Democracy and all who sail with her have been getting a fair old battering. Another storm blew in with yesterday’s US Election results. ‘Democracy is in tatters’ I heard one commentator say.
What rubbish. Democracy has served up exactly what we have designed it to do. That design may be imperfect but we have only ourselves to blame. As any sailor will tell you, it’s the crew’s responsibility to make sure a ship is seaworthy: to tar the hull and mend the sails. If we fail to do this then we get what we deserve.
Post-Brexit – and probably with some resurgence now Donald Trump has been elected US President – there has been talk that we are living in a ‘post-truth society.’ People are shunning evidence and experts, they say. We are dumbing down, worry others.
As Tracey Brown from Sense About Science has written in The Guardian, that notion is ‘elitist and obnoxious:’ https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/sep/19/the-idea-post-truth-society-elitist-obnoxious In fact, when I first heard the term, it sounded ever so slightly neo-fascist. Something out of an Orwellian novel. As Tracey goes on to say in the same article the evidence does not bear out the claim. People want evidence and they want to hear from experts.
Sense About Science last week took their argument to parliament aided and abetted by many citizens with their own stories of how evidence has helped them.
I am writing this on the way to a meeting in Leeds hosted by the Yorkshire and Humberside User Involvement Group entitled NIHR Voices 2016. I can guarantee that I will meet a large group of good citizens there who are thirsting for evidence and ways to better use it to improve health and wellbeing. As well as a passionate desire to help create this evidence.
This is not the time for experts and evidence creators – whether they be scientists or whoever – to retreat into their ivory towers claiming that ‘the people’ do not care or can not possibly understand.
No, this is exactly the moment for us to make the case for evidence-based policy and debate more strongly than ever. And, more than that, to think of ways to democratise and extend the ownership of evidence to involve the whole population. From citizen science to public involvement to democratising the way we run the organisations that stand for evidence and expertise.
Nope, while democracy might be sailing on stormy seas this is not the time to throw evidence overboard. Not unless we want to capsize completely.
If my understanding of history is correct the clarion call of ‘No taxation without representation’ articulated the sense of injustice in 18th Century American that decisions were being made in far-away London without their say. The road to independence and one of the finest Constitutions in the world had begun.
Perhaps the clarion call for this turbulent era should be: ‘No democracy without evidence, no evidence without democracy.’
Have a great day.
You can also find me at:
Sent from my Work iPhone
You can also find me at: