Intentionally missing the point

The advocates for the Energy East pipeline are, in my opinion, acting unethically because they’re trying to sway public opinion in their favour by means that are not authentic.

Evidence-based policy-making is the best known way to make policy. But it’s not enough to depend on evidence, even if the evidence were fully recognized by all participants.  The agents who develop evidence – discover, measure, and communicate it – are biased by their value system.  Beyond that, policy-making itself has its own biases independent of the nature and quality of the evidence used.

Biases are unavoidable, but they can be described and evaluated, at least comparatively, to minimize the harmful impacts they can have on decisions (i.e. policy-making). What’s more, the value system that underlies the biases – which is often at least partly tacit – can be made more visible by thinking dispassionately about the biases that they lead to.

But that’s not happening.  And yes, TransCanada, I’m looking at you.

Sure; Greenpeace and other environmental organizations are biased too.  But (a) their biases are much more evident (i.e., less hidden/disguised/veiled), and (b) their actions are much more consistent with maximizing the equal distribution of well-being across the broadest range of humanity.

TransCanada, and PR firms like Edelman, on the other hand, are not as forthcoming with their true motives and underlying biases.  This is immediately evident from their desire to convince the public in ways that play into the public’s own biases without considering the long term and global consequences of their actions.  That is, the only ways that these participants could be advocating as they are for the Eastern Energy pipeline are (a) they are truly ignorant of their own biases and value systems, or (b) they know and understand the long term consequences but are ignoring them in favour of their own values. I honestly cannot see another alternative.

Unfortunately for them, neither alternative paints them in a good light.  And given that organizations like TransCanada and Edelman clearly have the capacity and means to understand their own biases and values, then option (b) is the only reasonable choice.  Thus, they are acting neither authentically nor ethically.

This is not to say, however, that the Energy East project is definitively harmful, especially from the point of view of the public at large. The evidence available to the public is so clearly poisoned by bias and unethical practice that I cannot see how the average participant/citizen can possibly decide the matter.

Since having no good evidence is just as harmful to policy-making as having no evidence at all, the only reasonable decision is to abandon the Energy East project, at least until such time as these issues of bias and values are resolved.


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