The Corner

Gno What I Mean?

Derb: I certainly agree with you — as you formulate it — that science will always create something of an informed versus uninformed split. But, it should be noted that science is not a source of values. You can just as easily commit evil as good with scientific knowledge.

One way to minimize the split between the gonstic elite as you describe it and the rest of the masses is if those with specialized scientific knowledge didn’t act as if that knowledge settled the moral and ethical issues involved. Public health bureaucrats, for example, take their superior epidemiological knowledge as proof that they are right to use the state against the wishes of the lumpen masses. Child psychologists, like the technocrats of the 1930s, also assume that because they know more that their values are more correct. Indeed, one can look around at vast swaths of public life and find scientists who use their jargon to further their will-to-power. The Union of Concerned Scientists comes immediately to mind.

I’m a firm believer in science, but not scientism. I’m not saying you are, but sometimes one gets a whiff of the-scientist-is-always-right from your discussions of the subject. I apologize in advance if I’m not smelling what I think I am.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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