The Scientific Is The Political

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 29 2011 @ 9:03am

Shawn Lawrence Otto thinks "apolitical science" is a myth:

Wishing to sidestep the painful moral and ethical parsing that their discoveries sometimes compel, many scientists today see their role to be the creation of knowledge and believe they should leave the moral, ethical, and political implications to others to sort out. But the practice of science itself cannot possibly be apolitical, because it takes nothing on faith.

The very essence of the scientific process is to question long-held assumptions about the nature of the universe, to dream up experiments that test those questions, and, based on the observations, to incrementally build knowledge that is independent of our beliefs and assumptions. A scientifically testable claim is utterly transparent and can be shown to be either most probably true or false, whether the claim is made by a king or a president, a pope, a congressperson, or a common citizen. Because of this, science is inherently antiauthoritarian, and a great equalizer of political power.

Chris Blattman zooms in on one of the ways that the modern scientific process doesn't approximate Otto's truth-seeking ideal.