Scientists as both experts and political myth-makers

Summary: Experts, especially scientists, wield increasing power in western societies. Roger Pielke Jr. looks at the political implications, and how this is boosting our dysfunctional political polarization.

© Whiteshoom. From Dreamstime.

Scientific Authority and Political Myth

Presentation by Roger Pielke Jr.
Given at a workshop on Democratisation of Science – epistemological issues and new perspectives.
Held at Lyon, France on 30 May 2018.

In this presentation, Pielke discusses one of the vital but seldom mentioned issues of our time: the increasingly powerful role of experts in politics, and how their arrogance is contributing to political polarization in the West. In many ways the products of our university system, wielding their credentials, have become an special interest — like medieval priests. In some cases, with powerful expertise. In some cases, with actual expertise less than that of medieval priests.

  • Reconciling expertise with democracy is an unavoidable and eternal struggle.
  • Experts are essential to 21st century governance in and out of government.
  • .One important function of experts in democracy is to help create and sustain “political myth.”
  • “Political myth” refers to a shared narrative that explains past, present and future political events.
  • See the polarizing power politics of the Brahmin left (~2005 to present).
  • He critiques the large and growing risk of experts becoming a conventional, interest-based political movement.

The bigger issue

Pielke shows much about the rise of our new leftists Brahmins. He does not discuss the related but larger issue: do their credentials improve their public policy decisions. A look at western public policy suggests that under their direction, we might be sailing off a cliff. They are altering our society based on ideologies, without research, experiments, or tests. Communism was the product of Western universities. Much of the world is still recovering from that experiment.

See the For More Information section below for posts discussing this.

Roger Pielke Jr
Roger Pielke Jr.

About the author

Roger Pielke, Jr. is a Professor of Environmental Studies at the U of CO-Boulder. He was Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. He is now Director of the Sports Governance Center in the Dept of Athletics. Before joining the faculty of the U of CO, from 1993-2001 he was a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

His research focuses on science, innovation and politics. He holds degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science from the University of Colorado. In 2006 he received the Eduard Brückner Prize in Munich for outstanding achievement in interdisciplinary climate research. In 2012 Roger was awarded an honorary doctorate from Linköping University in Sweden and the Public Service Award of the Geological Society of America.

His page at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research has his bio, CV, and links to some of his publications. His website has links to his works, and essays about the many subjects on which he works.

He is also author, co-author or co-editor of seven books, including The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics (2007), The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming (2010), The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change (2014), and The Edge: The War against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports (2016).

Some of his recent publications.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see my posts about experts, posts about Roger Pielke Jr., and especially these …

  1. Experts now run the world using their theories. What if they fail, and we lose confidence in them?
  2. Do we face a future without confidence in experts?
  3. Our confidence in science is crumbling. Why? How can we fix this?
  4. 2015 might bring an end to the great age of experts’ experiments on us.
  5. Tips to find the experts that help you see the world more clearly.
  6. Will our geopolitical “experts “lead us to ruin?
  7. An anthropologist announces the fall of the liberal professional class.
The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics
Available at Amazon.

For more the role of scientists in society…

The Honest Broker:
Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics

By Roger Pielke, Jr.

From the publisher.

“For scientists seeking to play a positive role in policy and politics and contribute to the sustainability of the scientific enterprise, scientists have choices in what role they play. This book is about understanding this choice. Rather than prescribing what course of action each scientist ought to take, the book aims to identify a range of options. Using examples from a range of scientific controversies, The Honest Broker challenges us all – scientists, politicians and citizens – to think carefully about how best science can contribute to policy-making and a healthy democracy.”

3 thoughts on “Scientists as both experts and political myth-makers”

  1. Scientists only are experts and get attention if what they say fits the narrative. Otherwise the are ignored or like James Watson they are pilloried if it is against the narrative.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      That nails. it. The poster child for this is the author of this presentation – Roger Pielke, Jr. Said something against the narrative and lynched – despite agreement of the IPCC and p-r literature.

      The results of this will, I believe, not be pretty.

  2. Pingback: Pielke: Scientists as both experts and political myth-makers | Watts Up With That?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: