We expect science to be totally objective.
But what happens when it’s not? Increasingly, as we define our personal world, science reaches farther and farther out in both time and space.
At first, defining our personal world typically involved making observations that were easy to confirm within the lifetime of an individual (for example: blood is pumped by the heart; giving a vaccine prevents certain diseases; the bottom of the Mariana Trench is 11,000 meters below sea level). Other observations, however involved collecting data for more than a single person’s lifetime in order to verify the validity of that observation (the continents are moving; protons, neutrons and electrons are made of smaller particles called quarks; the rings of Saturn are more than a uniform ring, but made of complex strands of orbiting material). Still other observations require far more than a mere two or three hundred years of collected data to confirm.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that scientists can’t use tiny slices of data to prove a point when to draw objective conclusions, it would require a millenium to collect and confirm the conclusion. This lengthy time of observation means that scientists can safely overlook tinier slices of data that don’t suit their needs. It’s this last bit that creates politicians out of scientists.
Most scientists make good scientists but rather poor politicians. Politicians, being who they are, make fine politicians, but equally poor scientists. It is a rare individual who has acumen in both arenas. In fact, Benjamin Franklin is the only person I can think of (after making a cursory Google search) who has successfully navigated both fields.
Today, we have committees of scientists who advise politicians and politicians who support legislation for scientists (the grants presented by the National Science Foundation come to mind). A cozy relationship to say the least. This leads not only to bad politics, but to bad science as well. A brief peek at world history and
in the middle of the Twentieth Century is all the farther you need to go to find a possible outcome of this situation. American history has its own science and political history as Googling the Germany syphilis experiment will illustrate. Tuskegee
Science fiction itself contributed to the deeply profound belief that science should be able to influence politics. You need look no farther than Frank Herbert’s DUNE books and you find scientists (as well as religionists) influencing government on all levels. More recent books like Allen Steele’s COYOTE books (he has both scientists and religionists influencing politics) and David Weber’s SAFEHOLD series (again, scientists and religionists struggle for control over the politics of a world). It seems to be a swelling belief that scientists should control the government – at least the decisions of government.
Given the reality of the bedfellowship of science and politics, why don’t we see scientists running for government offices to influence politics directly? Hmmm… Anyone want to try and answer this one?