We Need to Apply the Scientific Method to Policy Ideas


A hilarious piece by humorist Frank Fleming in today’s New York Post:

People have alleged that Rick Perry and others like him are anti-science. That’s horrible. Science is extremely important. It’s given us microwaves, dinosaurs and the “Mr. Wizard Show.” And medicines. Except for the homeopathic ones.

It’s critical that we all accept science’s conclusions. For instance, if we don’t agree on the age of the Earth, how will we know what to do when the Earth tries to buy liquor? And without knowledge of evolution, when a species goes extinct, how do we know who to notify as its next of kin?

But despite the obvious importance of science, one group of people does everything in pure defiance of scientific methods: politicians.

What do politicians do when they think they have a great idea? They just go and implement it. It’s like someone thinking he’s got a cure for cancer and immediately injecting it into everyone he can. That’s a madman, not a scientist. You always have to at least try out your idea on monkeys to make sure it doesn’t kill them.

Were farm subsidies first tried on monkeys? Social Security? Bank bailouts? No, the unscientific politicians went straight to trying all their ideas on humans, and now we have a bunch of bankrupt people instead of harmless bankrupt monkeys.

But the problem with testing political ideas on monkeys is that forcing them to go billions into debt would violate animal-cruelty laws. The only ones we’re allowed to do that to are people.

So we have to just observe the effects of the politicians’ policies — but that’s not so simple. Many say the Obama stimulus was a failure; others say we’d be even worse off without it. With the data we have, we can’t prove who’s right.

In science, when testing things on people, you always use a control group. If you have a drug you think will cut cholesterol, you give it to one set of test subjects. If everyone in the group that took the drug turns purple and starts choking but the control group is fine, we scientifically conclude there’s a problem with the drug.

We have an economy that’s turning purple and choking. Did the stimulus cause that? If we had a control group that looked fine, we’d know.

I wonder if PETA would let us test Obamacare on monkeys?

The rest here.


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