Science, People & Politics, issue 1, Volume ii, Volume II, published 6th January, 2009.
Science as one of the humanities
"For we must not fail to observe, O Megillus and Cleinias, that there is a difference in places, and that some beget better men and others worse; and we must legislate accordingly. Some places are subject to strange and fatal influences by reasons of diverse winds and violent heats, some by reasons of waters; or, again from the character of the food given by the earth, which not only affects the bodies of men for good or evil, but produces similar results in their souls. And in all such qualities those spots excel in which there is a divine inspiration, and in which the demigods have their appointed lots, and are propitious, not adverse, to the settlers to them. To all these matters the legislators, if he have any sense to him, will attend as far as man can, and frame his laws accordingly."
If science is to be read as a synonym for fact, or science is to perceive its advice to the democratic structures as taking precedence over other types of advice then science runs the risk of undermining the very democratic structures it wants its expertise to advise. By claiming too much truth and too many rights for itself science could be in danger of forgetting that ministers are responsible to parliament not to science advisers, and that science is an ever changing feast. It could be in danger of saying we ought to arrange our power structures differently because we have truths that cannot be challenged and ministers must explain to us first, not to parliament, their decision. That has the ring of the bully boy and of nascent dictatorship.
Typos on url corrected in line with magazine policy within 24 hours of original publication overnight 5/6 January,2010. Dateline on this article should read 2010 not 2009.