Monday, November 02, 2009

Nutt's sacked...

Science and Government, are they compatible?

The overwhelming answer from the media last week was no they are not. This story interests me because it so closely mirrors the friction between religion and science in that we have "reality" pitted against vested interest. Alan Johnson is no more willing to look "soft on drugs" than the Pope is willing to look "soft on contraception" it's not reality or evidence that is the issue it's "face".  This dispute goes to the core of the difference between the reality based constituents and the wish thinkers, the scientific method is designed to deliver the truth (or at least the closest we can get), a description of reality that conforms to the data we see, it can help inform our decisions but more often than not shows that our intuition is wrong, however it does not provide a moral framework nor can be relied upon to provide the answers that we wish for, if you want to know which policy  best supports your majority, don't ask a scientist!



We have a slightly flippant but never the less accurate truism in the software business, we say something like "if you don't know how to handle a condition, don't test for it"; Alan Johnson is clearly not a stupid man, he must appreciate the distinction between reality and desire, he has declared himself to be an Atheist so I can't pin the old faith based logic shuffle on him, so I am left wondering, why ask a question when you already know the answer?

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

It's amazing what has happened. People don't take alcohol and smoking abuse seriously enough -- then this guy gets fired for saying it.

Thanks for an enlightening post.

G said...

His big mistake was clearly using unpaid advisors. If you want scientists that will support your predetermined conclusions, you have to pay for them like the food and drug companies.

Steve Borthwick said...

G, quite so, although then they're not proper scientists (they make good money for a start!) :)

Steve Borthwick said...

E, thanks, I can understand policy being different from reality simply because people don't necessarily behave rationally. Clearly we need to be concerned with the message that a policy change sends.

However this does assume a starting position that we are generally incapable of assessing evidence properly ourselves or that it just isn't important to consider it; I wonder where people could possibly get an idea like that from? :)

Oranjepan said...

Surely he has faith in his political party, why else except naked ambition would he have signed up?

Steve Borthwick said...

OP, 15 minutes of fame?