Science as a Way to Obscure
In her opinion column, Anjana Ahuja stated that deeming a certain position dubious is a way to avoid the discussion of any topic, especially given most people are not familiarised with scientific jargon as a consequence of not dealing with it on a regular basis. She cites an example involving the British government and the topic of introducing blank packages to discourage smokers in Britain. When the topic hit the media, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to distance himself from the issue by suggesting that further evidence was needed to prove that the measure of switching regular cigarette packages for blank replacements was in fact an effective one. However, there are several scientific studies which have proven that plain packets do reduce the appeal of smoking for consumers.
Origins of the Scientific Discourse
A paper published by Columbia University and written by Karen Litfin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, commented on the importance of science in politics in modern societies. Since the dawn of the modern era, we have based human development on the belief that science can improve everyone’s life. Scientists have struggled to make science objective and independent of any power relation, but it has been used in many occasions as a tool to channel propaganda. Today, science is very important for politicians, as people have come to expect they take informed decisions, based on statistics and studies. During times of political uncertainty, decision makers resort to experts for orientation, based on the belief that decisions which are taken based on scientific knowledge are less likely to fail.
The problem begins when the discourse of science is used to manipulate what should be discussed by deeming an issue unscientific, or even to disregard opposite (albeit valid) positions and concerns.