Nov 022009
 

Last updated on November 22nd, 2015

Alan Johnson Sacks the Messenger

This, of course, relates to the recent sackings and supportive resignations of Government Scientific Advisors (see More advisers may go in drugs row) .

The home secretary faces the threat of more scientists resigning after sacking his chief drugs adviser Prof David Nutt for his comments about cannabis policy. Two members of the drugs advisory panel have quit in protest and others are to meet to discuss their next move.  Alan Johnson said Prof Nutt was sacked for “crossing the line” between giving advice and campaigning for a policy.

The point is that there’s a conflict between safety, facts, opinions, freedom, freedom of speech, duty, duty of care, education, class and knowledge.

Currently, a few tens of people each year die while taking ecstasy.   Most actually die from dehydration and related effects, not from the drug.

However, the drug is addictive in that it’s effects diminish with repetition and the user has to take more each time to obtain the same experience.

It can be argued that taking one drug leads to taking others, which seems a reasonable supposition.  But even so, the deaths due to drug taking, as opposed to the deaths due to crimes within the drugs supply industry are miniscule.

Far better would be to fully legalise all drugs but to have life imprisonment for illegal supply.  In this way, there’s be nothing to stop ‘curious’ people making their own drugs…

An even better, and logical proposition, would be to focus on preventable deaths as they stand in the real, accountable figures.  Start by checking the official government death statistics…  Oh!  And here they are (it’s a big PDF file)

https://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_health/Dh2_32/DH2_No32_2005.pdf

In this right-riveting read are all sorts of weirdness.

For instance, the number of deaths from CYSTITIS is greater than those due to those surrounding Ecstasy intake!!  Perhaps we should be focussing our energies here?

But even more shocking, is that the deaths due to NOT WEARING A CRASH HELMET while driving a CAR are more than Ecstasy and Cystitis combined.

If HM Gov were truly concerned about the welfare of it’s citizens, they would insist on the use of crash helmets now and also make it impossible for motor vehicles to exceed ANY speed limit by the use of automatic speed limiting devices?  Maybe install equipment to prevent vehicle movement if there’s alcohol on the driver’s breath?

But that removes the freedom of a person to drive how they like? – is the obvious riposte.  And why should I have to wear a helmet inside my car?  And if I want to drive while drunk, that’s my choice!

So?  And there we are back to my first statement: “The point is that there’s a conflict between safety, facts, opinions, freedom, freedom of speech, duty, duty of care, education, class and knowledge.

And in that, the scientist is absolutely right and Johnson has chucked away all ‘fair comment’ values of a free society and ended the debate by shooting the messenger.  Meanwhile the carnage on the streets continues both by vehicle and by the gun and knife.

Either way, it’s still carnage – and deaths from Ecstasy are a pimple in comparison.

  One Response to “Don’t Shoot the Messenger if You don’t Like the Message”

  1. The latest on this is that the Government’s CHIEF Science advisor (Prof Beddington)agrees with Prof Nutt’s scientific views on cannabis i.e. it’s pretty obvious that it’s use does less damage to society than tobacco and alcohol – by a long chalk. see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8340318.stm

    The problem still remains where people in power, or people with vested interests pick and choose which bits of “science” they like, and which bits they dislike!

    Richard Feynmann was and still is my hero. Here’s a neat quote, one of many he made in his long eventful life.

    The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain. Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question — to doubt — to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.

    ………and here’s another, my absolute favourite;

    It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

    And that’s the point about ignoring your scientific advisors. They’ve done the experiments and analysed the results.

    If you don’t like the answer then don’t blame the scientist because that’s the truth you are looking at, or as close as you are gonna get.

    It’s like the God Squad Creationists. They snip, snip, snip little bits of information to promote their version of truth. Yet they’ll quite happily use their mobile phones and televisions, fire their cruise missiles and make nuclear power stations.

    All of these last use quantum theory to work, and it’s the same quantum theory that can be used to age the Earth, for example.

    Don’t pick and choose what you want to hear. If the truth hurts, don’t blame the truth.

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