Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Let Us All Bow Down Before the Great God Science


This is becoming a constant whine among the scientific intelligentsia: Sir Martin Evans, who won the Nobel Prize for his work with embryonic stem cells, is complaining that we don't pay enough attention to science (as if!) when making policy. From the story in the Guardian:
Britain's latest Nobel laureate has criticised the government and civil service for not valuing science highly enough. Sir Martin Evans, who was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine last week, said a lack of understanding of science within the government was hampering policy-making. "Science has not been regarded with the same level of appreciation as things such as politics and economics as a basis of government and government service, and I think it should be equally important," he said.

The attitude to science in Whitehall reflected a wider ignorance in society. "Science should be part of the understanding, the education of any educated man or woman and also of anybody who really is going to make decisions. At the moment unfortunately it isn't," he said.

What I worry about--and Sir Martin seems a case in point--is that science devolving into naked scientism, in which its powers are seen as an end instead of a means, a belief rather than a method, as grounds for ruling rather than a calling to serve.

On the other hand, in a question and answer interview in the New Scientist (no link), Shinya Yamanaka, who first discovered iPSCs, demonstrated what I think is a proper humility and concern for society as well as naked science:
QUESTION: Who do you think should be responsible for deciding what is ethically acceptable?

YAMANAKA: These are very difficult decisions, and I think that society should make them. It should not be scientists. They can find it difficult to think like the person on the street, and instead may see it simply as a good opportunity. We scientists can be involved in the decision-making process, but I think unless society is comfortable with the therapy it should not go ahead.
No Nobel Prize for him! Yamanaka clearly doesn't recognize that science is god!


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