Atlantic: March for Science misunderstands politics

From Harvard sociologist Andrew Jowett at the Atlantic:

The movement’s rhetoric suggests that if governments simply fund and heed scientific research, the world will march steadily toward peace and prosperity. Applying science to politics will create “an unbroken chain of inquiry, knowledge, and public benefit for all.” This is, dare I say, an unscientific conception of human action. A huge body of social-scientific literature—or just a good, hard look at the political scene—shows that conflict, uncertainty, and collective self-interest would remain central features of democratic politics even if all of the disputants took scientific findings as their starting point for policy recommendations.

In a 2004 essay, Daniel Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University, challenged the longstanding expectation that bringing science to bear on political questions will reduce or eliminate disputation. In fact, he noted that “scientized” political issues—most notably, the climate debate—generate particularly sharp controversies precisely because the participants can focus exclusively on questions of scientific validity while obscuring the values and interests that shape their positions. Coal producers seeking to throw off environmental regulations, for example, will tend to highlight uncertainties in the scientific understanding of carbon dioxide’s atmospheric effects, rather than making an explicit case for choosing policies that benefit their industry over policies aimed at climate remediation. More.

This sounds like just another riff on: The public can’t make good decisions. One expects to hear that often now.

Again one wonders, would Dr. Jowett like to comment on recent trends in which post-normal,“post-truth,” and post-fact science seem normal now and objectivity is seen as sexist or worse?

See also: Jonathan Wells offers some context for the March for Science. Money walks. Notes: Science journalist Paul Voosen wrote in 2015 that “science today is riven with perverse incentives,” most of them financial.

March for Science: Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks science denial dismantles democracy Poseur. Democracy gets dismantled mainly when not believing the government of the day becomes a crime.


New Scientist: We need more censorship because free speech is censorship