CASS Letter in Support of Death of Evidence Protest
The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) is the leading freethought organization in Canada promoting reason, science, secularism and freedom of inquiry. We the undersigned are writing to voice our strongest support for the Death of Evidence protest, scheduled for 10th July 2012.
Science and evidence-based decision-making are the hallmark of an advanced and advancing society. Without the pursuit of scientific data and the use of that data in the development of policy, governments are restricted to speculation, hearsay and ideology as the driving forces behind their policies. The Centre for Inquiry is alarmed at the way in which the current Canadian Government has (i) ignored what scientific evidence currently exists to evaluate its political positions, and (ii) taken steps to reduce the capacity of researchers to provide such scientific evidence. We illustrate this case using examples from within our own campaigns, but bear in mind that these represent only a small fraction of the cases in which dubious and anti-scientific reasoning has been employed by the Government.
Case 1: The Licensing of Alternative Medicines
The health of Canadian citizens is of the utmost importance to CFI and we strongly feel that this health can be protected, repaired and enhanced only through the use of effective and safe medical interventions. However, it appears that the Canadian Government does not agree. The requisite tests for efficacy and safety in “conventional medicine” are strict, taking many years and large numbers of clinical trials before a product is released onto the market. In contrast, some forms of alternative medicines or therapies, including “Natural Health Products,” can obtain the same level of clearance merely for having been used for a long time. Without the same evidentiary burden providing guarantees of safety of efficacy for alternative medicines, sick Canadians are potentially relying on licensed medical interventions that masquerade as “medicines” but that have no beneficial effect whatsoever.
Case 2: The Rejection of Climate Science
The Canadian Government has consistently ignored the findings of climate science that contemporary global warming is (i) occurring, (ii) anthropogenic in origin, and (iii) a threat to human civilisation. This much is evident in its unwillingness to contribute to global reductions in greenhouse emissions, despite Canada being the 12th largest per capita producer of greenhouse gases. The Government signed onto the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and ratified the decision in Parliament in 2002, agreeing to a 6% reduction in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2012. What has actually happened is a steady rise in emissions equating to a 21% increase in emissions between 1990 and 2008. The Government then opted for a 17% reduction of 2005 emissions as a non-binding target at the Copenhagen Accord, making the target easier to reach and further in the future.
Case 3: Elimination of scientific monitoring
It is indicative of an administration that is uninterested in science and evidence-based policy that those facilities that potentially provide objective assessments of policy instruments are reduced, manipulated or eliminated entirely. Examples of this strategy come from both the arena of scientific research, including the imminent defunding of the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario and the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Nunavut, and the wider realm of evidence gathering, including the elimination of the mandatory long-form census and the First Nations Statistical Institute. Evidence-based policy is impossible without the capacity to evaluate the outcomes of that policy, and the Canadian Government has taken extensive steps to ensure that that evaluation is not possible.
Case 4: The Restriction of Freedom of Speech
Perhaps the most distressing steps taken by the Canadian Government has not been the policy decisions themselves, but the approach to science and the researchers who are actively conducting research in policy-relevant areas. Scientists are routinely prevented from sharing their findings with the public whose taxes are funding the research. Placing a barrier between the public and scientific findings is reprehensible whatever the situation may be, but the fact that the Government expects to have the research paid for by the taxpayer only to throttle the flow of information back to the public is not a sign of a modern democracy. As the world’s leading scientific journal Nature declared: “it is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free.
In conclusion, CFI strongly supports the efforts of the Death of Evidence protest to highlight this extremely disturbing trend away from the scientific principles that have contributed to Canada’s status as one of the world’s most advanced and happiest nations. We call upon the Canadian Government to heed the issues being raised and reconsider current policies of defunding, suppressing and ignoring scientific advances.
CFI Canada Board of Directors