By now I have written a handful of posts, including a brilliant, intoxicating treatise on death by terrorism. (The fact that my argument contains not even the tiniest trace of originality does not, in my view, impugn its brilliance.) I figure it’s a good time to sketch out some vague goals I have. So here it goes.
I just started exploring the connection between science and team sports. I’m going to really expand on this idea in greater detail. In fits and starts, I will try to paint this picture:
- When scientists speak about science, we portray conflicting images. On one hand, science is part of a team, does not dictate decision-making, and cannot by itself improve the human condition. On the other, science is the foundation of any decision and is without a doubt the most important factor in any problem.
- Scientists really believe the latter image is correct, and most of our words reflect this belief.
- Scientists also want the public to agree with us. i.e., we want everyone to also think that science is the most important thing. So for the most part our public messaging paints this picture.
- Our belief in the primacy of science affects how we act in , e.g., political controversies and lobbying.
- When we act in political controversies, we face goals that conflict. Specifically, our goal of placing science on a pedestal conflicts with our goal of, e.g., effective climate change policy.
- We almost always choose to emphasize the former, thereby somewhat undermining any other goal we may have.
- To accomplish our secondary goals, scientists should truly internalize the idea that we’re part of a team. At times, this may entail demoting science. To run with the team sports analogy, everyone rides the bench at some point!
I should stress that excluding point 7, I am not necessarily advocating for a specific position. It may or may not be a good thing for science to be placed on a pedestal. But I believe that doing so inevitably and definitely conflicts with effective policy making. Of course this begs the question of what I mean by “effective.” I’ll have to define that at some point. In short, a big goal of this blog will be to explore the idea that how scientists think about science affects how we act. And that these actions have consequences for much more than science.
Finally, I’ll say that I suspect suspect many (most?) scientists disagree with me. They might say that we’re not really placing ourselves on a pedestal. Or that doing so is the best way to address climate policy. Or maybe that we really deserve to be on a pedestal! But complete agreement would be quite boring, no?
Even more finally, the overwhelming likelihood is that nothing I write is original. I have probably already plagiarized from 10 different scholars. I apologize for any existing and future transgressions.