Full article: The New Atlantis
This is the best and most thorough “as is” assessment of the state of science today. It takes an historical approach and reviews how we got here.
Daniel Sarewitz is a professor of science and society at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation and Society, and the co-director of the university’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. He is also the co-editor of Issues in Science and Technology and a regular columnist for the journal Nature.
Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.