Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies
What is science’s proper role in democracy? A half-century ago the answer seemed plain: to “speak truth to power.” Science and politics existed in separate spheres of facts and values. Science took its remit directly from nature and needed to pay no dues to politics. Politics, for its part, had to take facts on board in order to make sound decisions for the good of the people. Politicians did not have to concern themselves with how science discovered facts: It was sufficient that scientific facts were reliably available when needed to clarify options or justify action.
Today, the question of science’s role in democracy is much more murky, as Mark Brown, a political theorist, observes in this timely exploration of the relationship between natural knowledge and political action. Science in Democracy appears at a moment when trust in institutional authority seems to be waning. Even science’s ability to set a baseline of reality that politicians dare not ignore has been called into question. These are good reasons for taking a closer look at how science functions in democracies. Brown’s title promises to do just that, but to those interested in improving the quality of science in policy, the book offers less than it promises.
Jasanoff, Sheila. "Science in Democracy: Expertise, Institutions, and Representation." Review of Science in Democracy: Expertise, Institutions, and Representation, by Mark B. Brown. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118.7, July 2010: A312.