The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

To Ride Or Not To Ride

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 2, 2009 @ 10:17


Everyone's a fruit and Nutt case...

The controversy in recent days over Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s sacking of his chief drugs adviser has been a joy to watch.

It seems the biggest problem was caused when Professor David Nutt asserted that riding a horse was more dangerous than taking ecstasy. Yes, it’s quite a surprising soundbite. No one would ever expected something so apparently genteel and middle-class as horse riding could possibly be equated with 20-30 somethings popping a pill to enhance their enjoyment of a good night out. Oh no.

If you’ll pardon the pun, Nutt’s comment must have frightened a few horses in Number 10 to elicit his sacking.

What we have here is a classic case of reality versus fantasy. On the one hand, we have a professor, an esteemed scientist, backed by a large number of his peers on a government appointed body tasked with looking at the evidence to inform sensible policy making. On the other hand, we have a society, comprising prejudices, social norms, cultural values and a big dollop of old wives’ tales.

Which side do political parties invariably come out on?

We place such a low value on evidence in policy making. After all, why let the facts get in the way of the beliefs you’ve held for many decades? So what if the evidence shows that prison doesn’t work? So what if burning the poppy fields in Afghanistan makes no difference to the amount of drugs on the world’s streets? So what if Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction…

George W. Bush ran his administration on faith that he had all the answers without needing to check if the ends justified the means. His religious values resulted in policies that made no difference, and made some things worse, but I guess made him feel a warm fuzzy glow inside that he was doing God’s work. Abstinence only “sex education”. Bans on stem-cell research. Restriction of the use of abortion. A belief in American exceptionalism so strong that its alleged ideology should be exported across the planet in spite of what the recipients actually want.

Our politics must have no place for this. When the facts change, and the facts are showing that current policies are doing more harm than good, we need our politicians to be flexible enough to respond. Not pursue dogmatic agendas in the hope that they’ll curry favour with the Daily Mail, Rupert Murdoch or the mythical beast that is middle England.

What does all this mean for ideology? These days, it largely doesn’t exist anyway. Some believe in more state control, others more individual liberty. But in the modern era, when science is answering more and more questions about the fundamentals of life, we cannot stick our fingers in our ears and carry on regardless.

Where science doesn’t give us the answers, such as on the economy (I don’t necessarily count economics as a science) then there is a little more scope for politicians to go with their gut instinct.

But otherwise, in the most ridiculous forced-choice question in history, if someone put a gun to my head and said, “Ride the horse or take the chill pill” I think I know which way I’d go…


One Response to “To Ride Or Not To Ride”

  1. […] wrote about this same subject before when Professor Nutt resigned from government’s drug advisory panel. Where drugs are concerned, if we must be going down the route of prohibition (being a crazy […]

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