Thursday, 19 November 2009

Vote rationally with Skeptical Voter

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

If you're the type of voter who likes to pay attention to the candidates, rather than just the parties they represent, then you may be interested in a new online initiative called Skeptical Voter, which has just been set up in the wake of the controversy over the government's sacking of its chief drug advisor Professor David Nutt, after he stated that scientific evidence suggests that ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol, and that drugs legislation should be driven by scientific research rather than politics.

The aim of Skeptical Voter – which has been set up by the sceptical writer and campaigner Richard Wilson (author of Don't Get Fooled Again: The Sceptic's Guide to Life), editor of sceptical podcast The Pod Delusion James O'Malley and computer scientist Craig Lucas – is to build a wiki containing the views and track records of as many existing MPs and prospective candidates as possible in relation to evidence-based policy making. Of course, this is a huge task, but in the space of just a couple of weeks Skeptical Voter has made great progress thanks to the collective effort of online volunteers. It already contains an extensive list of entries, but they still need plenty of help – if you're interested in contributing to the wiki, or in suggesting questions that should be put to candidates in order to most effectively discover their views on science and evidence-based policy, then get in touch with them here.

Just to give you a quick example of what a good resource Skeptical Voter has the potential to be, let's take a look at the entry for an MP who is firmly in the humanist camp – Dr Evan Harris of Oxford West and Abingdon. There's already an extensive entry for him in the wiki, and by reading it you can learn about his record on the abolition of blasphemy, abortion, the MMR vaccine, evidence-based drugs policy and creationism. As things stand, none of the other candidates in his Oxford constutuency are in the wiki, but hopefully (and with some input from you, the sceptical public) by the time the 2010 election comes around you will be able to browse all the main candidates for a given constituency and, should you choose, make a decision how to vote based on their record on science and evidence.

So, why not take a look at Skeptical Voter for yourselves, follow the team behind it on Twitter and, if you're keen, get involved with helping to expand it. It would surely be no bad thing if the electorate starting paying more attention to what the individual candidates are all about, rather than just the colour of their rosettes.

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