Robert McNamara for President!

In Seed Magazine’s endorsement of Barack Obama, they make this rather startling claim:

“Far more important is this: Science is a way of governing, not just something to be governed. Science offers a methodology and philosophy rooted in evidence, kept in check by persistent inquiry, and bounded by the constraints of a self-critical and rigorous method. Science is a lens through which we can and should visualize and solve complex problems, organize government and multilateral bodies, establish international alliances, inspire national pride, restore positive feelings about America around the globe, embolden democracy, and ultimately, lead the world. More than anything, what this lens offers the next administration is a limitless capacity to handle all that comes its way, no matter how complex or unanticipated.”

I suppose the “methodology and philosophy” of science (whatever that may be) may serve as a productive metaphor for some aspects of governance. In particular, routine and rigorous assessment of the outcomes of policies and subsequent adjustments of those policies seems like a good idea that roughly corresponds with “the scientific method” of doing things. There is also a tradition of adhering to the observable truth, without regard to personal or institutional consequences, which is expressed to a remarkable, albeit incomplete degree in scientific institutions. Politics could hugely benefit from adopting such a valuation of truth.

But governance is about so much more than facts. It’s about values. It’s all mixed up with equity, and justice, and consent, and consensus, and the lack of consensus, and figuring out just what the hell our goals for our society are anyway. I’m not sure exactly what “science” is, but I’m pretty certain it is not a way of governing human communities. I think it’s strange that the Seed editors would even make such a claim. Robert McNamara for president!

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