Science vs. Politics

«Science Leads.»
Doctor Who

Looking back at the relationship between science and politics, I wonder whether we ever had a rift between it. Or whether there were always these undue influences on science.

I mean, about two decades ago, I did read about a study about (sexually) abused children. The researchers wanted to find out how they coped with it over their life. Without going into the details of the study (read it ages ago, IIRC), the good news was: many did cope very well. They lived full lives.

Should be happy news. But no, politicians (congress, IIRC) gave a statement condemning the research. Reason being (IIRC) that the research could be used to argue that sexual abuse is not bad.

Yeah, I get the idea of protecting children from sexual abuse, but I also think it’s important for those to whom this … has happened, to know that this … has not to define their life. Also, the «arguments» were purely political (IIRC).

I remember I found it very strange to read that statement (resolution?). First, that politicians would comment empirical results. Second, that they would be against telling people that they lives do not have to be ruined. Third, that anyone would think to use these results as argument for sexually abusing children. I mean, in the same vein you could use any study on reconstructive surgery as an argument for beating the crap out of child molesters. After all, most of their bodies could be reconstructed, somewhat.

And looking from that time to today, yeah, there are cases in which politics tried to influence science. Actually, they do it all the time, by determining the projects for which research money is offered. You see the political winds clearly.

And lately, yeah, with Covid. Instead of using the usual way to deal with pandemics (Hendersen, IIRC):

1. Keep the politics out of it (the reaction must not be captured by a political part or become the playball of politics).
2. Keep the public calm (I would add «but not by trying to lie to them»).
3. Focus on therapeutics.

They try to control the situation and use it for political gain. They attempt to silence scientists and critics in general. We have regulatory capture in which agencies cannot do their function but are controlled/strongly influenced, e.g., by big pharma.

Hmmm, perhaps a few scientific disciplines should focus on how to stop this meddling. I wouldn’t hold my breath for research money, though.