It sounds very sensible, on the face of it, to suggest that government decisions should be based on science. We are told by the wastrels and pompous souls in Westminster that it’s a good thing. In reality of course they simply pick the bits of science that support their intentions or pay until science gives them the desired answers so it’s all nonsense and science is simply used as a screen.
But even if they did really and genuinely act on science would it help? I think not because scientists are often and increasingly the most inward looking and blinkered people on the planet. By its very nature modern scientists have to be specialists, in order to train they specialise in a subject, then they narrow it down. They form international research ‘clubs’with other similarly specialised scientists as they progress until their whole attention is directed at their particular speciality and the current ‘groupthink’.We see this clearly in climate (so-called) science. A process that’s probably fine when it comes to understanding the universe is exactly the wrong approach to understanding or applying the science to society.
This was brought home to me recently on a visit to a National Trust place in the North East. Cragside House built by Lord Armstrong. I shall ignore the politics of the NT, and the morality of Armstrong’s wealth from weapons manufacture but just note his technology. He equipped the house with Europe’s first hydro electric generator which supplied electricity and lighting to the estate. He had hydraulic powered equipment, like his lift, to service the house. He used these principles in his industrial designs for cranes and designed systems to accumulate the hydraulic power. Yet although being friends with scientists of the day and a learned man Armstrong was not a scientist. He was an engineer.
In my part of the country we have numerous canals, bridges and other leftovers of the industrial revolution. They were built by people like James Brindley, Thomas Telford, Mark Brunell, there was equipment designed by James Hargreves that revolutionised the cloth industy. Yet none of them were scientists as such but all people capable of applying science to the real world. Right back to the time of Leonardo Da Vinci the things which we use, the practical objects of everyday life, were invented by educated people who were not specialised scientists. It’s true that many such people came from backgrounds where family or commercial wealth allowed them the luxury of time and money to acquire an education and indulge their interests but even that is not always the case. Edison held a record number of patents but didn’t have wealth or go to university.
I don’t know if it’s science that has lost its way, allowing an increasing number of people to know so much about a little that they lose perspective or whether the rise in influence of the vested interests that pay the scientists is to blame. Wherever the problem lies it is something that will have to change because science based government is increasingly ignorant of reality.