Poly toynbee of The Guardian is standing in defence of Professor David Nutt's and advisers like him. She, like many others, believes scientists have right to speak their mind, so long as they have the evidence to back what they say in public. She thinks his sacking was a mistake. She also argues that:
Bad politicians are slave to public opinion. Good ones try to change it
She then gives examples of historic evidence that was ignored by politicians before when making policy. One of which is about divorcing parents and that "family discord causes great harm, but separation doesn't necessarily. The quality of parenting matters most. Screening out the effect of discord and bad parents, separation itself has no impact" and hence "Cameron's marriage bonus is a complete nonsense."
I don't care much about such research, because when it comes to social science, there will always be one more piece of research that comes along and cancels it's predecessor. This is because of the complex and ever changing nature of society itself, given, for example, changing demographics and movement - and the changing habits and attitudes as a result. Family dynamics is therefore not as black and white as this piece of divorce research seem to have considered, while ignoring all the possible shades of grey in the middle but that do exist in real society.
For example, I don't know if any research was done specifically on grown up children of divorced parents, in particular those who experienced first hand the horror of being pulled between divorced parents, with each trying to win grounds over the other? How a child in this case is tossed like a as a football and used by one parent to tease and cause discomfort to the other. How about scenarios where research considers the extended family's part, on both sides, in messing with that poor child's mind while trying, using anyway to suit their end, including mental torment if not physical abuse as well sometimes and his/her continuing torment and heartache! Or attempt to make the child believe that it was the other parent and their family that were the devil who caused the separation in the first place. That of course has an incredibly damaging effect on that child's psyche ... something that would last for life!
Whether the harm is greater than living with unhappy but together parents? That depends on the degree of discomfort in both scenarios!
That, however, doesn't mean that society should let go of both, including for those who want to separate AND have children. David Cameron's initiative to protect the family unit is the right thing to do. It is a leader's duty to protect the family unit and curb the astronomical rise of divorce. I suppose Mr Cameron's initiative would be geared towards those families who do split up because of social and financial pressures and that maybe members of those families would reconcile with society helping them to deal with their difficulties. Of course those bent on divorce will always divorce anyway , while those who may still have some hope may benefit from a much needed second chance - and many may succeed in putting their lives together again and live a 'bearable' life together thereafter, if only for the sake of the children and until they grow up at least.
If everybody divorced because of boredom or at the first disagreement, the whole world would be divorced and the word 'family' will no longer have any meaning! With children comes the responsibility for parents to do all they can to ensure their children's welfare ... and parents always endeavour to do that in any social system, including many societies belonging to members of the animal kingdom. Even those act from an instinctive sense of duty when they sacrifice some of their own comfort to protect and to ensure stability for their offspring and 'family'. It therefore follows that divorce should only be the option when everything else fails for us clever and very wise humans, or have 'our own' natural instinct to protect have all but disappeared as we got cleverer and modern day wiser?
As for the Nutt's case ... the article then states:
"Between social science and politics falls the shadow of public opinion. Politics is often the mediation between fact and public sentiment. Bad politicians follow the focus groups and ignore inconvenient truths. Good politicians persuade the public of the necessary facts."
Again, a simple black and white approach ignoring the fact that it is the public whom the politicians work for in the first place ... and, as "politics is an art" as the article states, it then follows that you can't classify politicians as 'good' or 'bad' from such a simplistic and blinkered point of view! What makes a good politician is lots of things, including being one who realises that his/her first duty is to protect the public. Good politicians should therefore be well equipped as leaders to strike a balance between what public opinion wants, their duty to protect and any other factor/s that they stand in the way, such as any 'inconvenient truth' as the article puts it. Good politicians should then be able to make decisions regardless of how strong outside pressures may be. And implement suitable policies how they see fit ... and not how those brandishing that 'inconvenient truth' decide, and only 'good' leaders have the qualities needed to stop others doing just that! Leaders who allow interference in decision making are those who should be considered 'bad', because this is grave weakness whose result can and would open Pandora's box ... with certain harm to the public. As for the suggestion that 'good' politicians should be able to approach the public with the following message:
"This drug research is accurate, but people fear softening the law sends the wrong message. I intend to talk about it openly. Politics is about listening and talking to people. When the facts are more widely understood, we will review drug classifications."
... not very wise IMO, because not everybody is intellectually equipped to understand ... There will always be weak, under educated, impressionable young .. etc, etc segments of society. And so, we will never have a society who will ever be fully equipped to understand the full intellectual content of this 'truthful' but equally 'harmful' to many message either! I already can imagine a group of teenagers interpreting this message - that the drugs mentioned in the Nutt case are safe ... and that harder drugs are safe too but the government is hiding this fact, after all, governments have to hide something! I dread to think of the consequences of such interpretation!
I do not know whether that professor should have been sacked or just given a caution for going public against government policy. But I also do not agree with this article re scientists having the right to speak freely regardless. However, I do agree to this: " We need cadre of louder public intellectuals who understand the nature of politics" ... only I would replace 'louder' for'sensible' and/or 'responsible'.
Then gain, what do I know?! I am only a member of the public who should be persuaded to change their mind ... :-)
I want my mum[click]
“Against a foe I can myself defend, But Heaven protect me from a blundering friend!”