“All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence,” Neil deGrasse Tyson said in a tweet Wednesday morning.
Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 29, 2016
He proposed a new country called Rationalia which would have the single line constitution. Sound good?
Sure, until you really think about it.
Politicians already misuse science, construe evidence, or outright ignore evidence to get what they want. Do we want scientists doing the same in their studies if they think their findings could influence laws based on their own beliefs.
Imagine a homophobic scientist. Yes, I am sure some exist, and all it would take is a group of them to confirm each others studies that being gay is somehow harmful and a suddenly you have laws prohibiting homosexuality.
Imagine the same for the pro-life movement. Climate change.Science should exist outside of politics, in its most pure form. Politicians should do their jobs and reach out to scientists to better understand the evidence to form laws, but scientists should not be tempted with faking data to pass public policy. I mean, this is already what Republicans think scientists do. As well as many liberals who are against vaccines and GMOs.
Popular Science summed it up well:
Neil deGrasse Tyson is not advocating for a return to the days of phrenology, when generally accepted science was used to support racist agendas, but his Rationalia puts a burden on science that it cannot bear: to work, it must be immune to the passions of the day, promising an objective world and objective truth that will triumph over obstacles.
In a hypothetical world where a single person (let’s call him “Neil”) decided policy based on precisely measuring the weight of evidence, how that person selected evidence would matter a great deal, and would likely come down to values.
Let’s not make our already rather anti-science government worse. Let’s replace the anti-science politicians, instead of putting scientists in charge.
So yes, evidence should guide our policies, but let’s not just leave it up to scientific evidence to decide what is best for everyone.