Evidence-based policy

I found this great essay on evidence use in policy making by Dan Gardner of The Ottawa Citizen via a post on the blog Evidence Soup.

Is the patient sick? Stick some leeches on him to suck out the bad blood.

That made sense to somebody, so they did it, and the patient felt better. It must have worked.

Yep, that’s still how medicine works, even in the age of science-based medicine.

Gardner humorously addresses the terrible state of evidence-based policy in Canada these days:

In a letter to the Globe and Mail, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the long-gun registry works. “There has been a decline in all types of gun deaths since the registry was brought into force,” he noted. See? We put the leeches on the patient. The patient felt better. So treatment works.

But the gun registry came into force in 1995. And after exhaustive research — seven seconds on the Statistics Canada website — I discovered that all types of gun deaths started falling in 1979.

So the patient had been on the mend for 16 years before he got the leech treatment, which makes it somewhat less impressive that he continued to feel better after.

Science is so fantastic that everyone wants to have science on their side! So, everyone claims to. But you’ve really gotta ask who’s got real integrity and who is just bullshitting. When it comes to politicians, unfortunately, having genuine integrity is rarely a winning strategy against all the bullshitters. Too many voters don’t notice the difference.


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