It’s the Authority, not the Science
Jonah Goldberg spotted in the news an instance in which the Obama Interior Department appears to have misrepresented the opinion of some scientists whom it consulted regarding a possible ban of offshore drilling:
The draft these experts saw was substantively different from the document that bore their names. The draft called for a moratorium on issuing new permits, not stopping existing drilling (a move many experts believe would be unsafe).
One of the experts, Benton Baugh, president of Radoil, told the Wall Street Journal that if the draft had said to halt drilling, “we’d have said ‘that’s craziness.'”
As Goldberg writes, “there is something ugly and hypocritical about glorifying the absolute authority of scientists and sanctimoniously preening about your bravery in ‘restoring’ that authority” — only to ignore what they say when it’s “politically expedient.” Actually, I’m sure Goldberg would agree that progressives’ periodic lauding of science is primarily, if not entirely, all about political expedience.
When candidate Obama said he would “restore science to its rightful place,” he meant that he would treat it as an unassailable, procaimedly “objective,” conversation-ending weapon in philosophical debates. The prerequisite, of course, is that science must agree with his own views on a particular issue.
The very necessity of politics arises because there is no objective measure when it comes to policy decisions that must balance competing interests and complement subjective considerations like religion and ethics with practical needs and objectives. Tyranny lurks behind the elevation of any particular input as if it alone settles the question, especially when determination is handed to a limited group with information beyond the comprehension of everybody else.