Rationalia VS the Abuse of Science

Folksonomies: science governance

Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Rationalia

In Rationalia, the Constitution stipulates that a body of convincing evidence needs to exist in support of an idea before any Policy can established based on it. In such a country, data gathering, careful observations, and experimentation would be happening all the time, influencing practically every aspect of our modern lives. As a result, Rationalia would lead the world in discovery, because discovery would be built into the DNA of how the government operates, and how its citizens think.

In Rationalia, the sciences that study human behavior (psychology, sociology, neuroscience, anthropology, economics, etc) would be heavily funded since much of our understanding of how we interact with one another derives from research within subfields of these disciplines. Because their subjects involve humans, these fields are particularly susceptible to social & cultural bias. So the verifiability of evidence will be of highest concern.

In Rationalia, since weight of evidence is built into the Constitution, everyone would be trained from an early age how to obtain and analyze evidence, and how to draw conclusions from it. In Rationalia, you would have complete freedom to be irrational. You just don’t have the freedom to base policy on your ideas if the weight of evidence does not support it. For this reason, Rationalia might just be the freest country in the world

In Rationalia, for example, if you want to introduce capital punishment you’d need to propose a reason for it. If the reason is to deter murder, then an entire research machine would be put into place (if it did not already exist) to see whether, in fact, capital punishment deters murder. If it does not, then your proposed policy fails, and we move on to other proposals.

In Rationalia, if you want to fund art in schools, you simply propose a reason why. Does it increase creativity in the citizenry? Is creativity good for culture and society at large? Is creativity good for everyone no matter your chosen profession? These are testable questions. They just require verifiable research to establish answers. And then, the debate ends quickly in the face of evidence, and we move on to other questions.

In Rationalia, citizens would pity newscasters for presenting their opinions as facts. Everyone would have a heightened capacity to spot bullshit wherever and whenever it arose.

In Rationalia, a diverse, pluralistic land, you are free to practice religion. You would just have a hard-time basing policy on it. Policy, by most intended meanings of the word, are rules that apply to everyone, but most religions have rules that apply only to themselves.

In Rationalia, research in psychology and neuroscience would establish what level risks we are all willing to take, and how much freedom we might need to forfeit, in exchange for comfort, health, wealth and security.

In Rationalia, you could create an Office of Morality, where moral codes are proposed and debated. What moral codes would the citizens of Rationalia embrace? That is, itself, a research project. Countries don’t always get it right, of course. And neither will Rationalia. Is slavery moral? The USA's Constitution thought so for 76 years. Should women vote? The USA’s Constitution said no for 131 years.

If we learn later that Rationalia’s Constitution needs additional Amendments, then you can be sure there will be evidence in support of it.


Folksonomies: politics science rationality government governance


Abuse of Science in Politics

North Carolina provides a recent example of science-based policy. The science itself was a study of voting habits among the population of the state. In 2013, North Carolina passed new voting restrictions. To inform those restrictions, the legislature commissioned a study on voting habits by race, and then wrote into law a series of restrictions that specifically targeted African Americans. (Last month, a Federal Court struck down these restrictions, claiming that “the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”)

This was a science-informed policy: the legislature sought data, and then wrote laws based upon that data. The evidence, to those who voted for it, was fine. But what North Carolina discovered wasn’t any new avenue for freedom, but a better tool for repression. As the American constitution is set up, courts provide protections for minority groups against the will of the masses directed through legislatures. Weight of evidence alone isn’t enough to guarantee a win in a case.


Folksonomies: politics science