Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's Simple, We Don't Believe in Science

Not that this is newsy really, because I think the Con's have been pretty clear from the beginning that they have no respect for the scientific community but it's bizarre to me in 2008.

They, the Con's, seem incapable of discerning the difference between holding an opinion and basing a conclusion on fact. They equate the two and often raise the spectre that there should be debate on both sides of an issue, when of course there aren't two sides. There is a myraid of opinion of course but that is not the same thing.

I know you open yourself up to being called an elitist when you bring something like this up, but I seriously question if they have the intellect to comprehend the difference. Perhaps they do and are simply using 'words' in a Frank Luntz sort of way to make it seem as if they have a reasonable case. I suppose as well, there could be a faction of these individuals that are religiously motivated to reject science, so they hop on the band wagon too.

Anyway, we've seen this behaviour often as it relates to Climate Change, Evolution, (where the smartest guy on their side thinks he's gotcha when he tells you it's a 'theory'), and many other areas. Our current government has certainly shown their stripes as it relates to the environment, the recent ousting of the National Science Advisor and I have long suspected the same pattern vis a vis their war on drugs.

Today, we have a little more clarity on their stance on that subject. They apparently do not understand the difference between a lobby group and scientific fact. Imagine that!

In the latest salvo in the battle over Vancouver's controversial safe drug injection site, leading researchers are criticizing the Harper government for not differentiating between legitimate science and a report endorsed by a U.S. law-and-order lobby group.

"Alarmingly", they say, Health Minister Tony Clement has been citing the lobby group report as evidence of growing "academic debate" over the safe injection site.

While it perhaps is alarming, it's hardly surprising is it? Consider how they ignore facts on every issue. Crime is decreasing, yet they say it's on the rise. The facts suggest that money should be poured into crime prevention, they pour it into incarceration. The Taser debate requires much more research, yet they call the creator of the product to committee as their witness. Security Certificates and their ineffective/bias/anti-Charter stance as proclaimed by the Supreme Court. The Con's react by proposing a system that has been shown to be ineffective. (For the record, I'm calling the Lib's out on that one for letting it pass).

Back to the subject at hand:

In a report published Monday in a British medical journal, they say advancing evidence-based public health in Canada "will now require that politicians are able to tell the difference between valid peer-reviewed science and essays posted on the websites of lobby groups."

The lobby group, the Drug Free America Foundation, is dedicated to strengthening laws to hold drug users and dealers criminally accountable for their actions. The group's online journal, "which to the untrained eye could easily be mistaken for a scientific journal," disseminates material and essays that oppose the concept of harm reduction, researchers Drs. Evan Wood, Julio Montaner and Thomas Kerr say in an article published Monday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, a British medical journal.

The untrained eye comment reinforces my earlier comment that either they do not have the knowledge/intelligence to appreciate the difference or they are willfully turning a blind eye.

"If the health minister equates a report from an RCMP-funded, advocacy group to 24 peer-reviewed scientific papers including articles in the New England Journal of Medicine, then Canadians need to be worried about the person who is in charge of public health in this country," Wood said in an interview Monday.

Believe me, most of us are.


MD said...

Excellent post as usual knb. At one time, I had quite an interest the efficacy of harm reduction strategies, although I haven't followed it closely in the last couple of years. There has been an impressive body of literature published using INSITE data, including in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet. My understanding is that needle sharing behaviour has definately decreased, and the program likely has value in reducing disease transmission, but there is no evidence that it reduces addiction rates. I believe this is consistent with similar programs in Europe. At any rate, the program was a good example of non-ideological, evidence-based public policy, so its not a natural fit for a Conservative government.

Karen said...

Thanks md. I'm obviously not in your league, but what I have read tells me that disease transmission is down and obviously the reduction of needle sharing is a major factor. I think there are many more benefits that this program can be proud of. Overdose and death have also been decreased, due to having people on site.

Addiction rate? Well that's a different ball game and again, we don't spend money where it is needed. Cause is where I think our money should go in addition to help.

Wouldn't you think that in 2008 we would understand cause and relationship? I find it beyond sad that we do not.

You are right. It's not a natural fit for this government, but I worry that most Canadians are not paying attention to this ideology.

How to change that is perhaps the broader issue.

Red Canuck said...

KNB - As a physician in Vancouver, I have seen first hand the devastation of HIV/AIDS as a result of rampant drug use and needle sharing. A significant portion of the patients I have treated at St. Paul's Hospital live with the burden of HIV and other diseases such as Hep C acquired through drug use, and complicated by living in substandard conditions on the downtown east side. Politicians like Clement who stick to rigid conservative Reaganesque ideologies about "the war on drugs" are totally clueless about the true scope of the problem.

Harm reduction strategies such as clean needle programs are sometimes difficult for middle class suburbanites to comprehend. They challenge our notions about drug use by exposing the schism between the adverse effects of illicit drugs themselves and the collateral effects of transmissable disease caused by the inevitable reality of needle-sharing.

Dr. Montaner and his colleagues have done a tremendous job with the INSITE program, and deserve a great deal of credit. The words and actions of Tony Clement are yet another insult to the intelligence of Canadians, and don't befit a Minister of Health.

Karen said...

RC: Harm reduction strategies such as clean needle programs are sometimes difficult for middle class suburbanites to comprehend.

I suspect that theses programs are difficult for people who do not think issues through. The lack of compassion that comes with the ideology that the Con's support is appalling in my view.

They discard portions of humanity by ignoring facts. Imperical data means nothing to them, which is odd in a sense given that they see only black and white.

Consider not asking for clemency for a man on death row. Consider the focus in the crime Bill in the Senate. They lump people into categories without thought to how they came to be there.

I thank both you and md for what you do.

MD said...

That's very kind of you knb. I think one way of evaluating leadership is watching what happens when ideology is in conflict with the weight of evidence. The Conservative government invariably follows its ideology.

You're right...a big part of solving health care problems is attacking the social determinants of health. In the grand sheme of things, an effective anti-poverty stategy is a better way to improve health care than new P3 hospitals. But I don't think our political system rewards politicians who exhibit long term vision about nebulous, slow to change problems. The conservative tendency towards ideological certainty exacerbates the problem, but its really systemic and affects all governments.

Karen said...

md, agreed. All governments have failed on this count.

Dion however strikes me as a man that is engaged and honest. That is not partisanship, that is based on what I try to do in my business. That is study people and what they stand for. Forget the Liberals at this point, let's just look at the man. He believes in INSITE. He seem's to see the merit in programs that make sense.

Will Canadians listen listen to logic? I don't know. The media seem to be following the plebes. That does not help us, we Canada. How is it that some of us dig down and others don't?

I don't believe we are smarter, nor do I think we have more time. I think it has to do with exposure and the Con's are loathe to do that.

My honest and earnest compliment to you and RC was not a throw away compliment. I honestly appreciate and admire what you both do.