Sunday, February 19, 2006

The politico-scientific method

When government is involved in science, the scientific method goes out the window and is replaced by the politico-scientific method. Let me list some properties of this method, used both by the right and the left. Soon you should be an adept politico-scientist too !

1. You must ALWAYS do research from the perspective of an accepted political dogma, that of the party in power. Any research which does not agree with said dogma must be eliminated. Here is an example.

2. When a positive result is obtained, even if it's very preliminary, have it published in the newspapers. NEVER submit to actual scientific journals, as this would require peer review, which would expose your "research".

If you obtain a negative result at the end of your research, don't worry about any ethical problems. It doesn't matter if you retract it or not. No one will notice either way - either the scare you started will have snowballed beyond your capacity to stop, or it will be over and your retractation will serve no purpose.

3. When you publicize the results, consider the studies available. If there is one positive study and ten negative studies, use that one positive study and simply omit the negative ones. If there is no positive study available, then twist the results of negative studies to agree with you (see for example the WHO study on secondhand smoke). If you are a crackpot, just make up your own studies (like Christian fundamentalists do with homosexuality and health risks). Since all your supporters are also crackpots, they don't care about accuracy anyway.

4. As a politico-scientist, the precautionary principle is your best friend. Live it, love it. The precautionary principle basically states that as long as there is any risk in doing something, the action must be suppressed until all risk is eliminated. Case in point : the Alar in apples was publicized as dangerous, even though you would need to drink 19 000 quarts of apple juice a day to get any ill-effect. It doesn't matter how small the risk is, as long as it's there and you can convince people that it affects their lives or that of their children (once again, see the secondhand smoke scare).

5. You can count on the support of your fellow politico-scientists, who play a prominent role in the media, and use it to browbeat anyone who disagrees with you by pointing out that "all the authorities agree with me !". Global warming is caused by man, and anyone who disagrees is obviously a right-wing idiot, since no serious climatologist or geophysicist would say otherwise. Right ? Right.

6. Your opponent is ALWAYS on the dole or the secret payroll of an evil corporation or organization. If he does not appear to be, just assume he is anyway and use it as a slur. You, on the other hand, are funded by pixies. Wait... not quite. You are also funded by evil corporations or organizations, but don't tell anyone. As a politico-scientist, your number one asset is your credibility, not the quality of your work. Always keep that in mind.

7. It is not important to see that your conclusions become accepted. In the long run, most of the scares you start will be forgotten, unless your campaign was so successful that it becomes an accepted cash cow by the politico-scientific community. The ultimate measure of success happens when your politico-scientific principles or scare becomes integrated in the political landscape.

The earliest successful politico-scientist was Adam Smith, whose method of doomsday predictions has become part and parcel of environmentalist political theory. You can never go wrong by imitating religious nuts, as religion and politics are very similar in nature.

8. In order to reap more benefits from your "research", you might have to ally yourself with more extremist or unsavory groups. On the one hand, you get fanatical support, but on the other hand, associating with them may make you look like a nut. Generally you're better off associating with them, especially if you have a book you can sell at the door.

Whether you are a religious right-wing nut or a crazed left-wing fanatic, these simple rules should help you reap the most benefits from your dishonesty and laziness. Good luck !

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