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UK Government 'Muzzling' Scientists

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the information-wants-to-be-free-just-shut-up-for-a-couple-weeks-first dept.

United Kingdom 83

taikedz writes "Fiona Fox, chief executive of the Science Media Center, has claimed that leading scientists independently advising the UK government are being actively prevented from speaking to the public and media, especially in times of crisis when scientific evidence is necessary for a fully open and educated public debate, such as the current badger culling policy, and the past volcanic eruptions and ash fallout and their effects. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whom many of these scientists are advising, denies any such practices."

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Badgers? (5, Funny)

zeroryoko1974 (2634611) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007121)

We don't need no stinkin badger's

Re:Badgers? (-1, Offtopic)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007149)

Don't read this... it is a curse...

In 1998, a little boy named Timmy was enjoying a relaxing day at the beach with his beloved family. Being the curious and adventurous young lad that he was, he managed to sneak away from his family and traveled far enough away from them that they could just barely see him from where they were located. Little Timmy, while walking, then noticed a small lizard beanie baby sitting in the sand, looking up towards him. They exchanged greetings, and then, feeling daring, Timmy said, "I betcha can't lick my buttcheeks!"

The lizard replied in a confident tone, "I bet I can!" Then, the lizard beanie baby's tongue stuck out a few centimeters in front of its face and stopped moving. Timmy, not understanding the situation, gazed at it in puzzlement. Suddenly, he heard and felt something slimy smack his precious cheek! He couldn't believe it! It was as if most of the lizard's tongue was invisible and that he could stretch it and make it move anywhere he wanted from any location!

Timmy, still feeling daring, then said, "I betcha can't lick my buttcrack!" In the same confident tone, the lizard replied, "I bet I can!" and the exact same event as before happened once again. The lizard stuck out its tongue a few centimeters, and mere moments later, something hit Timmy's bare buttcrack. This caused Timmy to jump in the air from surprise.

Timmy, angry that the lizard's tongue violated his precious snap, screamed, "I betcha can't lick my butthole!" This time, his voice didn't have the daring tone that it had before. The lizard almost immediately replied, in a confident tone that sounded as if he knew precisely what would happen, "I bet I can!" Regretting his decision to dare the lizard immensely, Timmy began begging and pleading for the lizard to stop. Despite this rather sad turn of events, an invisible, wet tongue smacked Timmy's bootysnapcheekcrackhole moments later! The lizard had slurped his most prized possession!

Infuriated that his most precious spot was violated by the dirty little lizard's tongue, Timmy attempted to kick the lizard. However, to his surprise, the lizard was somehow able to avoid the blow and crawl into his pant leg! Timmy could see a small lump on his pant leg slowly make its way towards his ass! Thinking quickly, Timmy used his hands to block its path. Feeling victorious, he smirked and began mocking the lizard. Seconds later, the lump somehow managed to effortlessly move right under the obstacles that were Timmy's hands and continued merrily on its way!

Timmy, frightened, tried desperately to take off his jeans, but it was as if they were glued to his body! The lizard finally made its way to Timmy's ass, crawled between his ass cheeks, climbed on top of his precious hole, and then stopped. As if it had stopped just to make Timmy even more frightened, the lizard began its mission as soon as Timmy's dread became apparent. The lizard crawled all over Timmy's bootysnapcheekcrackhole in a square pattern, stopped at each corner of the imaginary square for about a second, and then moved to the next corner.

Each time it crawled, each time it moved, a sinister rattling sound was heard, and tremendous amounts of tickle were inflicted upon Timmy's ass! He could do nothing but try to endure it, but there is no way that any being in existence could endure having such concentrated amounts of tickle inflicted upon their ass. He screamed and pleaded for it to stop, but to no avail. The lizard continued crawling, and Timmy heard it let out an ominous laugh...

Now that you have read even a single word of this, the very same lizard puppet will effortlessly make its way to your bootysnapcheekcrackhole, and crawl all over it to inflict preposterous amounts of tickle upon your ass! To prevent this from occurring, copy this entire story and post it as a comment three times.

Re:Badgers? (0)

webmistressrachel (903577) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007199)

This (and many other things like it) are why anonymous coward should never be removed from these forums. Bravo!

(no Karma bonus, not Overrated!)

The Great Purge has begun! (-1, Troll)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007253)

It is time for the Great Purge to commence! From the very beginning, I have concealed my True Ferocity from the likes of you Slashdot intellectuals, but it is now time for me to defeat every single one of you without a single problem!

My rancid asshole will suck out all the tadpoles from your fetid cocks. I will grand slam your absolute garbage cheeks into mysterious dark alleys. I will become bootynude and show off my True Power.

I am the Master Behind Masters, the Puppeteer Behind Puppeteers! Today, you will return!

Return!

Return!

There's no choice but to return.

Why not return?

You shall return.

Not returning is inconceivable.

Not returning is impossible.

Return.

Return.

Return.

Return.

Return, return, return, return, return to Gamemakerdooooooooooooooooooom!

Re:The Great Purge has begun! (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | about a year and a half ago | (#44012401)

Hang on a minute, I just noticed - it wasn't posted AC! And I posted the comment without reading properly...

Re:Badgers? (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007281)

Look, I'll be the first to admit that when I was young, I was really big into badger culling myself. But, like most people, I eventually grew out of it and realized that badgers are much better left unculled. Having kids will really change your perspective, man.

Re:Badgers? (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007457)

When badger culling is outlawed, only outlaws will be culling badgers!

Re:Badgers? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010519)

You mean government institutions? I believe that in my country, they're already in charge of it.

Re:Badgers? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008159)

I only wish we had badgers out here to cull. My two dogs at home [wikipedia.org] really need something to hunt besides moles and rabbits...

Re:Badgers? (1)

GrunthosThePoet (2658483) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007689)

We should be culling politicians and not badgers.

Re:Badgers? (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007725)

What about mushrooms?

Re:Badgers? (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about a year and a half ago | (#44013183)

The snakes ate them.

Watch out Limeys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007173)

Without detailed information about the massive volcanic activity in Scotland, you may very well end up dead.. or even worse.. you may very well end up WELSH!
Don't even get me started about those killer badgers either!

Re:Watch out Limeys! (-1, Offtopic)

stanIyb (2945195) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007195)

Oh, my! You think you can censor me? You think you have won? Well, I'll just have to suck every tadpole out of your smelly cock by using my rancid anus! Shall we begin? Yes. When should we start? Now. Let's start, shall we? Indeed. Let us begin. Begin. We shall begin. Indeed we shall. It's going to start. Yes, it will.

Tadpole suckin' time! What say you?

Fear my laugh (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007201)

Requests for interviews with scientists working for the Canadian federal government have frequently been turned down as a consequence of a media protocol introduced in 2008.
This directive explicitly states that press officers should ensure that the minister is not embarrassed and that the interview is "along approved lines".

Any time you see "Don't embarrass the minister", read: This is why freedom of speech is enshrined.

"The dictator fears the laugh more than the assassin's bullet.". -- Robert A. Heinlein

Re:Fear my laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007241)

Requests for interviews with scientists working for the Canadian federal government have frequently been turned down as a consequence of a media protocol introduced in 2008.
This directive explicitly states that press officers should ensure that the minister is not embarrassed and that the interview is "along approved lines".

Any time you see "Don't embarrass the minister", read: This is why freedom of speech is enshrined.

"The dictator fears the laugh more than the assassin's bullet.". -- Robert A. Heinlein

If anyone should be embarrassed, it should be the person who thinks that Badger Culling amounts to a Crisis.

I think the badgers find it a crisis. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007923)

Of course, when they came for the badgers, you kept quiet because you were not a badger.

Did you know that innoculation would be cheaper than culling badgers? Mostly because the vector infecting cattle isn't badgers, it's unsanitary farming. But fixing that costs the farmers whilst culling badgers gives them something to shoot at now they're not allowed to shoot pikeys.

Re:I think the badgers find it a crisis. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44009147)

Of course, when they came for the badgers, you kept quiet because you were not a badger.

Next they'll go after the coons.

Sorry, was that offensive?

Re:Fear my laugh (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007341)

We need separation of science and state.

"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. "
Eisenhower speech.

Re:Fear my laugh (2)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008981)

We need separation of science and state.

You've already got it, it's called...private enterprise.

Re:Fear my laugh (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010943)

If the state doesn't fund science then an awful lot of important science simply won't get done. Private enterprise can profit from pharma, so that research will get done. But particle physics for example, not so much.

Re:Fear my laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44011927)

Isn't that pretty much the goal of the Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology?

Re:Fear my laugh (1)

StrangeBrew (769203) | about a year and a half ago | (#44009265)

Just how many jobs out there allow you to embarrass your boss, or their boss, or their boss's boss... with impunity? Though I understand the desire to be outraged by any muzzling, this isn't news. If they don't like it, they can always pursue employment with one of the many environmental special interest groups where they'll risk being fired if they say anything that embarrasses their boss, or anyone up the line right to the Rockefeller's.

Re:Fear my laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44010089)

Cameroon, man! These accusations are profoundly exaggerated. It's not like any of the ministries would have Bliard or stuck their heads into a Bush of popular ignorance.

Re:Fear my laugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44010391)

Just a thought to consider, but the interviewers are trained manipulators of language and conversation. The scientists are not. This can easily result in interviews where an interviewee is trying to be honest but is being lead around by guiding and awkward questions to the point where they end saying things that can be extracted into sound bites with far different meaning than was ever intended.

It happens to people who spend most of their lives in public attention, it will happen even more easily to those who actually work for a living.

I won't make a judgment call about whether that is the case here until I see a response by one of the "muzzled" scientists to how their interview was aired.

Re:Fear my laugh (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010909)

Any time you see "Don't embarrass the minister", read: This is why freedom of speech is enshrined.

Freedom of speech doesn't apply to US government employees any more than it does to UK government employees. For example the muzzling of NASA scientists on the topic of AGW under the Bush administration.

Re:Fear my laugh (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year and a half ago | (#44011301)

Freedom of speech exists. However there's no freedome to retain your job once you've pissed off your employer or your employer's primary customer. That's the real problem that is going on. Many of these scientists are work for "arm's length" agencies; that is they're supposed to be free of pressure from the government. However they certainly know that their funding may be at risk if they annoy the government ministers.

The same problem exists if the government backs out and is replaced by private industry though. As long as there's a funding source that can vanish overnight due to someone's whim this problem will exist.

"muzzling" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007209)

The article refers to muzzling in Canada (which is happening), whereas the summary refers to muzzling in the UK. The article implies that UK public-service scientists are being pressured, but it's not as explicit as here in Canada.

Re:"muzzling" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007255)

Doesn't Canada still have the Queen on their money?

Re:"muzzling" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007375)

If we had any we could tell you.

Re:"muzzling" (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010991)

Both Canada and the UK governments are conservative (The UK as the major party of a coalition.) It's par for the course for right wing governments to be anti-science. They want their agenda being put to the media, not scientific truth.

david nutt (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007223)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Nutt would be another example of the UK government not wanting to hear from scientists.

Re:david nutt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44012855)

That's nutts!

Putting PR Men in Charge (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007333)

This is what happens when you put professional spinmeisters in charge of professional workers: Dysfunction.

Imagine putting a PR team in charge of the Doctors dealing with an epidemic. A doctor would like to announce quarantine measure, or tell people the full risks, or advise those who are sick, etc. If you had a PR man in charge, the whole epidemic would be treated as a mild flu, no-one would be informed, contagion would spread rapidly and thousands would die. "No matter", says the PR man, "We can spin that too.". But this misses the point.

If you allow spin and the press office to dictate the running of an organisation, then the organisation effectively will not run at all. No professional can work properly with an unrelated lay person getting in his way 24/7.

It's time to call PR men what they really are: Political Officers.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007401)

Most hospitals and public health organizations *do* have public relations people. And they usually oversee any public announcements.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007491)

It's not really even about PR men but entirely to do with the fact that an absolute minority (I'd wager you could count them on two hands) of Britain's politicians are willing to make policy based on the facts, as opposed to what they think should be the case based on gut instinct/religious leanings/other bias.

Our politicians just do not have the capacity to comprehend why policy is best made based on evidence and facts as opposed to personal bias.

It's really not anymore complicated than that. If I was a politician before decided to vote on something or build policy I'd go and and ask the experts in the field for some arguments either way and find out which path made most sense based on the evidence and their advice. I'd want sound reasoning behind any decision. Contrast this to actual politicians and what they do is make the decision and then dig for anyone who will back up that position (usually Rupert Murdoch if you give some favours back) and then criticise/silence any experts or anyone else who points out why you're wrnog.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007607)

Personal political agendas being contradicted by scientific fact have made a quite few high-profile government folks look very bad. Can't have that.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007845)

Please name one scientific fact.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008021)

Did somebody say something?

Water is wet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44008057)

The sky is blue.

There you go, a twofer for you.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44013199)

Football is better than soccer.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008151)

It's time to call PR men what they really are: Political Officers.

I would have gone with worthless lying sacks of shit who do more to hurt society than everyone in prison combined.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

terjeber (856226) | about a year and a half ago | (#44018637)

Does it hurt to be as ignorant as you are, or does the ignorance come with some sort of pain-reducing features of its own?

What is PR [tldp.org] .

Some news articles that would probably not exist without PR professionals:
http://www.informationweek.com/global-cio/trends/how-linux-foundation-runs-its-virtual-of/240156624 [informationweek.com]
http://www.eweek.com/servers/ibm-to-support-linux-kvm-virtualization-on-power-systems/ [eweek.com]
http://www.h-online.com/open/features/Linux-Mint-15-A-better-Ubuntu-for-the-desktop-1873682.html [h-online.com]

I just randomly picked Linux as a search item in Google News. It could have been anything. Almost everything you read in a publication was "sold" to that publication by a PR professional. Did you think journalists actually spent time researching and finding out stuff on their own? Honestly, if it wasn't sold by a PR agency, you probably never heard about it.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44009719)

No professional can work properly with an unrelated lay person getting in his way 24/7.

Um, this is the situation most working people are in with their bosses.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010037)

Time to spill some tea.

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44011047)

Imagine putting a PR team in charge of the Doctors dealing with an epidemic. A doctor would like to announce quarantine measure, or tell people the full risks, or advise those who are sick, etc. If you had a PR man in charge, the whole epidemic would be treated as a mild flu, no-one would be informed, contagion would spread rapidly and thousands would die. "No matter", says the PR man, "We can spin that too.". But this misses the point.

A theme examined in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, with regard to the public water supply. Which later inspired the movie Jaws, with it's rather more popcorn friendly "health risk".

Re:Putting PR Men in Charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44012907)

Try propaganders.

News flash: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007387)

Scientists have different opinions on stuff of national importance. The default policy of any organization ever that wants to stay intact is "you're not allowed to talk to the media without clearing it with us first." One of the biggest issues with letting individual academics speak their mind is that what comes out of their mouth is personal opinion that has not been peer reviewed for accuracy or relevance. Any restriction on their expression is likely done to avoid giving these opinions the veneer of authority.

Mob rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007431)

I guess they're advocating mob rule? Logic and reason aren't allowed to enter into it?

The Department... denies any such practices. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007469)

Which, by default, makes that an official confirmation.

Denies such practices... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007481)

... and preventively has forbidden the scientists to talk about it for good measure. Who can doubt their sincerity!

Re:Denies such practices... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#44009617)

and preventively has forbidden the scientists to talk about it for good measure.

The article says nothing about prevention. It mentions one time when a scientist was asked not to speak to the press again. Ask. The rest of the complaint is that scientists who have signed the Official Secrets Act are hesitant to talk because THEY are afraid they might let something confidential slip out. Their fear, not a prohibition from the government, stops them from talking.

Two points. Great Britain does not have a 1st Amendment, and even if it did (or has something equivalent) these scientists have waived the rights it would grant by signing an agreement not to talk about certain things.

As for badgers, everyone knows that British badgers are a source of tuberculosis that is hurting the cows and beef/dairy production of small family farms, and that only addle-brained old women want to put up "badger crossing" signs. Doesn't anyone in England listen to The Archers anymore?

Re:Denies such practices... (1)

Lithdren (605362) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010273)

...because THEY are afraid they might let something confidential slip out. Their fear, not a prohibition from the government, stops them from talking.

Fear of what? Sounds to me like fear of the goverment to come knoking to me. It's not asking when it's an implied threat.

Great Britain does not have a 1st Amendment, and even if it did (or has something equivalent) these scientists have waived the rights it would grant by signing an agreement not to talk about certain things.

All the more reason scientists and anyone else able to think for themselves should leave such a place. I'm from the US, and i'll be first to admit its a horrible place, its a really terrible goverment, and even we are having issues at the moment with this free speech stuff, but at least its being attempted here.

As for the second point, you cant really wave your right to the 1st amendment here, not in this sort of context anyway. Being able to do so would render it more or less useless. "you wave your right to your 1st amendment rights by utilizing the given "FREE SPEECH ZONE" of your choice." sort of BS would be allowable then, rendering it useless.

Re:Denies such practices... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#44012889)

Fear of what?

Fear of exactly what I said. They agreed not to talk about certain things as a condition of getting paid to do what they do and getting access to the information they got access to. They were afraid that while talking about unclassified things they would let classified information that they agreed not to talk about slip out.

This "government knocking" isn't because they talked to the press, it would be because they talked about things they voluntarily agreed not to talk about.

As for the second point, you cant really wave your right to the 1st amendment here,

Yes, you can. It's easy. Go to work for a government contractor that deals with classified information and see if you aren't expected to waive your first amendment rights, at least with respect to the classified information you have access to. Or, join the military. There's lots of things you can't say under the UCMJ that someone not subject to those regulations can say freely.

Being able to do so would render it more or less useless.

Nonsense. If you want to keep your first amendment rights, don't waive them. Very simple.

"you wave your right to your 1st amendment rights by utilizing the given "FREE SPEECH ZONE" of your choice."

If you sign such a contract, then you have, indeed, waived your rights. Since such contracts are figments of the imagination, then your argument is similarly a figment. The problem with your figment is that it involves information solely created by the speaker, which has not been subject to NDA or other agreements. Should someone go to a free speech zone (whatever that is) and start spouting nuclear secrets, he would not be prosecuted for doing so in a free speech zone against some fictional appropriate usage agreement, he's be prosecuted for breaking the agreement that got him access to those secrets in the first place. If an active-duty military person used a "free speech zone" to make statements that violate the UCMJ, he'd be prosecuted under the UCMJ -- which contains no mention of "free speech zones." The "free speech zone" is irrelevant.

Re:Denies such practices... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010311)

I call award you one "humor challenged" virtual medal! Enjoy!

UK have banned Snowden too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007483)

You might wonder if he's had any arrest warrant issued? No, he's a free man.

Yet they've banned Snowden from the UK:
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/355134/secret-leaker-snowden-banned-from-planes-to-uk

Perhaps it would be politically bad if he arrived at heathrow and we were all there, waving banners and screaming his name LIKE HE'S A BRAVE HERO THAT WOKE US UP TO WHAT THE US MILITARY was doing to the constitution.

UK does what a few isolated politicians in the USA want. They're increasingly pointing the finger of blame at each other, the military men are trying to hold the line with "Americans will die" scare stories, and the UK Home Office, fears the US military more than the voters.

Re:UK have banned Snowden too (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010339)

Why would the UK fear the US Military? The military isn't telling scare stories.. they tell war stories to their buddies over a beer. The UK could be afraid of the US's civilian organizations though? The Congress and President are in charge of the US Military. I mean, who listens to soldiers? nobody. People listen to politicians and media figure heads. Only rarely does a soldier make public speeches and even then they are probably placed into that position by an external force.

Happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007499)

Ah, a 'No shit Sherlock.' moment. Jisc - a UK funder -has been handing out gagging orders alongside recent funding letters, I shit you not. Media contact is to go through the little gnomes in their press office. They do this for the prosaic reason that if anybody was going to be on telly they would prefer it to be themselves, so fuck free speech, objectivity and suchlike hippie values.

(Captcha: Imagine)

David Nutt (4, Interesting)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007733)

The article fails to mention the treatment given to David Nutt by the last Labour government in 2009. At the time, he worked on the Advisory Council on the Misuse Of Drugs, which was meant to be independent of government. Based on their findings, Nutt pushed for the classification of illegal drugs based on actual harm, rather than arbitrarily as it still is now. The ACMD also published about the relative harmlessness of ecstasy and cannabis.

For this heinous crime he was sacked by the then Home Secretary, who said "he was asked to go because he cannot be both a government adviser and a campaigner against government policy."

Not long later, Cannabis was back to being a class B drug after only a few years at class C.

It seems that all governments are anti-scientific when the science contradicts their ridiculous ideologies, especially when it comes to drug policy.

An an aside, I remember the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, went on a morning talk show and said, with a straight face, that some strains of cannabis killed people.

Re:David Nutt (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#44009917)

Based on their findings, Nutt pushed for the classification of illegal drugs based on actual harm, rather than arbitrarily as it still is now.

This is not a scientific issue, it is a legal and ethical issue. He was thus no longer speaking as a scientific advisor, he was taking a legal/political stance.

For this heinous crime he was sacked by the then Home Secretary,

OMG. He became an outspoken advocate against current government policy while being paid by the government to provide scientific input, and he got fired. How awful.

It seems that all governments are anti-scientific when the science contradicts their ridiculous ideologies, especially when it comes to drug policy.

Laws should and must include social considerations and not just be a reflection of scientific physical laws. While you may call that "anti-scientific", it really isn't. You may also call firing a scientist who has wandered into public policy "anti-scientific", but really, again, it isn't. "Use of drug X causes Y dollars in damage to society, using the following assumptions and cost analysis basis..." is science. "We should set the criminal level of use of drug X based on cost..." is a statement of a personal opinion.

"Yes, thank you, agrarian scientist, for the information that one person walking on a field of grass doesn't hurt the grass but may in fact help it. We're still going to make 'Do Not Walk On The Grass' signs legal and enforce them with trespass violations because the owner of the grass has property rights that your science doesn't consider."

Oooh, oooh, a car analogy just came to mind. "Thank you Dr. Traffic Safety Investigator, we understand that any distraction at all while driving can increase the chances of an accident. Unfortunately, it is politically and socially unacceptable to outlaw the use of the car radio or windshield wipers while the car is in motion, nor will we create a law limiting the driver's and passenger's freedom of speech by prohibiting all discussions during a drive. We may consider a law allowing the use of duct tape on small children in the back seat, however."

Re:David Nutt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44009975)

I wrote to my Labour MP about drug policy and the ignorance of scientists and facts in legislature. Here's his (Paul Blomfield) response:

(My name, but misspelled)

First of all my most sincere apologies for the amount of time it has taken me to respond to your e-mail of 21 June 2012 on the subject of Evidence Based Policy. I understand why you feel that expert advice should not be disregarded. However, in coming to a view, it is the role of politicians to take into account a whole range of factors. I think that it is right that the Home Secretary is obliged to consult the Advisory Council before laying Orders before Parliament or before making Regulations on drug policy. But to say that she must always agree with their advice is the equivalent to saying that ACMD should make the decision. If we extended this to other areas, for which there would doubtless be a similar case, and left policy decisions entirely to the experts, we would end up with a ‘technocratic’ government. The strength of the current system, although it is not perfect, is that politicians are democratically accountable. So, even though I disagree with Teresa May on many issues, I believe that she ultimately should take the decision.

Thanks again for getting in touch and sharing your views.

Best wishes,

Paul

It took him three months to respond with that, "democratically accountable" my arse.

Re:David Nutt (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44011121)

A technocratic government. That'd be nice. Shame the idea died out, with the amount of data technocrats would have at their disposal these days, it could work really well.

I wonder why he mentioned it in the sense that it was an unthinkable thing. Other than him not being an MP for the Technocratic Party of course.

Re:David Nutt (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#44013045)

A technocratic government. That'd be nice.

No, it wouldn't. It would result in the same kind of power struggles and partisanship that occurs today, only worse because scientists aren't elected.

Anyone who has been alive for more than a decade has already seen the back-and-forth that science brings us regarding simple things. Red wine is good for you. Let's pass laws making it legal for anyone to drink red wine. Red wine is bad for you, let's make it illegal for anyone to drink red wine. Red wine is good for you in small amounts, let's make it legal to buy a glass at a time.... This study shows ... that study shows ... the other study shows something else. Which do we follow? What law do we enact? That's just one example.

Then you need to reconcile the concept of human rights and freedom against stark realities of physical law. It's dangerous to skydive. We're banning skydiving. It's dangerous to fly small airplanes. Let's ban small airplanes. It's dangerous to be distracted while driving. Let's ban all distractions. I mean ALL distractions. It's dangerous to drive anywhere, let's ban cars.

with the amount of data technocrats would have

Who elects the technocrats? Does anyone with a scientific degree get to create new laws, or only some of them?

The main problem is that science deals with one part of reality and society deals with a different thing. Science doesn't consider the human side of things (no, I don't mean physiology, I mean social and emotional things), but the law has to. Science doesn't care if I like the taste of red wine, it deals with how it hurts or helps my health. "You must drink red wine because it is good for you" is a bad law from so many standpoints, but it would be "science" in a technocrat society.

Let's end it with this: if I do a cost/benefit analysis of the death penalty issue, I would probably wind up with the answer that it costs society much less to execute a convicted murderer than it does to keep him in prison for any significant amount of time. (That applies to pretty much any convicted criminal sent to prison. A dollar or two of drugs vs. hundreds or thousands of dollars in incarceration costs. Benefits to society: lower population, lower costs for supporting that population, less carbon footprint as relatives and friend don't have to drive to the jail to visit. Wow, a win for the planet!) I would also probably come up with the science to support that once a person has committed a murder he's more likely to murder again. (Yes, the "one off" crimes of passion exist, but there are a lot of people who are complete psycho and sociopaths who will murder more than once, and they bring up the odds.) I could probably manage a scientific study that shows the costs of multiple, unending appeals are the main reason that the death penalty has any added expense, and that the majority of those fail.

Ergo, science tells us that someone who is convicted of murder no longer gets appeals and is executed at the earliest opportunity. It's a simple cost/benefit study. Science has ruled. But wait, people make mistakes. There are incalculable and often unrepeatable social costs (and thus outside any scientific realm) to the death penalty and we shouldn't do it. Sorry. Science rules.

And as a final nail in this coffin: the science of eugenics. Technocratic government is nice?

Re:David Nutt (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44015711)

Anyone who has been alive for more than a decade has already seen the back-and-forth that science brings us regarding simple things. Red wine is good for you. Let's pass laws making it legal for anyone to drink red wine. Red wine is bad for you, let's make it illegal for anyone to drink red wine. Red wine is good for you in small amounts, let's make it legal to buy a glass at a time.... This study shows ... that study shows ... the other study shows something else. Which do we follow? What law do we enact? That's just one example.

Right, but it's an example of the popular press interpreting the latest paper, and quoting it either uncritically, or as a "Look at what the mad boffins are saying now" depending on the reporters/papers position or what makes a better story.

And as democracy stands, it's these second hand layman's views that the public absorbs and politicians pander to. A Technocracy would mean scientists taking a proper scientific view on the range of papers on a topic. And to misquote Rumsfeld: having a rational view on what are the knowns, the unknowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.

Then you need to reconcile the concept of human rights and freedom against stark realities of physical law. It's dangerous to skydive. We're banning skydiving. It's dangerous to fly small airplanes. Let's ban small airplanes. It's dangerous to be distracted while driving. Let's ban all distractions. I mean ALL distractions. It's dangerous to drive anywhere, let's ban cars.

As opposed to what happened here with David Nutt. He pointed out that the drug Ecstasy was less dangerous than horse-riding. Now to me that undeniable fact makes it unacceptable that ecstasy is illegal whilst horse-riding is legal. Are YOU really suggesting that having policy that is contrary to reality such as this is preferable.

But more than that, you're confusing Technocracy with Nanny-statism. They are orthogonal. There is nothing about the concept of having things run based on scientific reality that means that people would be forbidden from taking risks.

Who elects the technocrats?

I'm more interested in the general concept of scientists running things than the details. It seems to me there are many possible systems for choosing the technocrats. Fundamentally technocracy implies meritocracy, to what extent democracy is or isn't mixed in there is open to question. Personally I'd want to see some expert opinion on that rather than suggest something off the top of my head. ;-)

Let's end it with this: if I do a cost/benefit analysis of the death penalty issue, I would probably wind up with the answer that it costs society much less to execute a convicted murderer than it does to keep him in prison for any significant amount of time. (That applies to pretty much any convicted criminal sent to prison. A dollar or two of drugs vs. hundreds or thousands of dollars in incarceration costs. Benefits to society: lower population, lower costs for supporting that population, less carbon footprint as relatives and friend don't have to drive to the jail to visit. Wow, a win for the planet!) I would also probably come up with the science to support that once a person has committed a murder he's more likely to murder again. (Yes, the "one off" crimes of passion exist, but there are a lot of people who are complete psycho and sociopaths who will murder more than once, and they bring up the odds.) I could probably manage a scientific study that shows the costs of multiple, unending appeals are the main reason that the death penalty has any added expense, and that the majority of those fail.
Ergo, science tells us that someone who is convicted of murder no longer gets appeals and is executed at the earliest opportunity. It's a simple cost/benefit study. Science has ruled.

No, YOU"VE decided that cost/benefit analysis is the measure by which it should be done, and you've guessed what the outcome would be.

But wait, people make mistakes. There are incalculable and often unrepeatable social costs (and thus outside any scientific realm) to the death penalty and we shouldn't do it.

Science knows that people make mistakes, and what's more it can quantify them. They are far from incalculable. And social costs are certainly not outside the scientific realm. Social science is as much a part of technocracy as other sciences. Everything is study-able.

Now your implication is that the decision is better made by the personal consciences of elected representatives. Who in some states and countries conclude that the death penalty is a good idea, and in some that it's a bad idea. In what way is that better?

Re:David Nutt (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44011177)

The fundamental problem is that drugs policy is one of those areas that's driven by the Murdoch press. No UK politician dare to be seen as soft on drugs any more than soft on other kinds of crime. It would be electorally damaging.

Tories are if anything more war-on-drugs types, even given the scientific facts. So it's not a Labour thing.

Re:David Nutt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44015521)

Aye, this exactly. The government in power always behaves badly when evidence challenges its political stance. There's something about being in power that makes good people behave badly -- it's like the post of Home Secretary, which turns sane people evil. I think they show 'em the Thing Beneath the Commons for that one.

Captcha: ethics :)

Badger (1)

azav (469988) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007735)

The other other other white meat.

Not just for breakfast anymore.

I know this to be true because a UK scientist told me so.

Fiona Fox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44007747)

I've grown wary of anything Fox says...

Re:Fiona Fox? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year and a half ago | (#44009137)

I've grown wary of anything Fox says...

Not fox. Badger.

Canuckistan/Britannia (1)

CanadianSchism (2794651) | about a year and a half ago | (#44007843)

Well, now we know where Stephen Harper got it from...

Welcome to Canada (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44008085)

Seriously, this trend towards scientists is appalling.

And I've read the US government wants more direct CONGRESSIONAL oversight of research grants -in other words, look forward to more topical/pseudoscience research funding at the expense of science that NEEDS to be done that there's no profit in.

This is appalling! (1)

kencurry (471519) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008103)

We condemn this practice in the most vigorous way.

Sincerely,
The Roman Catholic Church

Slashdot, meet Living Marxism. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008419)

Nice to see the slashbots sucking up the RCP line.

The Science Media Centre's stated role is to get science into the public domain through the media when controversial topics hit the headlines.

Tee hee.

Re:Slashdot, meet Living Marxism. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44011217)

Quite an amusing comment considering the sig promoting the Heartland Anti-science Institute.

Re:Slashdot, meet Living Marxism. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year and a half ago | (#44013747)

If you follow the link you'll find that Scott Denning uses the platform Heartland gives him to demolish their AGW denier position.

Re:Slashdot, meet Living Marxism. (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#44015423)

Ah right, yes I remember following it up before now. Right winger telling the anti-science brigade it was stupid to deny AGW because that would mean that the right wouldn't have any say in what's to be done about AGW.

Re:Slashdot, meet Living Marxism. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year and a half ago | (#44020615)

Getting them to admit there is a problem is the first part of the battle.

Afterwards we can argue about how to fix it.

And its such a fucking great put down of the denier idiots.

I never knew! (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#44008601)

I never knew that there was a badger crisis in the UK. I mean, here people have been worried about hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and the occasional terrorist attack, but WILL SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE BADGERS?

Tony Blair made Briatain a police-state... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44008711)

Blair made Britain a police-state, and his people run Britain today while Blair is off creating the circumstances for war and genocide in places like Gaza, Libya, Syria, and soon Iran.

In Britain, you are either on Team Blair, or an 'enemy of the State'. Enemies of the state do not do well in the UK.

Police States muzzles scientists just as they muzzle anyone who may wish to share the 'wrong' opinion. Police-states also obsess about hierarchies of control- where each person cannot do anything without the explicit permission of the authority directly above him/her. We call this strategy 'compartmentalisation' and it is designed to dis-enfranchise the individual. Much of the outrage aimed at Snowden, for instance, over his reminders of the extent of NSA spy programs, is 'justified' by shills stating he had no 'RIGHT' to act without explicit permission of his immediate superior. The shills tell you that conscience, morality, and the lawful need to inform citizens of the crimes of their masters, are not even factors to be considered.

If you Yanks want to know where you are going, you really want to look at Blair's programs in the UK. Blair's 'academy school' program is probably the single scariest population control program in the History of Humanity, but even the British sheep who are disturbed by most aspects of the academy program still cannot see the wood for the trees. They object to the infinite number of petty ways their children are abused at schools following Blair's regime, but never ask themselves WHY it is so important to Blair that he has an iron-grip on the training/manipulation of so many of the next generation.

No scientist in the UK expects to have a career if they publicly oppose any of Blair's current projects or political positions. These are the positions they MUST support.
- the 'guilt trip' strategy of Human-caused 'global warming'
- providing any 'pleasure' food in UK schools is 'child abuse'
- depleted uranium is never responsible for birth-defects or other issues.
- low levels of radiation have ZERO effect on the Human body
- wind power is a viable way of providing electricity in the UK and so is solar.
- subjecting young people to petty rules, uniforms, group-think, and other mechanisms designed to cause people to mindlessly conform is a GOOD thing.
- excellence in education is something only Asian nations like China need
- ALL new vaccines, regardless of the provably criminal activities of the companies that produce them, must be inflicted on the whole population. The existence of the vaccine is all the 'scientific' evidence needed to justify it.
- illegal experimentation on children in third-world countries by the above mentioned vaccine developing companies must be ignored.
- poor people are criminal scum to be controlled in the most ruthless ways possible.
- powerful people are 'god's chosen'
- war is good for the planet, and those that cause new wars are to be given the utmost respect.
- mankind (obviously not the elite) is a plague on the planet, and anything that helps reduce the population is to be welcomed.
- the police-state is the optimal form of governance.
- elimination of all food safety standards in farming is a good thing. BSE/CJD and massive amounts of contaminated horse-meat sold as beef show that British food safety policies are the best on the planet.
- genetically engineered food and crops are essential for mankind, precisely because of the risks they represent.

The list goes on and on and on, but you get the idea. What did it mean to be a scientist in Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany? To those that were happy keeping their head down, and working in areas that the regime deemed useful, they probably felt they were in scientist 'heaven'. Even the most reasonable regimes tend to dislike those who speak out against their agendas. In the UK, if you do this, you are committing 'suicide' and sometimes that is a literal truth as well.

Blair prefers to use few high-profile examples of what happens to people who stop out of line to 'persuade' the rest- after all who wants to be found dead in a duffle-bag in their own apartment? Who wants to go for a country walk, to be later found with their wrists slit (snigger) after daring to reveal Blair's lies about WMD in Iraq? Who wants to be killed in some French road tunnel for daring to threaten the public propaganda face of the British royal family? Only the thickest sheeple think their rulers play 'nice'. Most sheeple remember something about Human history, and can conclude that the evil tactics used by rulers in all other Human periods are the exact same tactics used today.

PS did you know not one person was punished for flooding the UK with contaminated horse-meat. Because horses are raised for work, not food, they are injected with masses of chemicals that are extremely dangerous if ingested by Humans. The horse-meat, for those of you unaware, was sold as prime beef, either directly to the public, or to companies using it to produce beef-based products. Tony Blair had eliminated all regular checks on meat stored for British consumption.

It gets worse. To avoid public awareness of the danger posed by their food, Blair ensured that the focus of the food industry is eliminating immediate food poisoning (something the public would notice). Bad meat and fruit/vegetables, frequently stored for years before being sold to the public, is subject to toxic chemical regimes to ensure viral/fungi/bacterial agents are destroyed. The same toxic chemicals mean that the food is actually a long-term danger.

A few years back, British TV had various documentary programs exposing the practice of Blair's food industry policies. In one, people stored thousands of chicken breasts in a pile on a dirty floor, but this was legal under Blair's regulations because the breasts were washed in a acid-bath to 'decontaminate' them before sale. So long as no-one got food poisoning from eating this chicken, Blair informed the sheeple this was a perfectly reasonable way for the food industry to work.
     

The UK should only muzzle the ones... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#44009261)

with a proven history of biting children. Quite annoying, that bunch.

Soon, V for Vendetta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44009361)

Soon, we'll be in the world from V for Vendetta, where everyone is silenced and sent pre-approved packages of their news broadcasts and all TV is completely tasteful or you get your face smashed in by the spooks.

no surprise here (1)

joseph90 (193138) | about a year and a half ago | (#44010865)

The British minister of Environment does not believe in global warming. I heard him say on the radio recently that the artic melted millions of years in the past so it basically does not matter if it does so again in the future(?). They seem to be very anti-science - it interfers with their belief sytem (bought and paid for by big business I suspect).

J.

Climate Science (1)

barv (1382797) | about a year and a half ago | (#44012411)

Hmm. Keywords are: "Department of Environment" and "Volcanic Ash".

Looks to me as though the climate alarmists have had a hand in this muzzling of scientists.

Even trying to get a grant for genuine research without stating an expected alarmist outcome is nearly impossible.

Watch the alarmists mod this down to -infinity.

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