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Scientific Authority and Political Myth

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

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Scientific Authority and Political Myth

  1. 1. CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY RESEARCH CIRES/University of Colorado at Boulder http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu Closing International Workshop: Democratisation of science – epistemological issues and new perspectives 30 May 2018 Université de Lyon Lyon, France Scientific Authority and Political Myth Roger A. Pielke, Jr. University of Colorado
  2. 2. slide 2 Expertise and Democracy https://twitter.com/NewYorker/status/908660195869515776 @WillMcPhail
  3. 3. slide 3 An outline of this talk  The struggle to reconcile expertise with democracy is eternal  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  I’ll suggest three modes for how experts contribute to the authoring of political myth:  Defunct economist (~600 BC to present)  Democratization of science (~1970s to present)  Power politics of the Brahmin left (~2005 to present)  I’ll critique the considerable risks of the rise of experts as a more conventional, interest-based political movement
  4. 4. slide 4 Initial disclaimer & plea for forbearance (and thank you)
  5. 5. slide 5 Political myth “Political myths are mapping devices through which we look at the world, feel about it and therefore also act within it as a social group. . . Political myths cannot be falsified because they are not scientific hypotheses as to the constitution of the world ... Political myths provide fundamental cognitive schemata for the mapping of the social world: by reducing the complexity of experience, they enable us to come to terms with the multifaceted character of the world we live in.” Bottici, C., & Challand, B. (2006). Rethinking political myth: The clash of civilizations as a self-fulfilling prophecy. European Journal of Social Theory, 9(3), 315-336. “political myth is comprised of the most basic assumptions that justify and explain the possession and use of power - whether or not the assumptions are true” (Brunner 1994) Brunner, R. D. (1994). Myth and American politics. Policy Sciences, 27(1), 1-18.
  6. 6. slide 6 Political myth • Key elements of political myth (Lasswell and Kaplan 1950) • doctrine (core beliefs) • formula (preferred actions) • miranda (symbols that manifest core beliefs & actions)
  7. 7. slide 7 Experts as Contributors to Political Myth: ~600 BCE to present Thales of Miletus Two brief examples follow: • Basic research and the linear model of innovation • The so-called “green revolution” and technological innovation
  8. 8. slide 8 Example One – The Central Political Myth of S&T Policy  Basic research and the linear model of innovation … Public funding € $
  9. 9. slide 9 The axiology of values within science “Research is none the less genuine, investigation none the less worthy, because the truth it discovers is utilizable for the benefit of mankind. Granting, even, that the discovery of truth for its own sake is a nobler pursuit. It may readily be conceded that the man who discovers nothing himself, but only applies to useful purposes the principle which others have discovered, stands upon a lower plane than the investigator.” The very first editorial in Science 1883
  10. 10. slide 10 First references to “basic research” 1. US Congressional hearing – 1919 2. New York Times - 1922 3. US Congress, floor debate - 1923 4. Science – 1924 5. Nature – 1928 6. US President – 1946
  11. 11. slide 11 Science and Nature
  12. 12. slide 12 “Basic Research” mentioned in the US Congress
  13. 13. slide 13 Political myth has political functions (duh) “To persuade the Congress of the pragmatically inclined United States to a strong organization to support fundamental research would seem to be one of the minor miracles… When talking matters over with some of these [people on Capitol Hill], it was well to avoid the word fundamental and to use basic instead.” Vannevar Bush 1970 Bush, V. (1970). Pieces of the Action. Morrow.
  14. 14. slide 14 In the 1940s US, political myth of the role of science in society moved from a focus on agriculture to physics Wallace Bush
  15. 15. slide 15 Political myth shapes how we interpret knowledge In 1957 Robert Solow published his famous paper which helped him later win the Nobel Prize and also explained that “technical change” was responsible for up to 80% of economic growth from 1900 to 1949. But what is this “technical change”? It is often recast by scientists and politicians as “technological change” or even just R&D. This is a misreading of economics, history and science & technology policy.
  16. 16. slide 16 What Solow actually wrote . . . “I am using the phrase ‘technical change’ as a shorthand expression for any kind of shift in the production function. Thus slowdowns, speedups, improvements in the education of the labor force, and all sorts of things will appear as ‘technical change.’ ” Solow 1957
  17. 17. slide 17 Example #2: The “Green revolution” as political myth  A massive famine was going to occur in the developing world  Hundreds of millions, maybe billions would die  Science (and Norman Borlaug) came to the rescue by inventing modern varieties of crop strains, especially wheat  The predicted famine was averted (thus proving the predictions correct!)  In agriculture, we therefore need more “events” like the “Green Revolution” – e.g., in Africa, to deal with climate change, etc.  The “green revolution” thus provides a generalizable model for successful innovation policies
  18. 18. slide 18 The “Green Revolution” as political myth “Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday night. . . In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was widely described as the father of the broad agricultural movement called the Green Revolution . . . His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history.” New York Times 13 September 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/business/energy- environment/14borlaug.html
  19. 19. slide 19 Population crisis? Time - January 1960
  20. 20. slide 20 US Policies of the 1950s and 1960s •US Cold War Policy & India •Agricultural overproduction in the US •Communist expansion in South Asia •US Food Aid to India started in 1951 •China border dispute and invasion of India in 1962 •Congressional skepticism •India often did not play along, offered criticism N. Cullather, 2007. Hunger and Containment: How India Became “Important” in US Cold War Strategy, India Review, 6:59-90.
  21. 21. slide 21 1965: Lyndon Johnson’s Political Problem •LBJ wanted to continue food shipments to India for reasons of both domestic and foreign policy •US Congress was skeptical, in part due to India’s criticisms of the US and closeness with Russia •Solution: “through the fall of 1965 [Johnson] developed the theme of a world food crisis brought on by runaway population growth.” Cullather 2010
  22. 22. slide 22 There was one problem . . . Source: The Times (of London) 22 February 1966 Cullather (2010) “Journalists are coming in from abroad to report a historic calamity which is not taking place, public collections are being made in Italy and Holland for example, for famine relief here . . .”
  23. 23. slide 23 A famine narrative was created -- 1966 In March, 1966 US and Indian leaders met in Washington to align their stories. The US explained that what emerged had to meet conflicting criteria: “it shouldn't be such as to frighten people in India, but on the other hand the need must be seen to be real in the United States.” Continued . . . Sources: Cullather (2010), US State Department Archives http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v25/d308
  24. 24. slide 24 A famine narrative was created -- 1966 … The Indian delegation noted that: “The situation in the United States is that to get a response, the need must be somewhat overplayed” and “the case should be presented as this being the year in which famine was averted.” Sources: Cullather (2010), US State Department Archives http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v25/d308
  25. 25. slide 25 Scientists joined the bandwagon In March 1966, The New York Times reported on the fears of atmospheric scientists who pointed to India as an example that we were “losing the race” to feed the world, and raised the specter of population control. Clark, E. 1966. Scientists fear nature may win, New York Times, March 15
  26. 26. slide 26 National Academy of Sciences, April 1966 • Organized and paid for by the Rockefeller Foundation • Introductory remarks: “there is a growing consensus that the combination of annual deficits in world food supplies and onrushing population increase could spell disaster for the eventual attainment of world peace and prosperity” • Overt political orientation • Focus on population control (Revelle)
  27. 27. slide 27 “The fate of India . . .” An assembly of leading food and agricultural specialists was told today that unless the problem of feeding underdeveloped countries could be solved, “the fate of all men will be the fate of India.” The speaker was Dr. Roger Revelle, head of the Center for Population Studies at Harvard University . . . April 26, 1966
  28. 28. slide 28 The Powerful Ideas of a Defunct Economist “the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.” General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money J. M. Keynes, 1936
  29. 29. slide 29 A First Idealized Mode of Experts in Democratic Politics Experts (scientists) Political Myth Public and Politicians Political and policy outcomes IDEAS OF THE DEFUNCT ECONOMIST 1 Two examples: • Example #1 -- “Basic research” • Example #2 -- “The “Green Revolution”
  30. 30. slide 30 A Second Idealized Mode of Experts in Democratic Politics Experts (scientists) Political Myth Public and Politicians Public and Politicians Experts (scientists) Public and Politicians Political and policy outcomes IDEAS OF THE DEFUNCT ECONOMIST DEMOCRATIZATION OF SCIENCE Political Myth Political and policy outcomes 1 2 “creating institutions and practices that fully incorporate principles of accessibility, transparency, and accountability. It means considering the societal outcomes of research at least as attentively as the scientific and technological outputs. It means insisting that in addition to being rigorous, science be popular, relevant, and participatory.” Guston, D. H. (2004). Forget politicizing science. Let's democratize science!. Issues in Science and Technology, 21(1), 25-28.
  31. 31. slide 31 Democratization of Science We are all familiar with: • Democratization of science • Public engagement • Science communication • ELSI initiatives • Stakeholder engagement • Science cafes • Usable science • Citizen science • Participatory science • Mode 2 • Criteria of societal impact • Technology assessment
  32. 32. slide 32 Piketty 2018 on the politics of the “highly educated” Note: In what follows please beware of some unavoidable imprecision in categorization: • scientists • experts • highly educated • PhD recipients Has a 3rd mode of engagement emerged?
  33. 33. slide 33 Piketty 2018 on educational inequalities Piketty, T. 2018. Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017), World Inequality Lab, 22nd March. http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/Piketty2018.pdf The main mechanism that I have in mind is the following: educational expansion, and in particular the rise of higher education, creates new forms of inequality cleavages and political conflict that did not exist at the time of primary and secondary education. For a long time, the main issue in terms of education policy was to generalize access to primary and secondary education. Such a policy agenda is naturally inclusive and egalitarian: one can argue that the objective is to bring the totality of a given generation to this level. Once everybody has reached primary and secondary schooling, things look markedly different: it is difficult to imagine a situation where the totality of a generation becomes university graduates; and even if this happens it is hard to think of a world where everybody in a generation obtains a PhD, at least in the foreseeable future. In other words, the rise of higher education forces societies and political forces to deal with inequality in a new way, and to some extent to accept certain educational inequalities on a permanent basis, which can lead to complicated political cleavages.
  34. 34. slide 34 Highly educated vote progressively more left Piketty, T. 2018. Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017), World Inequality Lab, 22nd March. http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/Piketty2018.pdf
  35. 35. slide 35 In US: More Education = More Democratic Piketty, T. 2018. Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017), World Inequality Lab, 22nd March. http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/Piketty2018.pdf
  36. 36. slide 36 Who are the highly educated? Compared to the less highly educated, let’s look at some evidence . . . 1. More left (Piketty 2018) a. Also FT (2016, 2017a, 2017b) b. Goodwin and Heath (2016) c. this talk 2. Higher income (Edsall 2018) 3. More wealth accumulation (this talk) 4. More ideologically prejudiced (Henry and Napier 2017) 5. More biased in information evaluation (Liu 2017) 6. Concentrated geographically (Florida, 2010) 7. Over-represented in elected offices (Ipsos 2015a, 2015b) 8. but, crucially, still small in absolute numbers (this talk)
  37. 37. slide 37 https://www.ft.com/content/62d782d6-31a7-11e7-9555-23ef563ecf9a 1. More left (FT 2017) France: 2017 more education correlated with Macron vote
  38. 38. slide 38 Goodwin, M. J., & Heath, O. (2016). The 2016 referendum, Brexit and the left behind: an aggregate‐level analysis of the result. The Political Quarterly, 87(3), 323-332. “The vote for Brexit was delivered by the ‘left behind’- social groups that are united by a general sense of insecurity, pessimism and marginalization, who do not feel as though elites, whether in Brussels or Westminster, share their values, represent their interests and genuinely empathize with their intense angst about rapid social, economic and cultural change.” https://www.ft.com/content/9fc71e40- b015-11e6-a37c-f4a01f1b0fa1 1. More left (FT 2016, Goodwin and Heath 2016) UK: University degree “strongest correlation” in Brexit vote
  39. 39. slide 39 https://www.ft.com/dutchvoting 1. More left (FT 2017b for 2012 Dutch election) The Netherlands: Higher education correlated with lower PVV vote 🇳🇱
  40. 40. slide 40 1. More left (FT 2016) US: Since 2012, less education correlated with R swing https://www.ft.com/content/9fc71e40-b015-11e6-a37c-f4a01f1b0fa1
  41. 41. slide 41 District of Columbia 30.0 Massachusetts 17.1 Maryland 16.9 Connecticut 16.6 Virginia 14.9 New York 14.4 Vermont 13.9 New Jersey 13.8 Colorado 13.7 Rhode Island 12.8 New Hampshire 12.6 Illinois 12.0 Delaware 11.4 California 11.3 Oregon 11.3 Washington 11.3 New Mexico 11.2 Alaska 10.9 Kansas 10.9 Pennsylvania 10.9 Minnesota 10.8 Hawaii 10.5 Georgia 10.4 Utah 10.4 Arizona 10.2 Michigan 10.0 Maine 9.8 Missouri 9.7 Nebraska 9.7 Florida 9.6 North Carolina 9.3 Ohio 9.3 Wisconsin 9.3 Montana 9.2 South Carolina 9.1 Texas 9.0 Kentucky 8.9 Alabama 8.6 Tennessee 8.6 Indiana 8.4 North Dakota 8.4 Idaho 8.2 Iowa 8.2 South Dakota 8.1 Oklahoma 7.9 Wyoming 7.8 Mississippi 7.6 Louisiana 7.5 Nevada 7.5 West Virginia 7.3 Arkansas 7.2 1. More left (this talk) US: More advanced degrees in a state correlated with Trump vote
  42. 42. slide 42 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/opinion/dem ocracy-inequality-thomas-piketty.html 2. Higher income (Edsall 2018)
  43. 43. slide 43 3. More wealth accumulation (this talk) – in dollars US: Total annual income by terminal degree, high school vs. PhD
  44. 44. slide 44 3. More wealth accumulation (this talk) – 1991 =100 US: Total annual income by terminal degree, high school vs. PhD
  45. 45. slide 45 Henry, P. J., & Napier, J. L. (2017). Education is Related to Greater Ideological Prejudice. Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(4), 930-942. 4. More ideologically prejudiced
  46. 46. slide 46 ”. . . as attitude strength increased, people were more likely to praise the scientific study that supported their position and denigrate the study that challenged their position. . . Across multiple political topics and controlling for multiple forms of knowledge and cognitive styles, participants were especially biased in how they evaluated scientific evidence if they had strong attitudes toward and claimed superior knowledge of the topic of interest." Liu, B. S. (2017). The expertise paradox: Examining the role of different aspects of expertise in biased evaluation of scientific information. University of California, Irvine. 5. More biased in information evaluation
  47. 47. slide 47 https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/08/wh ere-the-super-brains-are/62232/ 6. Concentrated geographically (Florida 2010)
  48. 48. slide 48 https://spotlight.ipsos-na.com/news/education- levels-among-u-s-elected-officials/ 7. Over-represented in elected office (US, Ipsos 2015a)
  49. 49. slide 49 https://spotlight.ipsos-na.com/news/education-levels-among-u-s-politicians/ 7. Overrepresented in elected offices (US, Ipsos 2015b)
  50. 50. slide 50 https://www.chronicle.com/article/Degrees-in-the-Statehouse/127797?cid=rclink 7. Overrepresented in elected offices (US, CHE 2011)
  51. 51. slide 51 The political rise of the Brahmin Left? 2004 2018 2012
  52. 52. slide 52 Is there a new mode?
  53. 53. slide 53 A Possible New Mode of Experts in Democratic Politics? Experts (scientists) Political Myth Public and Politicians Public and Politicians Experts (scientists) Public and Politicians Experts (scientists) Public and Politicians Political and policy outcomes IDEAS OF THE DEFUNCT ECONOMIST DEMOCRATIZATION OF SCIENCE POWER POLITICS OF THE BRAHMIN LEFT Political Myth Political Myth Political and policy outcomes Political and policy outcomes 1 2 3
  54. 54. slide 54 US academics were once politically diverse Eitzen, D. S., & Maranell, G. M. (1968). The political party affiliation of college professors. Social Forces, 47(2), 145-153. Spaulding, C. B., & Turner, H. A. (1968). Political orientation and field of specialization among college professors. Sociology of Education, 247-262. 1959-1964
  55. 55. slide 55 By 2009 science (AAAS members) lacked political diversity Source: Matt Nisbet, Northeastern University (2011) 9 to 1, Ds to Rs 1.5 to 1, Ds to Rs
  56. 56. slide 56Source: Matt Nisbet, Northeastern University 2009
  57. 57. slide 57 Has science become a partisan issue? Ross, A. D., Struminger, R., Winking, J., & Wedemeyer- Strombel, K. R. (2018). Science as a Public Good: Findings From a Survey of March for Science Participants. Science Communication, 40(2), 228-245.
  58. 58. slide 58 Is there risk in scientific authoritarianism? In many democracies, including the US and UK, migrants are required to pass government-sanctioned civic tests in order to gain citizenship. So, in this vein, why not give all voters a test of their knowledge? This would ensure minimum standards that should lead to higher-quality decision-making by the electorate. The message this would send is that voting is not just a right, but one that has to be earned. Such testing would not only lead to a better-informed electorate, but also to voters who are more actively engaged. Dambisa Moyo, 2 May 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/02/dem ocracy-crisis-plan-trump-brexit-system-politicans-voters
  59. 59. slide 59 Disenfranchisement based on educational attaintment? “excluding the bottom 80 percent of white voters from voting might be just what poor blacks need” J. Brennan, Against Democracy, 2016 Hobbits Hooligans Vulcans
  60. 60. slide 60 Planetary boundaries as political mythmaking? “Ultimately, there will need to be an institution (or institutions) operating, with authority, above the level of individual countries to ensure that the planetary boundaries are respected. In effect, such an institution, acting on behalf of humanity as a whole, would be the ultimate arbiter of the myriad trade-offs that need to be managed as nations and groups of people jockey for economic and social advantage. It would, in essence, become the global referee on the planetary playing field. “ Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Robert Costanza, 2011. How Defining Planetary Boundaries Can Transform Our Approach to Growth, Solutions:2:59-65. https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/how-defining- planetary-boundaries-can-transform-our-approach-to-growth/
  61. 61. slide 61 Are scientists as partisan social media warriors helping? Suhay, E., Bello-Pardo, E., & Maurer, B. (2018). The Polarizing Effects of Online Partisan Criticism: Evidence from Two Experiments. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23(1), 95-115. “online partisan criticism likely has contributed to rising affective and social polarization in recent years between Democrats and Republicans in the United States, and perhaps between partisan and ideological group members in other developed democracies as well”
  62. 62. slide 62 Populism as perceived status threat “the 2016 election was not about economic hardship. Instead, it was about dominant groups that felt threatened by change and a candidate who took advantage of that trend by positioning himself closer than his opponent to Americans’ positions on status threat- related issues.” Mutz, D. C. (2018). Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201718155.
  63. 63. slide 63 “I love the poorly educated” Donald Trump Feb 2016 “In this election, education represented group status threat rather than being left behind economically. Those who felt that the hierarchy was being upended—with whites discriminated against more than blacks, Christians discriminated against more than Muslims, and men discriminated against more than women—were most likely to support Trump.” Mutz, D. C. (2018). Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201718155. See also: Grossmann, M., & Thaler, D. (2018). Mass–Elite Divides in Aversion to Social Change and Support for Donald Trump. American Politics Research, 1532673X18772280.
  64. 64. slide 64 Does political myth matter? Yes. “A symbolic consensus rests on the mutual attribution of significance to a symbol and on common affective sentiments toward it—not on agreement about its substantive meaning. A symbolic consensus is viable and can sustain the political community only as long as the content attributed to politically significant symbols is not brought into question. People may be talking past one another when these symbols are used, but this is of little consequence as long as their referent is, for most, remote, abstract, ambiguously defined, or poorly understood.” Source: Elder, C., D., and R. W. Cobb. 1983. The political uses of symbols. London: Longman Publishing.
  65. 65. slide 65 We laugh at, mock and disenfranchise the passengers wanting to decide when gets to fly the plane at some risk https://twitter.com/NewYorker/status/908660195869515776 @WillMcPhail
  66. 66. slide 66 War on science? Anti-Science? Post-truth?
  67. 67. slide 67 Has the US public lost confidence in the scientific community? scientific community
  68. 68. slide 68 Public support (US) for academics is unstable http://www.people- press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan- divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/
  69. 69. slide 69 Can the highly educated play power politics and win? (No)  We are rich, and getting richer  We are in control of governments and bureaucracy  We have written “political myth” for centuries  … but we are small in numbers, US case below  Democracies ultimately run on votes, not advanced degrees  We engage power politics at some risk  Trump, Brexit may reflect status concerns among broad parts of the electorate  We can work to allay those concerns or heighten them, our choice
  70. 70. slide 70 We are the hegemon at AAAS 2016
  71. 71. slide 71 An outline of this talk  The struggle to reconcile expertise with democracy is eternal  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  I’ll suggest three modes for how experts contribute to the authoring of political myth:  Defunct economist (~600 BC to present)  Democratization of science (~1970s to present)  Power politics of the Brahmin left (~2005 to present)  I’ll critique the considerable risks of the rise of experts as a more conventional, interest-based political movement
  72. 72. slide 72 Thank you 🙏  pielke@colorado.edu  Blogs – http://thehonestbroker.org – http://theclimatefix.wordpress.com – http://leastthing.blogspot.com  About me: http://rogerpielkejr.com/ 2007 2010 2011 2014 2016

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