Scientific authoritarianism

There is an interesting post on the subject of ‘scientific authoritarianism’ on the Prometheus science policy blog. The post is based on a recent article in the Guardian newspaper by James Hansen of NASA. The point of the post is that Hansen is taking too strong a line with Government implying that the scientific evidence offers only one policy option (in this case banning the construction of new coal-fired power stations). There is obviously some debate about Hansen’s actual position – the comments are well worth a read – but I think the general point is well made. The way in which scientists present their evidence into the political arena is important, and research evidence needs to be seen in the context of other considerations. Taking too strong a line on ‘what the evidence says we must do’ can sometimes be counter-productive.