Kenneth P. Green and Hiwa Alaghebandian analyze the authoritarian turn science has taken since the early 1990s and conclude,
If science wants to redeem itself and regain its place with the public’s affection, scientists need to come out every time some politician says, “The science says we must…” and reply, “Science only tells us what is. It does not, and can never tell us what we should or must do.” If they say that often enough, and loudly enough, they might be able to reclaim the mantle of objectivity that they’ve given up over the last 40 years by letting themselves become the regulatory state’s ultimate appeal to authority.
Three years ago in “Servants of a Twisted God,” I noted the priestly and idolatrous character science was taking on, and observed,
Yet if scientists are still our priests of the god of knowledge, priests ought to be pure and chaste. Their purpose is to speak for their god, to represent him (or it) disinterestedly and accurately. When priests seek other goals—especially power—their authority soon dissolves….
[Matthew] Nisbet and [Chris] Mooney would have scientists do more of this: to present persuasive arguments rather than pure science. They want scientists to spend less energy on telling the public the full truth, and more on being politically effective. They are encouraging scientists to follow the fatal path that too many clergy took in the past: to become priests of power, servants of a twisted god.
Green and Alaghebandian see the same thing continuing to happen:
While nobody would dispute the value of a good PR department, we doubted that bad or insufficient PR was the primary reason for the public’s declining trust in scientific pronouncements. Our theory is that science is not losing its credibility because people no longer like or believe in the idea of scientific discovery, but because science has taken on an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by pressure groups who want the government to force people to change their behavior.
I predicted in 2007,
The public will lose its religion over this.
Though these two authors do not employ the same metaphor, they certainly seem to agree.
Also posted at Thinking Christian.