Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ps. Professor Nutt and Freud's Ghost

Just to follow up my little rant this morning, Professor Nutt has written an editorial in The New Scientist that is well-worth examining. Some of his sensible words are at least worthy of repeating here as Wilson's immoral invective.

No one doubts that heavy users of marijuana are risking trouble with their mental health. What I have simply pointed out is that we need a consistent policy, recognising that heavy users of alcohol and tobacco are more numerous and are causing themselves – and others – even more trouble through their indulgence.

Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I'm not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate.

Yes. Exactly. No Dictatorship of Empiricism here. Nutt recognises that science alone cannot dictate policy, that governments need to consider other factors. But they should NEVER simply ignore scientific evidence when it proves inconvenient.

The current British government has said repeatedly that it wants its policies to be evidence-based, but actions speak louder than words. On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.

The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights. The message for the British government is a simple one: don't exclude rational argument in order to exploit a visceral public response. Politicians have to win the hearts and minds of their electorate. If your policy is informed by an underlying moral imperative, be open about what that is, and don't try to disguise it with a veneer of pseudo-science. We ignore scientific evidence at our peril.

Raising the Spectre of George W. Bush is much more appropriate and reasonable than the Daily Mail and Wilson's use of Hitler. For starters, I suspect that The New Scientist and Professor Nutt are at least consistent, and that neither officially endorsed George W. Bush, only to later -- when History has proved them spectacularly wrong -- use him as a Boogey-man to incite fear in an already nervous readership. It is exactly this sort of right-wing-knee-jerkism, that Bush so neatly embodies, that we must battle here.

And in support of Professor Nutt, the second comment on this story, by a certain 'Freud's Ghost', seems to share excretera's take on the issue:

Not insane just sad, inward looking & immature. Trapped at the anal stage politicians are more interested in toilet paper than they are research papers. If they had a interest in the real world they wouldn't be in politics. Voter appeal is the only reality for politician.

That's what I like to see! I salute you both!

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