On Monday, science advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to issue another of his myriad idiotic thoughtvomit missives:
Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 29, 2016
This is typical stuff from Tyson, who considers himself a genius, but also tweets things like this:
If Batman wants so badly to be a bat, he might be more intriguing if (like Marvel’s Daredevil) he were also blind, like a Bat
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 25, 2016
Bats are not blind.
People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) March 13, 2016
But his main point here is the same as that of most bureaucratic leftists: there is an intellectual oligarchy capable of determining Scientific Truth™ and ruling accordingly. So all you peons should bow before The Great And Powerful Oz.
Now, there are some issues on which scientific truth can be ascertained. But those issues rarely have anything to do with public policy. We all agree that gravity exists. That doesn’t determine, however, whether we ought to build a machine to defy gravity and shoot it at the moon.
More broadly, public policy should certainly be evidence-based, but we have a problem of judgment: what evidence counts? How heavily should we weigh certain evidence? How do we weigh risks? And what makes an astrophysicist more capable of doing that than anybody else? Why shouldn’t we all get a say? There is no evidence to suggest that one Big Man knows better than the aggregated knowledge of millions. In fact, precisely the opposite is true.
Take, for example, one of Tyson’s favorite issues, global warming. Let’s accept Tyson’s (incorrect) premise that global warming is nearly entirely man-made. Presumably Tyson would then say that we have to shut down vast swaths of industry across the world. But how do we determine the risks from global warming, when all predictions contain high levels of uncertainty? How do we determine whether a given measure actually stops global warming, and whether the risk of destroying the living standards of billions is worth the cost? More importantly, what gives Tyson the moral wherewithal to prize his own priorities (flooding 100 years down the road, for example) more than the poor person who loses his job and has his life shortened by decades to fulfill Tyson’s priorities?
There are no easy answers here, even where scientists presumably have a higher capacity for analyzing evidence. Values still determine risk assessment. And the people still have a right to a say in their own lives.
Now, move to crime. Or abortion. Or taxes. What magic Reasonking would be able to invariably determine the proper measures based on a proper calculation of the evidence? And why do I get the feeling that the Reasonking, in Tyson’s mind, would look exactly like Neil deGrasse Tyson?
The purpose of a republic is to avoid the Divine Right of Kings – or the Divine Right of Bureaucrats. Rationalia doesn’t exist not because rationality doesn’t exist, but because only the intellectually bigoted think that rationality isn’t impacted the value premises chosen. Rationalia, in practice, ends up looking like tyranny, from the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany to North Korea. No dictator ever thinks he’s irrational.
Perhaps Tyson’s tyranny would be benevolent. But historically, tyranny based on self-proclaimed rationality hasn’t been.
Perhaps if Tyson cared about that evidence, he’d stop promoting his own personal Utopia.