FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Science and Its Enemies on the Left
The Politicization of Science
I hope that faithful RedState readers are also taking time on a daily basis to check out The New Ledger, which in January will celebrate its 1-year anniversary online. We have an excellent stable of writers at TNL, including current and former RedStaters as well as some other voices you may not have encountered before, and only limited overlap with the content you see here. The site is intended as a complement, not a competitor, to RS – more long-form essays, podcasts, pop culture and other topics, less activism. I remain proud to be both a Director here at RS and a contributor at TNL.
Anyway, I generally don’t plug my TNL work here because the political stuff I write there is mostly cross-posted here anyway (the rest is sports and pop culture). But I do have a long essay up today that’s not posted here, the second part of my mammoth 3-part series on Science and Its Enemies on the Left.
Excerpt below the fold.
Politicized science is, itself, a subset of the most profound problem of scientific integrity: the temptation presented when science is freed from the restraints that accompany all other forms of human activity, from accountability to moral opprobrium to external civilian oversight. When experts rule, the first casualty is the quality of their expertise.
The constant insistence by the Democrats that scientific progress should brook no moral restraint, and that anyone standing in the way of this particular scientific project was a dangerous theocrat, was positively chilling. Because science, with its great power not only over human liberty but human life itself, is if anything one of the human activities most in need of our most strenuous moral faculties. Biochemists and climatologists need to be subjected to civilian oversight and the moral conscience of society for precisely the same reasons as soldiers, economists, central bankers, lawyers, spies, diplomats, epidemiologists, rocket scientists, urban planners, and every other form of expert.
The temptation of the unrestrained expert comes in two stages. First, the expert in pretty much anything is subject to tunnel vision, and the greater the expertise, the greater the risk of such a focus. The expert is apt to have a limitless appetite for resources while ignoring competing social priorities. He may demand policies that maximize the ends sought by his discipline, while ignoring countervailing considerations and interests. He may refuse to accept any moral restraints or limitations on his methods or the uses of his creations.
Tunnel vision is only the beginning, however. Because the expert who learns that the recitation of jargon and the appeal to authority effectively exempts him from moral or social scrutiny has made the most dangerous discovery known to man: the ability to get away with virtually anything. Because if people will let you talk your way into money and influence with good science on the grounds that they do not understand it or have no right to obstruct it, what is to stop the expert from using bad science from accomplishing the same end, if they layman isn’t equipped to tell the difference between the two?
In a society not yet as far gone as Nazi Germany, Climategate is what happens when scientists think nobody is looking, or at least that nobody is competent or willing to call them out. Given power, or the ability to influence those in power, the scientists have acted the way human beings have always acted around power. And because the Left provides greater scope than the Right for the exercise of power over civil society in the name of what science says is good for us — and because it denies the sources of moral remonstrance that can stand as a bulwark against scientific hubris — it will continue to offer the greatest temptations for scientists to be seduced by power.