/ You've got to admire the Telegraph...

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Pursued by a bear - on 21 Nov 2012
...for giving people a forum to spout arse. Following the recent Bishop's outpourings on the eclipse, we now have this: "the law on drugs should not be based on evidence".

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100190663/the-law-on-drugs-should-not-be-based-on-e...

Whilst one may, or may not, support his stance that all drugs should be decriminalized and it is for the public to "exercise their moral powers" over whether to consume them or not, his earlier questioning of "Why is it any more right for a man of science to say “Yes, this drug may be permitted, but this one may not” than it is for a man of the cloth to say “Thou shalt not smoke dope”?" does rather miss the point; scientists advise about what drugs do, politicians decide on their legality or degree of illegality.

Still, it may make the Telegraph a more interesting read henceforth, should they decide that they don't need evidence of things happening in order to report news about them...

T.
iksander on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Pursued by a bear: I generally mistrust the Telegraph but I have a lot tome from Brendan O'Neill (check spiked.com)

I agree with his assertion that scientists are generally poor policy makers and operate in a very narrow frame of reference.

Plus no one voted for them.
Pursued by a bear - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander: Then you miss my point; scientists don't make policy, politicians do.

T.
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:
> (In reply to Pursued by a bear) I generally mistrust the Telegraph but I have a lot tome from Brendan O'Neill (check spiked.com)

really? He comes across as a rather tedious troll.
This piece is a good example, a good half of it is devoted to a rant about liberty which in the example he is using is being restricted by the politician not the scientist.
He also seems to be missing the point about the scientific assessment not being for or against but assessing the risk. I dont believe Nutt states that it should be the only consideration. I am amazed that anyone feels evidence can simply be ignored if its inconvenient. Sure decide to override it but in that case be very clear and open about doing so.
Something politicians tend not to be.

> I agree with his assertion that scientists are generally poor policy makers and operate in a very narrow frame of reference.

as opposed to politicians?
Eric9Points - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

Yes, what a load of shite.

Politicians make laws which are often based partly on scientific evidence. If that's their rationale or their stated it's perfectly reasonable if not necessary for scientists to point out when they have made a mistake in interpreting or have simply ignored the evidence on which they say they are basing their legislation upon.



iksander on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:

>Then you miss my point; scientists don't make policy, politicians do.

But isn't your point that they should make it purely on the basis of scientific evidence without moral, ethical or political consideration?

"Scientific fact" has aquired the status of dogma that trumps any other form of moral authority.

Another Spiked wirter Frank Furdei puts it well: "A belief in the power of science to discover how the world works should not be taken to mean that science itself is a belief."
Shearwater - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:
> Politicians make laws which are often based partly on scientific evidence.

Woah there. Correlation does not imply causation!
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:

> "Scientific fact" has aquired the status of dogma that trumps any other form of moral authority.

says whom?
It was the politicans who claimed that their decisions were evidence based. They then got upset when it was pointed out that they were ignoring that advice.
Using accurate evidence though is fundamental to decision making or, if it isnt being used, then people need to be clear they will be using ideology or random intuition instead.
I think that somehow they might see their support drop.
iksander on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to dissonance: > "Scientific fact" has aquired the status of dogma that trumps any other form of moral authority.

>says whom? (sic)

errr... you lot?

> then people need to be clear they will be using ideology or random intuition instead.

AKA morality, representing public opinion, taking abroader view than the scientists' frame of reference etc.
dissonance - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:

> errr... you lot?

evidence please :)

> AKA morality, representing public opinion, taking abroader view than the scientists' frame of reference etc.

you seem to be using a special definition of morality.
Jon Stewart - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

Unfortunately I couldn't finish reading the article because I started to throw up and sh!t myself simultaneously.

But from what I did read, this guy simply hasn't understood anything about the way policy works, the way science works, or how the two relate to each other. The case of drugs, that silly bitch the former Home Sec, and David Nutt/the ACMD, illustrates it all perfectly:

- Politicians came up with a policy (for it is their job) which was scrutinised by Parliament and became law (for that is how policy works). That policy was that under the Misuse of Drugs Act, drugs would be classed according the harm they caused, and the ACMD would advise the govt on that harm.

- The ACMD assessed the harm of drugs (for it is their job) and the govt didn't like what they were told (because they are driven primarily by the goal of being re-elected). So the silly bitch decided to ignore the advice of the ACMD, thus acting contrarily to the policy on drugs (that's the policy that she had responsibility for, for that was her job), which is to classify them according to harm. Thus, she did not understand her own policy because she was too stupid and self-serving.

If the govt wanted to come up with some bizarre spiritual/moral/religious/superstitious/random/contra-rational criterion to classify drugs, they're free to do so if they can get it through Parliament and into the statute book (for that is how policy works). But that's not what we've got, and it wouldn't get through Parliament because we have a pretty decent system in place which effectively filters out the majority of the crackpot bullsh!t which politicians come out with/believe before it has gathered enough momentum to become policy. We have an policy of basing drug classification on evidence because it's common sense and it's what our elected representatives have agreed is the best way to manage the issue. Ms Smith failed to implement the policy, and now a sensible idea has been completely undermined. Well done Jacqui, you're a stupid bitch.

So when I see idiots criticising the legitimacy of the ACMD or indeed any body set up to advise the govt on scientific matters, my heart sinks. The policy that has been debated and agreed (for that is how our democracy works) is simply being implemented. There is no debate about whether or not the advice is legitimate (and should be followed rather than ignored) because that debate has already taken place - the advisory body has been set up to do a job which has been deemed necessary.

The policy is not being driven by science. The policy debate has taken place and it has been agreed that decisions will driven by science.

Ciro - on 21 Nov 2012
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Well said.
iksander on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to all: Read what Brendan wrote here http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/oct/19/thetyrannyofscience

His argument is not to reject science, but putting the case that the human condition and its expression in society (policy) is an ethical exercise not a scientific one. Science is neither definitive nor omnipotent.

Check out http://www.vic.ipaa.org.au/sb_cache/professionaldevelopment/id/36/f/3%20lenses%20of%20evidence%20bas...

"There is seldom any consensus among social scientists on the
nature of problems, the causes of trends or relationships, and the best approach for solutions. Various scientific disciplines may have different
methodological approaches, and may offer complementary or sometimes competing perspectives on complex issues."

Scientific evidence is not the be-all and end-all of effective public policy
dissonance - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:
> (In reply to all) Read what Brendan wrote here

a quick scan shows that piece is just as confused as the other.


> His argument is not to reject science, but putting the case that the human condition and its expression in society (policy) is an ethical exercise not a scientific one. Science is neither definitive nor omnipotent.

lucky very few people claim that then. However it is somewhat difficult to get to an ethical decision without solid evidence. How can you assess impact on people without the evidence and hence get a basis for your decision?

> "There is seldom any consensus among social scientists on the
> nature of problems

ermm yes thats because social science isnt always science.
Its spans the spectrum from those who use scientific methodology to those, like the journalist in question, who dont.

> Scientific evidence is not the be-all and end-all of effective public policy

Once again who says it is?
Try reading Jon Stewarts post again.
daveje - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Pursued by a bear:
Brendan O'Neill is one of the head honchos of spiked, and spiked is a great way to simplify your thinking: just find out what one of spiked writers says about a subject, then you know you can take the exact opposite position and know that you're right.

Spiked are just a collection of deliberate contrarians, and the best thing to do is ignore them.
Jon Stewart - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:

This guy's argument is confused and meaningless. He has a libertarian agenda which he's open about and which is his political view - fine - but then in order to defend it he's clutching at silly irrelevant straws regarding how scientific evidence is used in various policy debates.

He's setting up a fictional dichotomy between "those who misuse scientific evidence" on the authoritarian side with "those who rely on moral and political argument" on his libertarian side. It's just complete nonsense, the kind of thing you get out of people who don't really know anything in particular, but manage to make a living out commenting on "what the world is like these days", in this kind of meaningless generalised pap.

In any of the policy issues he talks about, science contributes the factual content which one simply requires in order to debate the policy response. People on any and all sides of any debate will seek to use science (or what they think is science) to justify their position and support their argument. That is the nature of debate and it has nothing to do with a fictional "tyranny of science" (laughable!) which is progressing some authoritarian threat or other. Science tells us what the effect of obesity on health is, or what the effect of carbon emissions on the climate is, and can give us valuable information to help answer more difficult questions like "is a foetus conscious?". All of this is useful, factual information which allows a meaningful policy debate to take place. Science has nothing to say about the appropriate policy response to obesity, for example: a libertarian might say it's got nowt to do with the government (as a taxpayer funding the NHS, I'd strongly disagree, because for me the pragmatic issue of having sufficient resources to provide good healthcare to everyone far, far trumps any pointless ideological notion of "liberty" that this guy seems to believe is to be sought regardless of consequence), while an authoritarian might use it in an attempt to justify food rationing whereby only government-issue nutrition parcels are available for consumption.

It's up to people to use their moral and political brains to process the evidence which science provides them. I think this guy might be arguing in favour of good quality use of science in policy, instead of poor quality use of science in policy. In which case, guess what, I agree - what a brilliant point he's made. But it's so confused firstly by his paranoid associations between science and the authoritarianism he believes is threatening our way of life, and secondly by his inability to disentangle scientific evidence from policy debate, that I'm not entirely sure what his point is.

I suspect that being a journalist who makes a living out of publishing vague, generalised pap about "what the world is like these days", he doesn't really have a point at all.
Bob Kemp - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:
Brendan seems to be Frank Furedi's Mini-Me. You can read a much better exposition of these ideas from Furedi here:

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4275

Whether you go for the argument or not is another thing of course....
Jon Stewart - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to Bob Kemp:
> (In reply to iksander)
> Brendan seems to be Frank Furedi's Mini-Me. You can read a much better exposition of these ideas from Furedi here:
>
> http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4275
>
> Whether you go for the argument or not is another thing of course....


If I click on that, I can say goodbye to a productive afternoon, can't I? It's hard to get anything done through the red mist and sea of bile.

iksander on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to :

Anyone care to make the scientific argument against forced abortions for foetuses that are grossly deformed? or the forced sterilisation of women with down's syndrome?
Jon Stewart - on 22 Nov 2012
In reply to iksander:

I don't know what you mean by "scientific argument", so no.

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