Science, politics, and our civil war

I watched 15 minutes of Fox News tonight, primarily because my in-laws are here. I tend to avoid cable news because it makes me anxious and angry. I think that's intentional (aka worry porn) and it serves the power interests of this country to keep the people angry and divided. I did make this point to my co-viewing family and except for my wife (bless her), it did not go over very well.

The segment was about the politicization of science, which is actually a decent thing to talk about. But of course it was mainly about how a lot of policies, in particular in Democratic bastions like Ivy League colleges and large metropolitan cities, are nonsensical and too drastic. For what it's worth I agree, especially given how mild omicron is turning out to be. But that doesn't get to the heart of the issue.

There's no such thing as a "scientific" public policy. I remember an essay in the early 2000s that made this point quite effectively. But from where I'm sitting, it feels like there is no science that isn't political anymore. Data collection is skewed. Data analysis is skewed. Interpretation is influenced. And certainly policy recommendations are highly influenced by money and power.

I don't have a good recommendation about de-politicizing science. Any attempt at building a central institute that can serve "pure" scientific results to policymakers is bound to fail. Perhaps the best thing we can do is punt decision-making as locally as possible (see "subsidiarity"). The pandemic feels very different in Texas than e.g. in New York or San Francisco. This is probably a good thing.