Friday, February 16, 2007

Precautionary paradigm

One of the profound implications of the Precautionary paradigm is its bearing on the legitimacy of regulatory decisions. In ... [the current] system where regulators are meant to be the value-neutral administrators who base all of their decisions on facts, what may justify regulatory interventions and what kinds of interventions are justifiable, in situations where the facts are uncertain? The problem is that this is the case with nearly all environmental and public health issues, which leads to a situation where regulators cannot act, and/or a fa├žade of objectivity is constructed to justify action. The challenge is thus to conceive the regulatory process in a way that ensures the ability of regulators to act in an open and accountable manner in situations of uncertainty.

Although many still perceive science as the provider of the objective truth, it is now increasingly being recognised that science is a social process of knowledge production, subject to its own social and cultural biases. As society becomes more aware of the complexity of the problems it faces and of the difficulties of studying these problems through the scientific approach, it can be expected that the precautionary paradigm will gain in influence, slowly displacing the modern paradigm.

My comments

Statistical reasoning or demanding the facts is not enough:
A new way of dealing with various levels of uncertainties is needed. According to this study, these various levels are: Statistical Uncertainty (known outcomes, known causes and certainty); Scenario Uncertainty (known outcomes, but unknown causes and certainty); Recognised Ignorance (unknown outcomes, unknown causes); Total Ignorance (nothing is known)

MR2005-202.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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