My current read is “The War on Science” (Otto). I have found it therapeutic and recommend the book to anyone trying to understand what seem illogical and misguided decisions in the world. There may be reasons other than ignorance or self-service to consider. Before you read further, I must offer the warning that I have yet to reach the chapter that offers remedies for these various problems.
One of the more interesting arguments offered concerns the political process and why politicians seem to ignore the best evidence from social or physical scientists. The author begins by noting there are very few scientists in the house or senate (3 if I remember correctly). In contrast, he notes that 60% of these office holders have law degrees. The problem revealed by these data may be the mindset familiar to those with training in these professions. According to the author, lawyers work from a position and identify evidence in support of this position. Contradictory evidence is ignored or in some way deflected. From a charitable perspective, this is what lawyers do. They assume that the system seeks the truth and it is not their position to do so. They fashion a narrative as best they can from the facts that offer a reasonable fit and defend this approach by arguing that opponents should be able to prevail if they are wrong. Scientists, in contrast, are trained to start with the data and build an account that best fits the data. The system of science (publication, etc.) encourages the modification or even the contradiction of positions taken previously in light of new data. In other words, you can receive credit for proving that you were wrong. The goal is to build the best model/theory possible given the total evidence available.
I like this explanation because it makes sense, but the explanation does little to make me more optimistic. The explanation identifies “useful” defense mechanism against the acceptance of personal responsibility. It seems far too easy to hide behind party affiliation or the supposed wishes of my constituents than to take and argue a position based on logic and evidence. Is the logic in these hedges the assumption that the party or the majority must understand the truth? Writing this last sentence, I am reminded of Gore’s book title – An inconvenient truth. Are truths that are inconvenient in the short or long term ignored in favor of a favored narrative?
The truth of this reality may be one of those truths that cannot be accepted and a different narrative is necessary.
(My apologies to the author if I have incorrectly summarized or extended his position.)