As the UK’s chief science adviser, John Beddington, comes out in support of sacked Government drug adviser, Professor David Nutt, the scientist at the centre of the scandal has evoked the presidency of George W. Bush to point out the dangers of a government “inventing its own reality”.
Professor Nutt was sacked after claiming in a public lecture in July that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco, something that contradicted Government drug policy that criminalises marijuana use.
In a column published on Newscientist.com, Professor Nutt goes into detail in explaining his reasoning behind the statements:
“No one doubts that heavy users of marijuana are risking trouble with their mental health. What I have simply pointed out is that we need a consistent policy, recognising that heavy users of alcohol and tobacco are more numerous and are causing themselves — and others — even more trouble through their indulgence.”
Professor Nutt goes on to urge the UK Government not to adopt “pseudo-science” to “disguise” its true agenda.
The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights. The message for the British government is a simple one: don’t exclude rational argument in order to exploit a visceral public response. Politicians have to win the hearts and minds of their electorate. If your policy is informed by an underlying moral imperative, be open about what that is, and don’t try to disguise it with a veneer of pseudo-science. We ignore scientific evidence at our peril.
Strong stuff from Nutt, who obviously has nothing left to lose in this matter and is clearly angry at the way he has been treated. With both science minister Lord Drayson and Beddington voicing dismay at Nutt’s dismissal, there would seem to be serious unease not just among scientists, but high-level politicians at the drug adviser’s sacking.