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Recent Articles

Is the Green Party anti-science?

by Martin Robbins     June 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

Last week, Frank Swain and I wrote a piece for The Guardian in which we questioned the various parties on their science policies ahead of the elections. We heavily criticised the Green Party of England an Wales, in spite of their sparkling climate and environmental credentials, and in doing so kicked off a debate that ran for much of the week on blogs and in The Times. On one side, many people thanked us for exposing deeply troubling attitudes.

On the other, Greens angrily claimed we had misrepresented their views. So are the Green Party anti-science; and if so what should they be doing to correct this?
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Disinformation from Afghanistan’s Opium war

by Martin Robbins     May 25, 2009 at 11:01 am

Last week, troops in Afghanistan launched a four-day raid on a Taliban strong-hold, during which they seized some drugs. Would you like some more detail? According to the BBC, the raid took place in “Marja” (which is actually in Nigeria); Al-Jazeera believe it happened in “Marija“; AP took a guess at “Marjah“; while only UPI correctly named “Marjeh”, in the Helmand province. 14, 16, 34, or 60 militants were killed in the operation.

If you think that’s bad, when it comes to the record of what was actually seized the ‘facts’ take on a life of their own. The AP report that 16.5 tons of drugs were seized, along with “other materials”. The BBC declare that ninety-two tons of “poppy seeds and other drugs” were seized, and Al-Jazeera continue the game of chinese whispers, changing this to “ninety-two tons of drugs”.
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Nadine Dorries: an enemy of science?

by Martin Robbins     May 19, 2009 at 11:15 am

Recently, Nadine Dorries is emerging as a prominent figure in Tory politics, and since Conservatives are almost certain to be in power by this time next year that’s bad for people who support evidence-based policy, because her relationship with science and rational thinking has been rather fraught.

Dorries’ influence in the party was demonstrated in Prime Minister’s Questions on April 22nd, when dozens of other Conservative MPs sacrificed their opportunity to ask a question in order to allow Dorries to demand a personal apology from Gordon Brown over smeargate. This backfired so badly that Dorries achieved what no amount of Labour spin has been able to in recent months – she made Gordon Brown look good as he brushed her aside.
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Legalising drugs: lessons from Portugal

by Martin Robbins     May 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Back in 2001, the Portuguese government defied stiff opposition from right-wing groups to decriminalise drug use, making drug laws far more liberal than even the Netherlands.

The right predicted Bad Things: Drug use would explode, tourists would travel from far and wide to get high on the streets of Lisbon, law and order would collapse, and people would start riding around in modified cars and fighting in Thunderdomes. The reality was quite different as two reports published in the last 18 months have demonstrated, the Libertarian Cato Institute have declared the policy an undisputed success on the basis of a report by Glenn Greenwald, and this has been a popular assessment among liberal people.

How correct is it though? Let’s look at the evidence.
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Smearing British Muslims through opinion polls

by Martin Robbins     May 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

Last year I wrote about what I called the “disgusting misrepresentation of British Muslims,” the publication of heavily biased opinion polls by lobby groups that were quickly picked up and promoted by elements of the right-wing press.

This week, I’m pleased to say that a group of British Born Muslims who saw that coverage and my article, got in touch to let me know that they’ve been going out and collecting evidence to help fight for the reputation of their community. Those who saw my first piece for Liberal Conspiracy know that I’m here to advocate science-based policy, so this week I want to explore the science of opinion polls, and look at how the evidence has been abused by a network of right-wing journalists and lobbying interests.
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Torture: does it actually work?

by Martin Robbins     April 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm

In the current debate over the Bush administration’s use of torture, most of the discussion has been around the moral and ethical dilemmas involved, with the strongest argument in favour being the infamous ‘ticking bomb’ scenario.

But in fact these arguments and make-believe situations are irrelevent if torture doesn’t work in the first place. On my own blog I argue for evidence-based policy, and in my first piece for Liberal Conspiracy I want to explore the evidence for torture, because if those who advocate it can’t prove that it works, then they have already lost the debate.
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