The Role of Experts and Science in Democracy

09 May 2024 09:07

Yet Another Inadequate Placeholder

On the one hand: science does not advance by thinking that everyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's. I have a Ph.D. in physics, but if you asked me about (say) what approaches to controlled nuclear fusion were most promising, if any, I'd have to say I have no idea. (I might be able to reach an informed opinion if I actually studied the issue, much more easily than a layman --- or maybe not, plasma physics was one of those things I always meant to learn more about but didn't...) On the other hand: democracies in the modern world frequently have to decide on questions where scientific knowledge is crucial. (Even in the ancient world they needed experts in various crafts, which is not quite the same thing as modern science.) On the third hand: there certainly seems to be an affinity between democratic polities and societies and scientific advance. (Though obviously not an exclusive bond!) On the fourth hand: the sovereign demos would seem to be within its rights and power (assuming there's a difference between those...) to delegate its authority over some specialized matter to those it selects, perhaps experts...

Which is to say, I don't understand this complex of issues, either normatively or descriptively, and I am irritated by my own lack of understanding.