Wednesday 20 November 2013

Consensus On Policy-Led Evidence

Yesterday, Spiked carried a very interesting article by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, a trustee of Sense about Science which is a charity self-described as wishing to "stand up for scientific inquiry, free from stigma, intimidation, hysteria or censorship".

He takes the opportunity to criticise pressure being placed on large retailers to stop stocking controversial magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY). His main premise is that - whatever scientists think of what the magazine says - it is a freedom of speech issue to allow them to say it.

The main target of his criticism is science blogger Matthew Lam who wants WDDTY removed from shelves for transgressions such as cherry-picking, citing studies that don't back up their claims, and using irrelevant and incorrect information.

Sound familiar? It should do (see links).

Fortunately, Fitzpatrick is on the ball and highlights this selective scientific blindness in his piece.
Indeed, the misuse of scientific evidence is a much bigger problem in the mainstream of public health and the serious press (not to mention in scientific publications) than it is in supermarket magazines and tabloid newspapers. 
A recent pamphlet by Jamie Whyte exposed the flaws in the use of scientific evidence in a number of areas of policymaking: minimum alcohol pricing, passive smoking, global warming and happiness. Activist scientists concerned about the abuse of evidence and ill-informed advice would be well advised to turn their attention to serious issues of so-called ‘evidence-based policy’ rather than trying to crush the marginal eccentricities of WDDTY.
In his rebuttal, Lam disagrees strongly with just about every point Fitzpatrick makes about free speech and WDDTY, except for one.
Fitzpatrick has a point regarding the misuse of scientific evidence elsewhere and I agree wholeheartedly that more needs to be done across the board to change the way evidence is presented, disseminated and accessed.  But how does that mean that this campaign is worthless?
Whatever else they disagree on, that certainly looks like a consensual dislike of pretend science produced by public health advocates posing as scientists, does it not?

Quite right too, considering most of the policy-led rubbish spouted by sociologists, market researchers and aircraft mechanics must be deeply irritating for people like Fitzpatrick and Lam.

1 comment:

Legiron said...

At last. Some sign that science is getting fed up with the damn cultists who have taken over.

Let's hope it's not too late.