Muck and Mystery
   Loitering With Intent
blog - at - crumbtrail.org
July 28, 2009
The Fall

Just as experts often lack expertise, and make poor use of whatever expertise they possess, scientists are often unscientific and make poor use of the methods of science. The authority of science is not shared by scientists. They are just people, and they are motivated by petty desires, confused about large issues, habitually irrational and mainly concerned with their own immediate needs . . . like others.

Unfortunately, science has been increasingly politicized, as we should expect since scientific funding and status is controlled by politicians in government and universities. The public does not have a realistic view of the consequences of bureaucratic and political control of science in determining the political views of scientists and the skewed policy recommendations this produces. Robin speculates:

If the public knew the truth, I expect two effects:

1. The public would consider scientists to be less authoritative as a neutral source on policy questions, and
2. Since scientists are respected, the public would become less conservative and more liberal.

Which of these effects would dominate? Well since scientists tend to endorse liberal policies, the first effect should reduce support for liberal policies while the second should increase it. So who seems more eager to inform the public about scientist liberality? If liberals, that suggests the second effect is expected to dominate. If conservatives, the first effect dominates. My casual observation is that conservatives are more eager to speak up on this, suggesting the first effect dominates. So over time I expect the truth will get out, science will lose authority, and scientist support will help liberals less.

I doubt it. Science will still be funded and status will still be determined by bureaucratic and political forces. Scientists will lose authority with the public, but they will not be less authoritarian and statist in their views since this is contrary to their interests. The public will see scientists more like journalists and politicians. One is foolish to accept the statements of any of them uncritically since they are not honest brokers, they are part of the sales staff for the bureaucracy.

That doesn't mean that science has less value, just that scientists can't be trusted, just as expertise is a different thing than experts.

Posted by back40 at 09:36 AM | TechnoSocial

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