Pearls before swine

David Nutt is a professor at Imperial College London and until last week was also chairman of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. He was dismissed last week by Home secretary Alan Johnson, presumably for disagreeing with the government policy on upgrading certain Class C drugs to a Class B.

Professor Nutt has written a critical article appearing in The New Scientist today about how governments can get it wrong by not heeding their advisors when cementing policy.

Some telling excerpts are:

“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.”

“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.”

You can find the article here.

Here Chief Scientific Advisor Professor John Beddington backs him up saying research showing the drug to be less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes was “absolutely clear cut”,

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1 Comment

  1. Ioannis

     /  5 November, 2009

    Of course, one should always question how scientific science is.

    Cannabis and ecstasy is maybe less harmful than smoking. But we are already trying to stop people from smoking. Just because we have a bad legacy somewhere does not mean we should accept everything else bad that comes.

    Similarly, taking ecstasy is apparently less dangerous than driving a car. But again, one has to consider the cost of banning driving against the cost of banning ecstasy to the British society.

    Perhaps what is needed is experts from different fields to assess such big questions. Not just doctors.


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