Monday, January 09, 2012

Sciene and Sense

Walter Russell Mead on the problem of Waiting for the Science to Settle:

But what is clear is that in the here and now, questions about topics like fracking (and global warming, for that matter) that combine uncertainties based in the nature of the natural sciences with uncertainties rooted in the even greater and wilder uncertainties of social and political ‘science’ cannot be treated as purely technocratic issues. We do not have and cannot get the kind of certainty that one ideally would like for decisions of this kind.

Common sense is going to have to play a role and, because questions like these are political issues, the common sense of mass public opinion is likely to be decisive. Many important questions, and fracking is one of them, are likely to be addressed by common sense, split the difference, down the middle kinds of compromises. Compromises of that kind often turn out to be misguided, but so do technocratically pure decisions based on science that turns out to be settled.

It’s part of the human condition and it isn’t going away soon: we make important decisions without knowing all the facts. Sometimes, we make expensive mistakes. That’s reality, and we have to deal with it using common sense.