April 5th, 2013
Two weeks ago, Parliament gathered for Vote No. 631, concerning the role science should play in policy-making, the level of disclosure of government supported scientific research and funding for scientific capacity in Canada. The figure below displays the results of the votes, categorized by party affiliation and the direction of the vote, i.e., ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. As seen in the graph, we see a 100% Conservative vote for ‘nay’ and a 100% non-Conservative vote, for ‘yay’, a perfect correlation.
These findings are consistent with previous research showing that opinions and perspectives are heavily shaped by social norms and that certain issues (such as climate change) are heavily ideological. Ideology influences what information you deem credible, regardless of the facts or the scientific consensus. Why is this ‘perfect’ consensus so dangerous and does it have consequences for democracy?
Diversity of perspectives is essential for addressing complex issues, as it provides richer solutions; however, when diverse perspectives ultimately lead to group think, combined with ideological positioning, we do not have evidence-based decision-making. This homophily in our House of Parliament does not represent the plurality and diversity of our country and its citizens, and we remain mired in maintaining the status quo, missing opportunities to unlocking greater potential for integrated decision-making and policy innovation.
Data for the above graph was obtained from the Parliament of Canada.