Evidence as Rhetoric — Normative or Positive?

I recently saw an interesting and disturbing paper, “Reframing Evidence Synthesis As Rhetorical Action in the Policy Making Drama.” To vastly simplify and rephrase, they note that rational updating based on evidence is corrupted by policymakers presentation of filtered evidence. Because of this, policy discussion based on evidence is rhetoric, not logic — and it should be viewed in those terms. You might guess from the title that I agree this is a correct description of policy making, but an incorrect and damaging way to make policy.

I want to lay that argument out more fully, including a discussion of bounded rationality, the norms of policymaking, signalling via advocacy of evidence, and the ways in which this problematic norm should be fixed — but for now I think my point is clear.

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