Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Junk Science exposed

In grappling with the disconnect between what prohibitionists tell us and the reality I see on the streets, I have found over and over that they quote junk science, 'studies' which often have such gaping holes in their assumptions and method that even a layperson can see through them.

The malaise extends beyond illicit drugs. My recent criticism in The City News of the City of Sydney's alcohol research shows that the data do not even vaguely support the spin Clover Moore puts on it (a spin that I note is now rapidly changing its focus, but that's another story).

It appears we the public can put little or no faith in the Science we pay for. Mostly, it seems to be engineered to support preordained agendas. There should be a law against it.

An insightful article in Today's SMH by Jessica Irvine looks at the 'modelling' that creates a lot of headlines which turn out to be simply wrong. Ms Irvine also takes a good swipe at credulous journalists who parrot this rubbish.

Take the following quote, talking about the mining sector's campaign against emissions trading:
In June the Minerals Council of Australia published a report saying ''23,510 direct jobs will be lost across Australia's minerals industry by 2020''. Wrong.

The modelling, produced for the council by another consultancy, Concept Economics, found jobs in the mining industry would grow over that time, just not by as much when compared against a certain ''reference case'', which, as it turns out, involved assuming a much higher level of ''no-change'' emissions than anyone is predicting.
A lot of the headlines claiming that [X] costs the economy $16 billion a year (or whatever) are similarly suspect. I reckon if you added up all those claims they would exceed GDP by a fair bit. Can journalists at least please lift their game? Jessica Irvine excepted! She's on the money.

PS 27 August: The prostitution of Science was again highlighted this morning in a 720 ABC radio interview with Dr Tim Hawkes, headmaster of The King’s School. He was part of a panel at Macquarie University's Annual Oration by its Vice-Chancellor Steven Schwartz about returning morality to education, which had become corrupted by post-modern relativism and reduced to the pragmatic function of wealth creation.

Dr Hawkes in the radio interview criticised the practice of drug companies writing a paper about their own products and then paying an academic to put their name to it.

Ironically Miranda Devine, whose prohibitionist columns generously regurgitate junk science about illicit drugs, was also on the panel.

PPS 30 August: Oh, and here's a story about how George W Bush's Chief Scientist in the Office of National Drug Control Policy was a political appointee with no direct experience in the field -- and he is still there, trying to undermine current policies.

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