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Should politics be conducted more scientifically? Watch

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    Running the country is a very serious business as the ramifications of decisions made in Parliament have a profound effect on everyone and it permeates all levels of society.

    This goes without saying, but why then is politics seemingly still conducted in an archaic and outdated manner? With so many important topics being reduced to tatters amongst a swathe of grunts and groans from back-benchers as party leaders and political figures just play out a childish argument in the House of Commons sprinkled with cringeworthy references to The Smiths or what have you.

    I have yet to see the day when a politician in Parliament has their post refuted and to say "Gosh, thank you I was completely in the wrong. I'm glad I now have a clearer understanding of the issue". This doesn't happen as that would show a kind of political weakness.

    Now science delivers the goods. Through systems of peer-review and thorough experiment, scientists can collectively agree on the best course of action to take against a given problem with open evidence that is rarely debatable. The process is such that rarely is a decision against a problem decided, but instead arrived at since the evidence is clear.

    Couldn't there be some way to integrate the method of arriving at decisions to the political sphere? Also, since many of the world's ill today require scientific and technological solutions, wouldn't it be more beneficial if our politicians had a great training in, and understanding of, science? Most politicians don't understand how climate science works, they aren't conscious of the sociological and psychological effects of the policies they introduce, and they are rarely up to date on the latest technological solutions to energy problems. I am aware they have science advisors, but these people are too often ignored, most often in drug policy.

    About the only think I can compliment Margaret Thatcher was her key role in the banning of CFCs due to the destruction of the ozone layer, and this is undoubtedly due to her training in chemistry.
    Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, holds a doctorate in quantum chemistry and as such Germany has a booming science industry and is one of the key players in innovation and technology in the world. Similarly in Japan, where the Prime Minister has a technological background, and the Emperor is a qualified marine biologist, equally has an incredible, in not the most robust science industry in the world.

    So it comes down to the fact that science is playing an ever more important role in our economy and it is showing so signs of slowing down. Also the big issues worldwide are scientific and technical. So surely our political system needs to be updated as to properly make educated, and evidence-based decisions on these matters.

    No more opinion-based garbage rhetoric. No more debates that lead no where. Because to me UK politics today seems more to be about politicians, rather than coming to decisions.
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    Politics is subjective since different people have different ideas as to how a society should be governed. It is philosophical, and not a science as such.

    Besides, scientific models can't be applied to humans, since our behaviour is too complex. The scientific method works via hypothesis-testing-theory-application. If the coalition, for the sake of argument, wanted to leave the EU, then this could not be tested in an experiment.
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    Yeah, I think we should dissect politicians as a matter of course.
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    Impose scientific process on politics? Not very democratic, is it?
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    It sounds lovely, but people will always be more influenced by stories and narratives than by scientific facts. People will choose they facts that support their position, not base their position on the facts.

    It's human nature. Depressing.
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    If you think that scientists admit when they are in the wrong, you have no idea about scientists.
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    (Original post by PerigeeApogee)
    +1 mate.

    The fact of the matter is that it should be a disgrace for a UK chancellor not to have some formal training in economics. It should be a disgrace for a minister of energy and climate change not to have some formal training in environmental science. It should be a disgrace for the minister for business, innovation and skills not to have some formal training in economics/business/finance, etc.

    And yet, who was the last chancellor to have ANY formal training in economics? It was John Major, who had an A-level in Economics (laughable, eh?).

    And further to that, yes, politics should rely a lot less party politics, personal attacks and childish arguments and far more on what the facts are and how the policy should be informed by them.
    The dilemma of course is that you make politics even more elitist than it already is. And there is a whole load of politics which isn't and can't be based on scientific considerations, try as we might. Economics may concern itself with how wealth is created, but it doesn't think much about how to make people have good quality of life. Likewise social welfare will have little concern for cost effectiveness.

    It's quite likely you'd have a situation where the optimum model for one policy area, say economics, impacts negatively on the optimum model for another policy area, say education or the environment. You then have to choose one or the other, or a combination of the two, to make a compromise.

    Hey presto, we're back where we started.
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    Methinks also you could be undervaluing the importance of generalists. They are able to see where issues and policies are linked and interrelated, in ways in which experts, concerned only with their policy fields, cannot. Government would go in different directions.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    It sounds lovely, but people will always be more influenced by stories and narratives than by scientific facts. People will choose they facts that support their position, not base their position on the facts.

    It's human nature. Depressing.
    Well perhaps is politics were to take a more scientific approach, is may spur others in the public to take in interest in science in order to have a greater understanding of what is happening. Like a trickle-down effect.

    (Original post by Fungrus)
    If you think that scientists admit when they are in the wrong, you have no idea about scientists.
    A scientist has much less of a motive to do so. Plus science is very humbling, I find, since scientists are confronted with so much they don't know on a regular basis.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    Methinks also you could be undervaluing the importance of generalists. They are able to see where issues and policies are linked and interrelated, in ways in which experts, concerned only with their policy fields, cannot. Government would go in different directions.
    That's my point. I am not suggesting having politicians trained in science and nothing else, that may be equally as tragic! Running a country requires input from as many scientific and non-scientific fields as possible to come to the best decision. One of my points is that perhaps politicians aren't as well trained or verse in the science portion as they could or should.
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    (Original post by Sime)
    Well perhaps is politics were to take a more scientific approach, is may spur others in the public to take in interest in science in order to have a greater understanding of what is happening. Like a trickle-down effect.
    I really don't think it would. People want simple answers to problems - long winded, detailed answers won't cut the mustard. Believe me, I'd love for politics to be based on facts, but then it simply wouldn't be politics.

    The only way this could work in my view is if you removed elections from the equation and only made the government accountable to their own particular fields of expertise - but that would be missing the point, I think!
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    (Original post by PerigeeApogee)
    We're not talking about scientifically working out whether or not you should be left wing or right wing on an issue.

    We're talking about taking the scientific attitude towards politics, and by that we mean:

    1) Politicians should be humble - if they are contradicted by facts, figures, or simply a better argument, then they should be prepared to admit that their previous argument has been superseded by a better one.

    2) Policies should not contradict things that we know to be facts, things that we CAN provide evidence and statistics for, things that we CAN model and predict. A good example is drugs legislation, where we have hundreds of thousands of scientists and social scientists in the field telling us that we've got it all wrong, and plenty of other countries from which to gather evidence and make predictions.

    3) Further to this, policies should be INFORMED by facts. Environmental policy should be informed by environmental science, drugs policy by chemical and social science, fiscal policy by economics and financial science, etc, etc, etc.

    4) All information should be publically available for scrutiny, etc. And all sources should be cited.



    DEARY ME! Quick somebody phone all the economists, psychologists, evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists and social scientists and tell them to stop what they're doing this very instant, because they're wasting their time and money on research that can't possibly lead anywhere because what they are seeking is 'too complex' according to somebody on TSR.

    Don't be silly man. And don't be arrogant either. Human behaviour is amenable to scientific analysis, and the success of some of the fields listed above is testament to that.
    In some social sciences perhaps, but not all. I'd say economics hardly qualifies.
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    (Original post by gladders)
    I really don't think it would. People want simple answers to problems - long winded, detailed answers won't cut the mustard. Believe me, I'd love for politics to be based on facts, but then it simply wouldn't be politics.

    The only way this could work in my view is if you removed elections from the equation and only made the government accountable to their own particular fields of expertise - but that would be missing the point, I think!
    But I think if we reduce the politic system to entertain an population of perceived short attention spans then that will only exacerbate such a problem. It could be made fun with projectors in the House of Commons to show scientific animation of the topic at hand!

    And if politics isn't going to be based on facts, then I fear for our country, especially in this era of technological adolescence!

    I would hope then that politicians would be voted for by their communicative ability, well-rounded education and finesse in coordinating a team to come to a decision.
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    (Original post by Sime)
    But I think if we reduce the politic system to entertain an population of perceived short attention spans then that will only exacerbate such a problem. It could be made fun with projectors in the House of Commons to show scientific animation of the topic at hand!

    And if politics isn't going to be based on facts, then I fear for our country, especially in this era of technological adolescence!

    I would hope then that politicians would be voted for by their communicative ability, well-rounded education and finesse in coordinating a team to come to a decision.
    Well politics is not just about facts - it's about beliefs and choices based on those beliefs. Scientists and experts can inform, encourage and warn, but they cannot - and likely would rather not - be the ones in charge.
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    Sometimes yes, but I'm not sure how far we can take that. Not many political issues are really technical/scientific and we do have expert input where they are. And scientists rarely agree - look at the differing views of economists for example.
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    There needs to be far more scientists & engineers moving into the political sphere.
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    I don't think conducting politics in a scientific way is a good idea. In fact, I think it would be bloody dangerous. I'm all for giving scientists a greater role in political decision making, though, but ultimately decisions have to be made on moral and practical grounds.
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    I don't get this. You have accurately stated that british politics has deep, deep flaws, which is good, but after that it's as if you've thought to yourself "hmm... What works well? The scientific method!" and just tried to stick it to politics. You have almost literally picked a random area of study that has a good model for producing results and stuck it in some completely unrelated field. You might as well say that political bills should have the first bit written by one person, the next bit written by another and so on like a production line, because that's working excellently for manufacturers.
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    I think first we would have to have politicians who actually pay attention to any scientific evidence at all ever.
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    (Original post by Teveth)
    I don't think conducting politics in a scientific way is a good idea. In fact, I think it would be bloody dangerous. I'm all for giving scientists a greater role in political decision making, though, but ultimately decisions have to be made on moral and practical grounds.
    Could you expand on this a bit further?

    And surely basing decisions on evidence is more practical than the current method. Also science doesn't lack ethics or morals.

    I'm just thinking that currently political decisions are made in a very haphazard way, and it need a bit more order. The debating in Parliament goes nowhere and politicians daren't speak past the opinions of their party.
 
 
 
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