What Do You Mean, "Evidence-Based Policy"?

Saturday, 06 October 2012 10:04

Announcing his candidacy for the Liberal leadership, Justin Trudeau got a round of applause when he declared that, in seeking solutions to problems, "the only ideology that must guide us is evidence. Hard, scientific facts and data. It may seem revolutionary in today's Ottawa, but instead of inventing the facts to justify policies, we will create policy based on facts."

Personally, I did not have to suppress the urge to stand and cheer.

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The Evidence-Based Revolution

Wednesday, 19 September 2012 21:12

This is how democracy works.

Politician Jones identifies a problem. He proposes Solution X. Many people think Solution X will work. Politician Jones is elected.

Politician Jones implements Solution X. Time passes.

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Why Waste Money On Science?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 17:15

Federal and provincial governments employ many scientists and underwrite the work of many more. Why?

Oh, politicians say their decisions are informed by science but that's a fairy tale they tell sleepy children and reporters. In reality, politicians cite science when it supports decisions they want to make anyway, for other reasons, whether ideological or political. When science does not support their decisions, they ignore it.

And, since no politician has ever suffered at the polls for abusing science this way, voters seem to be just fine with that.

So why waste money on science?

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Insite, Evidence, and Stephen Harper

Thursday, 19 May 2011 07:47

A scene that said much about Prime Minister Stephen Harper unfolded last week at the Supreme Court of Canada.

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Patients' anecdotes are not evidence

Friday, 10 September 2010 11:33

Judging by the controversy surrounding the refusal of the federal government to fund clinical trials of the "liberation treatment" of multiple sclerosis, the media and the public have forgotten one of the biggest health stories of the early 1990s. A reminder is in order.

The issue then was silicone breast implants. In the 1980s, case studies of women who got sick after getting implants started to pop up in medical journals. Their illnesses were serious -- mostly connective tissue diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

News of a lawsuit against manufacturers was widely reported. More stories surfaced in medical journals and the news media.

On Science, Dogma, and Zealots

Saturday, 26 June 2010 09:16

Over at the National Post, last week was "Junk Science Week," during which Post writers like Peter Foster and Lawrence Solomon identify and denounce widely publicized "science" that is, in reality, shoddy nonsense. The editors also give a sardonic award -- the "Rubber Ducky" -- "to recognize the scientists, NGOs, activists, politicians, journalists, media outlets, cranks and quacks who each year advance the principles of junk science."

It's a great idea. There is plenty of snake oil around and those who peddle it should be called to account. And mocked mercilessly. In that spirit, I'd like to award my own Rubber Ducky. Ahem.

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The Science of Uncertainty

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 09:22

Well, it seems I was wrong. All wrong. "Climategate" and the other recent scandals have torn the lid off the rotten science of climate change. The deniers were right. Crank up the air conditioning and open the windows, happy days are here again!

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On Skepticism and Climate Science

Friday, 04 June 2010 13:29

So you follow the news, maybe not as closely as you'd like, but you try to stay informed about major issues. And the latest buzz on climate change is unmistakable. The science is breaking up. There is no consensus. Climatologists were caught cooking the books. Forecasts of dire consequences have been exposed as nonsense. It seems that so much of what we heard over the past decade was hype and hysteria.

Climate change is starting to smell like the next Y2K.

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