Skeptical Voter

One thing that I’ve always found confusing in politics is the notion of “flip-flopping”. In science it is not only appropriate but it is essential to adjust your views to fit the available evidence. Not so in politics.

A politician who reverses their position on a given issue when the evidence changes is barracked by the press and fellow politicians for “flip-flopping”. For some reason, they’re expected to get it right first time, every time. And if you can’t get it right, then you’re expected to have the “courage of your convictions” and see the policy through to the end anyway.

To my mind, it is not an especially healthy state of affairs. So I was pleased today to receive a note today from James O’Malley of The Pod Delusion podcast. James is involved in a new skeptical grassroots movement called Skeptical Voter, which seeks to establish the level of support for ‘evidence-based policy’ amongst MPs.

In true lazy fashion, because it is the end of a long week and I have to be up early to travel to Cheltenham in the morning (don’t ask!) I’m going to reproduce the Skeptical Voter press release below. I hope you’ll find time to give the project your support!

Politicians to be asked for evidence of their commitment to evidence

New Skeptical Voter project hopes to hold MPs and candidates views on evidence-based policy to account

Author and campaigner Richard Wilson today launched a new campaign to hold to account the views of MPs and candidates standing at the next General Election with regard to ‘evidence-based policy’. ‘Skeptical Voter’ is an apolitical grassroots project by the ‘skeptic’ community – those who have a scientific worldview who believe that evidence should be at the centre of all public policy making. The Skeptical Voter website intends to identify which parliamentary candidates embrace the use of evidence as a means to inform their decisions and which prefer to obfuscate, ignore or suppress the evidence for political convenience.

Today sees the launch of phase one of their plan – Richard is asking for contributions to a collaborative ‘wiki’ on the website and for suggestions for questions to ask to MPs – the best of which will be put into a survey that will be sent to all 2010 General Election candidates.

Speaking about the project, Richard said, “It’s based on two principles and a hypothesis: The first principle is that everyone has a right to know where their MP stands on things like the role of scientific advisors, spending NHS cash on so-called ‘alternative’ treatments like homeopathy and the role of the libel laws in scientific discussion. The second principle is that MPs who stand on the wrong side of these issues ought to be held to account. Our hypothesis is that there are enough of us out there to make a splash if we get organised.”

Those wishing to get involved, or find out more information can go to the Skeptical Voter website at

  1. #1 by Michael on November 13, 2009 - 19:57

    Is this launching anything to do with the general population’s knee-jerk reaction to the sacking of Professor Nutt? Or was that the straw which broke the camel’s back?

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