Sunday, July 11, 2021

Reconciling activism with evidence based policy making

By Mathew Goldstein

There is an ongoing concern, which appears to be well grounded, that some manifestations of activism are in conflict with important humanistic principles. We can, and should, be advocates for “social justice” without sacrificing the basic principles of “science, reason, and consistent liberal ethics” with a focus on “the human, the universal”. These are constraints. Activism has a tendency to prioritize the pursuit of outcomes over such constraints, particularly when the constraints are perceived as getting in the way of obtaining different outcomes that are needed ASAP. This tension results in anti-scientific orientations and the prioritization of theories that are not well evidenced ahead of empirical evidence. Yet we do need measures of the problems that the activists claim exist and of the effectiveness of the remedies that the activists advocate. The question is: When there is a conflict will we recognize and acknowledge this conflict and will we side with a consistent liberal ethics?