Thursday, November 05, 2009

a packet of dry roasted disco biscuits, please

More interesting footnotes to the drug advisor sacking fiasco: firstly this article in the New Scientist by David Nutt himself presents a thought experiment originally presented in this NS editorial (the full version of which is behind a paywall):
Imagine you are seated at a table with two bowls in front of you. One contains peanuts, the other tablets of the illegal recreational drug MDMA (ecstasy). A stranger joins you, and you have to decide whether to give them a peanut or a pill. Which is safest?

You should give them ecstasy, of course. A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA.
The question to then go on and ask yourself is: given this, on what basis do we come to the conclusion that the sale and consumption of peanuts is OK, but the sale and consumption of ecstasy is not? I'm sure Alan Johnson will be setting it all out for us nice and clearly and unambiguously any day now.

With all this confusion and disagreement, what the situation is clearly crying out for is some Good Old-Fashioned Common Sense. In other words, a column by Melanie Phillips. Mel takes a different tack from the one you might have expected (dismissing the science and proclaiming that drug consumption is Just Ruddy Morally Wrong in some ill-defined way) by claiming that the science doesn't show what Professor Nutt claims it does regarding relative harmfulness of drugs. Obviously you should make up your own minds based on a sober examination of the evidence, but it would be remiss of me not to point out here that Mel also thinks the scientific evidence comes down firmly in favour of Intelligent Design as opposed to, you know, all that evolution rubbish. If you really feel you can't just dismiss everything Melanie Phillips says as the ramblings of a deranged right-wing knee-jerk contrarian, some specific refutations can be found here.

Also in the Mail, A.N. Wilson takes a few potshots at David Nutt as well, in an article that is if anything even more cretinous than Mel's. First this gem:
The trouble with a 'scientific' argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.
Yeah, you can prove anything with facts. Secondly he Godwins himself a bit further down:
The only difference between Hitler and previous governments was that he believed, with babyish credulity, in science as the only truth. He allowed scientists freedoms which a civilised government would have checked.

I am not suggesting that any British scientists are currently conducting experiments comparable to those which were allowed in Nazi Germany or in Soviet Russia.
Oh, well, that's all right then. Finally a bit of anti-vax looniness, ostensibly in the name of - hey! - "free expression":
In fact, it is the arrogant scientific establishment which questions free expression. Think of the hoo-ha which occurred when one hospital doctor dared to question the wisdom of using the MMR vaccine.
Absolutely tremendous; top marks.

No comments: