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Why politics and science don’t mix

July 12, 2012

Like oil and water, politics and science simply don’t mix. Why? Because, as I say in my recent review of Mark Henderson’s The Geek Manifesto book, “politicians and scientists think very differently and value different things”. Here’s an extract from the post:

“Changing your mind is de rigeur for scientists who come across new evidence; it’s a sign of weakness for a politician. Scientists value experiments and what they can learn from failure; politicians won’t admit that most new policies are in fact experiments and therefore fail to learn anything from them. Scientists want to answer questions; politicians want to talk about solutions. Scientists think their work, and “the numbers”, should do the talking; politicians want qualitative narratives about outcomes and impact. Scientists value evidence-based policy; politicians want policy-based evidence. And so on…”
These fundamental differences are the cause of many instances of ‘evidence abuse’, as well as poor policy decisions. The Geek Manifesto is an excellent summary of how science works, why it’s important and how evidence is often abused, miscommunicated or full-on ignored at the general public’s expense; it makes a great companion to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science.
You can read my full review of a book I describe as “shocking and inspirational in equal measure” on the Beagle Project blog.
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