Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apply with caution

I’ve decided to (almost) not write about the ILSI-EFSA case. Nor about bovists, present-day luddites, who are anti-globalists who would like to take society back. A long way back, preferably to the Dark Ages. The alternative meaning of bovist is toadstool, some of which are toxic.

In deciding to almost not write about them, I’m applying the precautionary principle. It is quite powerful, and sometimes useful. Some bovists would like to use it more often in public health decision making. However, it should be employed with caution as illustrated by the example below.

The precautionary principle is generally assumed to have been developed in Germany in the 1930s, perhaps with roots in England in the 19th century. I’d like to put forward the theory that it dates back much earlier than that; I propose that it was implemented around 50,000 years ago in a region that later became known as the Neander valley in Germany. After they discovered how to make fire, the Neanderthals argued it was very dangerous, with too many uncertainties, and invoked the precautionary principle to forbid its use. Our ancestors were less cautious. The rest, as they say, is history.

Take care, beware of bovists,