Thursday, 18 November 2010


'What we saw in the courtroom and in much of the media were judgements based on anecdote and speculation.'

These are the words of Marcia Angell, onetime editor of the New England Journal of Medicineand author of Science on Trial: The Clash Between Medical Science and the Law in the Breast Implant Case.

The situation was fairly simple. Stories had started doing the rounds that silicone breast implants could cause a variety of health problems. Women who had health problems and silicone breast implants put two and two together. There were law suits and a media frenzy.

Some years later, after much research, it became clear that there was no evidence of any direct link between implants and health problems. But by then, much of the damage had been done.

There have been countless examples of this sort of public hysteria, based entirely on supposition and an inability to weigh up the evidence. In the year following 11 September 2001, over fifteen hundred people died on America's roads because they had chosen not to fly, regardless of the fact that it was still the safest way to travel. Their decisions cost them their lives.

Dan Gardner's book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear suggests that we essentially have two brains. One he calls 'Gut'. It makes instant and instinctive decisions. The other he calls 'Head' - that one weighs up the evidence and does a bit of thinking before casting its vote.

Guess which one rules nimby thinking. Right at the start of this windfarm nonsense, a small number of individuals panicked. One - who really should have known better - typed 'Nasty Wind Farms' into Google and got a load of bilge by return. This, he decided, was gibberish that the entire neighbourhood really should know about.

A few moments of proper research might have saved VVASP the indignity of an adverse ASA adjudication. If the chap responsible had actually done some real research, rather than just looking for the worst (most misleading) headlines he could find, they might not have published the ludicrous claims that came through everybody's doors.

And, having worked themselves up into paroxysms of crazy thinking, the fanatics of VVASP then had to ensure that everybody thought the same as they did. So a blanket ban on independent thought and proper research was imposed. If you didn't pay lip service to the lies, you were not allowed to express an opinion.

The measures taken to defend the spectacularly dishonest behaviour of the anti-windfarm protest have been growing ever more elaborate. The Windfarm Working Party, for example, seems to be trying to pretend that it doesn't really exist. It was set up simply to advise parish councils on a complex planning application, or so it claims, so it was not in any way a 'public' body - an argument that has worn so thin it could get a modelling job.

What we've ended up with are the 'anecdotes and speculation' which Marcia Angell remembered from the case of the breast implants. Basically, people talking rubbish. Telling stories which have no factual basis. Ignoring the available evidence to make stupid, illogical and utterly unscientific pronouncements. Over-exaggerating a pretty much non-existent risk.

Looked at objectively, and with access to all the evidence and information that VVASP has routinely sought to deny its poor deluded members, the proposed Lenchwick Windfarm is undoubtedly a Good Thing. The risks are minimal, the benefits all too apparent.

Except that the loons of VVASP decided on Day One that a windfarm was of necessity a Bad Thing (why?) and that therefore there simply could not be any benefits. And so we get those weird, unsupported stories about windfarms not working, about them only being built because of huge subsidies (nuclear, anyone?), about community payments being nothing more than 'bribes'. All complete twaddle, of course. The sort of thing that convinces ambitious Tory politicians but no one with half a functioning brain.

A glance through the silly objections to the proposed windfarm merely confirms the fact that most people who have objected really don't have much of an idea as to what it is they're objecting to. Read the letters and you'll quickly discover that few if any of them have anything to do with windfarms. They are, rather, lousy attempts at rationalising a wholly irrational, unsustainable and inexcusable opposition to a Good Thing.

Just how lousy those attempts have been can be seen by reading a few of the letters of objection. The claims made in those letters are so ludicrous, so wide of the mark, that it is clear that most of these people wouldn't even recognise a windfarm if you parked one on their doorstep. They simply don't know what a windfarm is. They've allowed themselves to be misled, like the lemmings they are, by the buffoons of VVASP.

You could argue that fear underlies all these objections. But, if that's true, then it's a completely irrational fear which could be easily ameliorated by a bit of sensible and level-headed finding out. Don't just read the latest ox-ordure to be evacuated from the bowels of VVASP - they're a bunch of proven liars, for crying out loud! Do some proper research. Find out. And then you won't need to be worried about the Windfarm Monster because you'll have discovered that the Windfarm Monster doesn't exist!!!

But, sadly, many people are hopeless when it comes to assessing risk. They make silly mistakes. They let their 'Guts' rule their 'Heads'. And we end up with a ridiculous, stupid, fraudulent, dishonest and utterly demented campaign against something that is harmless and beneficial.

Honestly - people, eh?

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