Philosopher Warns Against “The Aggrandisement Of Science” And Submission “To The Authority Of Science”

Democracy under attack by scientific elitists

Lately we’ve been seeing a worrisome trend of questioning democracy’s effectiveness in fostering social progress. Too often we cynically hear “The average citizen is just too stupid to vote correctly at the ballot box” and important decisions should be done by “real experts”.

Schellnhuber and the Potsdam Institute

This we often hear such tones  in the fields of climate and energy. For example, leading activist scientists, such Prof. John Schellnhuber, former director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute, have been publicly calling for scientists to be given a greater role in policymaking, and once proposed a so-called Future Council that would be occupied by “wisemen” and be given 10% of the seats in Parliament. These “wisemen” would then decide whether proposed policy measures serve the interests of future generations.

This of course would mean that a small class of academic people — who happen to confer academic PhDs on each other — would have a far greater say in policymaking than the millions of people who labor to generate the tax revenues needed to fund these “wisemen” and their institutions.

Highly relevant in climate science

Julian Reiss of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Durham in Durham, England has published a a new paper titled: “Expertise, Agreement, and the Nature of Social Scientific Facts or: Against Epistocracy” in the journal Social Epistemology.

Prof. Julian Reiss. Image cropped here, University of Durham, UK.

Though an epistocracy is generally defined as rule by citizens who have expertise in public affairs, the paper is highly relevant in climate policy, a field where its experts think they ought be running the show and the rest of the citizenry should just keep quiet and stay out of policy decisions.

The abstract follows (emphasis added):


Taking some controversial claims philosopher Jason Brennan makes in his book Against Democracy (Brennan 2016) as a starting point, this paper argues in favour of two theses: (1) There is No Such Thing as Superior Political Judgement; (2) There Is No Such Thing as Uncontroversial Social Scientific Knowledge. I conclude that social science experts need to be kept in check, not given more power.

Let me begin with a personal note. This paper was born out of exasperation. My exasperation is caused by a relatively recent tendency among philosophers and other students of science to push to elevate the role of science, in particular of social science, in society. I grew up, philosophically, in a climate that was sceptical of those who aggrandise science, those who maintain that scientific knowledge claims stand apart from all other claims to knowledge, and in particular those who think that scientific experts should be given special powers in society. This kind of scepticism today seems like a thing of the distant past. Instead we are told again to submit to the authority of science (including social science) and to leave technical questions, including technical questions of great social relevance and potential impact, to the scientific experts — because they know what they are talking about.

I think not, and the aim of this paper is to explain why. Though in principle many of arguments apply elsewhere in science as well, I will focus on the social sciences here, of which I am more familiar and which have dramatically increased in social significance in recent times. For specificity I will also focus on an important recent contribution to the debate. The issues discussed therein are entirely general, however. I use it as a peg to hang on my own thoughts about the role of scientific experts in society and that of consensus in science.”


17 responses to “Philosopher Warns Against “The Aggrandisement Of Science” And Submission “To The Authority Of Science””

  1. Seeker

    I think Durham University is one of the last bastions of sanity in the UK, if not the world.

  2. David Reich

    Submitting to the so-called experts (many of whom have utterly failed in their prophetic pronouncements), in matters of energy, healthcare, education, banking, etc. is classic fascism. In the US this manifests itself in the myriad of Federal Agencies populated by lifetime bureaucrats who “know better than the average citizen” who are unelected and unaccountable to the will of the people. The Federal agencies and their state counterparts are staffed with technocrats who write policy after policy (the Bureau of Land Management for example has a set of policies that is 55,000 pages long) that dictate how business, and homeowners must function through regulation and fees. It is the antithesis of a free society of liberty and natural rights.

  3. harrydhuffman (@harrydhuffman)

    It is not about science per se, but about the specific historic development, or degeneration, of science and the consensus, in recent decades. And it is not just science that has degenerated, but all fields. Here are only 2 of many comments I have posted on the Net on this subject:

    Scientific consensus notably hardened into dogmatic, religiously-held beliefs in then currently fashionable theories, across many fields, around 1970-1980. It has not been true science since that time, and for many, long before (as far back as Darwin, for the more devout followers of undirected evolution, who have made careers out of refusing to consider all the evidence against it). As a scientist, I never blamed that obscene (to this scientist) hardening of scientific thought on the Left–but they have latched on to the dogmatic certainty, the belief in “the Consensus”, in many fields, not just in science (the “civil-rights” movement for Blacks, with its defining of “racism” as White racism, is another outstanding example). And it has made them insane now, under the likes of Obama. They have built their intended legacy on untruths, and the consequences will be devastating.

    I’ll just say here that arguing about science is not science. I am a scientist, by the way–in fact, THE scientist, who has made the greatest discovery in history–directly impacting every field of human inquiry–which few in our time, on either the Left or the Right–or the middle, for that matter–have shown themselves willing to respectfully consider. No surprise there, it has been ever thus; ask Galileo (and I sometimes call myself the Galileo of this time). There is so much incompetence, all around, even in this “advanced”, “thoroughly modern” age, because we are living in a climactic time, of ascendance of false, divisive dogma over good, honest reason.

    Know therefore, that you and all around you are being tested, with the consequences of such long-nurtured dogma, even as new, inevitably liberating knowledge will–in the next few generations if not this one–change what for you have been all-too-comfortable certainties, about what is and is not true science.

    The unwarranted, incompetent intrusion of sociology into questions of hard science is particularly obnoxious.

    1. Penelope

      harry– thank you for saying it. The only thing you left out is that the attack on real science has a source. Throughout history there have been those who wished to rule. Today they hide behind various masks: The Scientist Who Has Been Paid Off; what else can you call those who accept grants to produce their dogmas?

      Another mask: The Environmental Organizations. They are directly funded and controlled by the mega Foundations & Billionaires. See the US Senate Report entitled The Chain of Environmental Command.

      Hung upon the global warming hoax are vast compulsory changes changes in our way of life. Agenda 21 is only one of the billionaire-controlled UN’s encroachments.

  4. rah

    Never mind that it has always been the elite “real experts” that have gotten us into wars.

  5. Yonason

    Oh yes, let’s do submit to the wisdom of the “experts.” …


  6. sasquatch

    The weather isn’t cooperating with cAGW today. The weather outside is at war with anthropogenic global warming purports, the meme. lol

    It has snowed four inches with more on the way, the wind is blowing at about 30 mph with gusts that are 40 mph.

    The overnight low is going to be 20 degrees.

    You can tell me over and over again that global warming is happening, but the weather outside tells a different story.

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

    You can lead a bull to the whatchamacallit but you can’t make him stampede.

    You can lead the weather to global warming, but you can’t make it change.

    I had a job as a social worker for a short time. I worked with mentally and physically handicapped people. People who would suffer immensely if not given direct aid and help.

    A person who is mentally handicapped is not able to function as an adult capable of handling tasks, simple chores, a work environment on their own. They do need help. Think AOC, a trainable educable, not much more. lol

    Some of the clients had a mental age of three years, counting past 20 confused them.

    Others were in wheelchairs, intellectually capable, but were relegated to a life of being a ward of the state.

    They were all in desperate need of care. Other clients were just plain cuckoo from the get go. Didn’t matter what you could do, the only thing that could be done was to shelter, feed, and cloth them.

    Dysfunctional is what you see at all times. A workshop environment was what could be done, the very minimum of employable skills were cultivated, social workers instructing clients what to do. It is not economically efficient.

    There are people who are completely incapable of fending for themselves, they will die without assistance, others owe it to them to help them live.

    Prescribed medications were absolutely necessary.

    Crazy is on display right in front of you. You made sure the drugs were dispensed when necessary.

    Chaos in high gear, just the way it was, especially during a full moon. The lunatics were in charge of the asylum on a full moonlit night, let me tell ya.

    The clients, the physically and mentally handicapped, would all stand gathered, chant and moan vociferously of their plight, for they were fully aware of their hapless unfortunate position in life, they all had to express in one way or another what it was all about.

    Mother Nature had not been kind to them and they knew it.

    It was the same thing over and over, nothing ever changed, the behavior repeated itself time and time again. It was disturbing, difficult to understand how such wretchedness could exist in the human condition.

    The results were always the same,

    Why do I write such trivial nonsense?

    Because it is analogous to what is going on in the world today, from climate science to science to politics to finance to religion, everything is chaotic and nothing really seems to be working, it just functions because it does, regardless if it makes any sense.

    In reality, everybody is barking at the moon.

    Dysfunctional, at all times.

    We have no idea how kind Mother Nature has been to us, have to treat her right, she’ll be more forgiving.

    I don’t care if it is global warming, it’s cold out in the great wide open tonight, it only makes sense to stay inside when the weather is inclement, the temp is cold and you need to be warmer than the outside temp.

    1. tom0mason

      Well said, the madness of those who say they can predict the climate or weather, at this time, with deterministic models, is deep and thick.
      We don’t understand enough about the weather and climate, and the way the many chaotic processes interlink to build such predictive models.
      Here are some prediction from the world’s best weather models (many built using climate model methods) for 6 months of weather

    2. Penelope

      sasquatch & tomomason 29,
      The military has announced they expect to have the ability to shift weather from one place to another– I believe by 2025 is their brag. I know this sounds ludicrous to you, but the weather control program began shortly after WWII & unbelievable amounts of money are documented to have been spent on it.

      The methodology expressed in 12 patents is the use of aluminum aerosols subjected to electromagnetic forces. The results are tracked by the use of radioactive forms of barium and strontium. for summaries of the patents, man; just LOOK.

      In case you don’t know about the wireless power used, just google wireless power.

  7. Dr Norman Page

    Climate hysteria has reached a new peak especially in the UK. Here is a link to the GWPF complaint re the recent BBC fearmongering broadcast, with blatantly false statements by Mann, Oreskes and Attenborough and a link to my guest post on WUWT which challenged the whole dangerous warming meme head on .
    Here is a quote
    “When analyzing complex systems with multiple interacting variables it is useful to note the advice of Enrico Fermi who reportedly said “never make something more accurate than absolutely necessary”. The 2017 paper proposed a simple heuristic approach to climate science which plausibly proposes that a Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity was reached in 1991,that this turning point correlates with a temperature turning point in 2003/4, and that a general cooling trend will now follow until approximately 2650.
    The establishment’s dangerous global warming meme, the associated IPCC series of reports, the entire UNFCCC circus, the recent hysterical IPCC SR1.5 proposals and Nordhaus’ recent Nobel prize are founded on two basic errors in scientific judgement. First – the sample size is too small. Most IPCC model studies retrofit from the present back for only 100 – 150 years when the currently most important climate controlling, largest amplitude, solar activity cycle is millennial.
    This means that all climate model temperature outcomes are too hot and likely fall outside of the real future world. (See Kahneman -Thinking Fast and Slow p 118) Second – the models make the fundamental scientific error of forecasting straight ahead beyond the Millennial Turning Point (MTP) and peak in solar activity which was reached in 1991. These errors are compounded by confirmation bias and academic consensus group think.”

    1. Penelope

      Dr Page, they don’t even pay attention to matters of 30-year periodicity, like the Atlantic Oscillation & the Pacific Oscillation. (approximately, of course)
      Obviously the bringing up of cold bottom water affects land temperature, and although the solar effects you mention are primary, our climate has been congruent w the expected results of the Oscillations for the past century. They simply ignore this.

      I don’t interpret AGW as simple error or dumb-headedness, but as purposeful propaganda. We had more than 200 media organizations in the US in the 70s. We have 6 now & two of them are owned by the same megacorp.

      We must confuse the powerless propagandees w TPTB who underwrite the propaganda & who now hold near-monopoly power over the dissemination of info.

      You’re quite right about the errors, but one cannot effectively unmask them while TPTB control mass media.

  8. Jim

    Lol. When I read that I thought it was idiots instead of elitists, but based upon my past experience with these people I couldn’t conclude otherwise anyways.

  9. Warren cole

    Of course social science experts need to be kept in check.
    Social science is NOT science.

  10. Nephre

    To say “social science is not a science” is just snobbery. Science is as science does and that seems to be the essence of this discussion at its core. There are many great scientists in psychology for example, better apparently than many “climate scientists” whose credential are at best shaky and where most recently, apparently at least half of existing scientists (or more) from disciplines ranging from chemistry to microbiology, medical sciences, and atmospheric sciences _all_ have fallen prey to the politicizing of environmental variables like CO2 and the false causality of CO2 and a heating globe. Indeed, so if you’re asking for only the literate to vote, you’re eliminating a lot of those who “passed the math test” but whom are still unwilling or unable to actually read and think beyond their own narrow concerns. I wouldn’t say the lay public is the only problem here.

  11. BobW in NC

    Long story short: Science is being deified. It is now a god, to which we are to either give total obeisance or are excommunicated. Certainly not the biological science of skepticism and uncertainty that I worked in the trenches with daily in the laboratory.

  12. Penelope

    BobW, actually isn’t it nonscience that’s being deified?

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