Thabo Mbeki, HIV/AIDS and bogus scientific controversies

Weinel, Martin (2009)
Politicsweb
English
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Almost every day governments around the world have to make political decisions that depend on scientific or technical knowledge. Where and how to store nuclear waste? How to respond to global climate change? Should a particular medicine be made freely available to the whole population or should its use be highly restricted or even banned? These and countless other ‘science policy decisions' show that policy making is highly dependent on scientific knowledge.\ud The difficulty, however, is knowing how much weight to give to scientific knowledge. In some cases this appears straightforward. For example, there is a scientific consensus that prolonged exposure to high doses of radiation from nuclear waste is lethal for human beings. Thus, if somebody suggests storing nuclear waste in cardboard boxes in down-town Johannesburg, the suggestion would be immediately rejected based on our knowledge of the effects of radiation. In other cases, particularly those where people with specialist knowledge - i.e. the experts - disagree about scientific issues it is not so easy.

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