “were not really rigorous enough”. Jones did not think GM food posed a health risk through consumption and that this aspect of their safety could easily be scientifically tested. The concern he had was about the evolutionary aspects of “moving genes around to where they have never been before”. He discussed the possibility of an insect resistant crop leaking into the ecosystem and cross breeding with other plants, which he believed to be a real risk and far more serious than the focus on whether GM food was poisonous. [5]

"A tiny accident, one gene leaking out, can have massive consequences. Too much attention is being paid to a non-problem - are GM foods poisonous? They almost certainly ain't. But we have to be sure what we are doing before we go ahead, and I think we're going ahead far too soon." Jones accused Biotech companies of “playing with evolution” and said he would keep “the engineered genes in the lab not the field”. [6] Interestingly, Jones has been quick to criticise non-scientists raising concerns about GM crops. In 2000, Prince Charles gave a Reith lecture in which he suggested “that science should 'seek to work with the grain of nature', rather than 'manipulating' it with genetically modified crops”. Jones responded by calling him 'a classic woolly thinker' who should 'go back to school and do more A-levels'. [7] In an interview Jones gave in 1999, he spoke of the “stand off between the British public and the country's university scientists” over GM crops. This interview followed on from Jones being shouted down by anti-GM activists at a public speaking event. Jones said he thought the problem was partly down to the general public’s inability to understand science and failure on the part of scientists and the government to give a clear, consistent message which has fuelled suspicion: "The public does not understand that it is perfectly possible to have a fierce scientific argument that remains unresolved; that that is not a failure of science but a fact of life. Politicians and journalists like certainty, but often science cannot provide it. And it certainly cannot when there are no data to back the argument up." [8] He also spoke critically of the green movement and what he saw as the Green Party’s authoritarian, rigid thinking: "As I said (at the meeting), the greenest political party there has ever been was the Nazi party. The Nazis were great believers in purity, that nature should not be interfered with. I fear that there is an element of that in the Greens," Jones says. "It is one reason I have never joined them. The Green Party has a very authoritarian, pureness of blood, 'our roots are in English soil' kind of feel to it, which I hate. In the end, genetics is only a science. We should have learned not to treat it as a political football." [8]


  • Current positions:

Emeritus Professor of Human Genetic - University College London Principal Research Associate - Genetics, Evolution & Environment, Division of Biosciences, University College London

  • Visiting posts:

Harvard University, University of Chicago, the University of California at Davis, University of Botswana, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, and Flinders University in Adelaide.

  • Other appointments

Professor Jones was commissioned to write an independent report into BBC coverage of science by the BBC Trust. This was published in 2011. [9]It found that the BBC “distorts” some scientific issues – climate change, GM crops and vaccines were highlighted. “Bogus impartiality” was blamed for giving unnecessary airtime to “dissident” and “maverick” views, which was argued as creating an untrue balance between these views against contrasting wide scientific consensus. "For at least three years, the climate change deniers have been marginal to the scientific debate but somehow they continued to find a place on the airwaves," the report said. [10] The report’s findings were accepted by the BBC Trust and Executive. [11]

New College controversy

Professor Jones was signed up to teach at A.C.Grayling’s private university New College which opened in 2012. He withdrew in April 2012, stating that the £18,000 fees led to his decision. [12] Citing the economic climate as responsible for the high fee level Professor Jones told the media “The fees that he (A.C.Grayling) has been forced to apply mean that it can now no longer really claim to be about public education, and, for that reason, I have, amicably, withdrawn from it.” A spokesperson for New College claimed “scheduling issues” had led to the decision. Professor Jones has been an outspoken critic of private education. In a Radio 5 Live interview in 2009 he claimed it was a reason for the continuing social stratification of British society and described it as “a cancer on the education system.” [13]

Galton Institute

Jones is an ex-president of the Galton Institute. The Institute was formerly the Eugenics Society. In 2007, during Jones’ presidency the Institute was involved in a controversy when Oxford Students Action for Refugees demanded the sacking of David Coleman, an Oxford academic and co-founder of the anti-immigration think tank MigrationWatch UK. Coleman was a member of the Galton Institute and Professor of Demography at Oxford at the time. Jones wrote an article in the Guardian defending the Institute and the relationship between eugenics and modern scientific developments in gene therapy. [14] He was quoted in another article as acknowledging the Institute’s past, but distinguishing this from the “benign” Institute of today, "the institute is full of well-meaning Guardian readers and a few cranks to liven the mix." [15]

==Affiliations, awards and publications== [16]



  • 1994: Rhone-Poulenc book prize and the Yorkshire Post first book prize
  • 1997: Royal Society Faraday Medal for public understanding of science
  • 1999: BP Natural World Book Prize
  • 2000: BP Natural World Book Prize
  • 2002: Institute of Biology Charter Medal
  • 2006: Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year [16]


  • The Language of the Genes, 1993
  • In the Blood, 1995
  • Almost a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated, 1999
  • Y: The Descent of Men, 2002[16]


  1. Steve Jones Royal Society, accessed 9 September 2013
  2. Steve Jones The Telegraph, accessed 9 September 2013
  3. Distinguished supporters Steve Jones British Humanist Association, accessed 9 September 2013
  4. [1] Royal Society page, accessed 9 September 2013
  5. Alex Kirby Leading Geneticist urges GM caution BBC News, 12 April 1999, accessed 9 September 2013
  6. David Derbyshire My fear on GM foods by genetics expert Jones; daily mail campaigns Gentic food watch Daily Mail, 7 April 1999, accessed 9 September 2013
  7. Geoffrey Lean Who now can say that Charles isn't right? Daily Mail, 19 May 2000, accessed 9 September 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 Soya beans are political hot potatoes Times HIgher Education, 30 August 1999, accessed 9 September 2013
  9. [ Review of Accuracy and impartiality of BBC’s Science Coverage] Professor Steve Jones, April 2012, accessed 9 September 2013
  10. Mark Henderson “BBC's 'false balance' distorting scientific issues, report says” The Times, 12 July 2011, 9 September 2013
  11. ‘BBC Trust: Review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC's coverage of science’ BBC, accessed 9 September 2013
  12. Tim Walker The battle for 'New College' The Daily Telegraph, April 16 2012, accessed 9 September 2013
  13. [BBC Radio 5 Live: Breakfast] broadcast 13 January 2009, accessed 9 September 2013
  14. Steve Jones ‘A matter of life and death’ The Guardian, 27 March 2007, accessed 21 September 2013
  15. David Pallister The numbers game The Guardian, 21 March 2007, accessed 21 September 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 ‘Distinguished supporters Steve Jones’ British Humanist Association, accessed 9 September 2013
  17. National Secular Society Our Honorary Associates. Accessed 20 September 2015.