Science and the Pandemic – “Politics cannot be an executive body for science alone”

Science and the Pandemic – “Politics cannot be an executive body for science alone”

Swiss historian Caspar Hershey is among the experts. He teaches general history at St. Gallen and is interested in the history of the intellectual and expert in the history of science. Among other things, he wrote a book about scandal experts

The intellectual begins his career as a moral authority at the latest at the beginning of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. French writer Emile Zola has publicly criticized the condemnation of the Alsatian commander Alfred Dreyfus. Speak boldly. Historian Hershey says that experts are no longer on the margins of society today.

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Experts are everywhere

“Certainly not when we see how experts are everywhere in society today. Experts actually have the right to have a clear opinion in a very limited area, which is their specialty. And then of course they also have to deal with politics and the media, which is a real feeling of privileged participation.” …) What we have actually seen over decades is the role of experts, that experts have become more assertive, especially in the media when it comes to current affairs and developmental instructions for taking action, especially in crisis situations.

Hershey admits that scientific expertise is required in uncertain situations, without which we would not be able to act responsibly.


“This is not a problem at all. I see a problem but to a very limited extent where the roles are mixed. (…) In my opinion, it only becomes difficult if you assume the role of scientific advisers to the government, who are privileged if you combine this with frank criticism of politics.” Reality puts pressure on political leaders and people’s representatives on both sides and legitimizes the role. Especially in liberal democracies, there are real issues that need discussion.

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Kaspar Hershey’s objection is that a negative scientist’s warning has become an effective intervention. He criticizes what he calls a “dedicated expert”.

“It only becomes problematic when an institution or body has an informal advisory mandate to answer policy questions. And when experts in the media appear as warnings about politics or as advocates for policy, they play two roles for you. On the one hand, you are still a formal advisor, but who On the other hand, you are already involved in government policy for legitimization purposes. “

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Politics is not an executive body for science

Besides science, there are many other legitimate reasons for making political decisions. It is no longer possible to clearly distinguish between the field of value-free science on the one hand, and monetary policy on the other hand. “This is, in fact, a paradigm that no longer does justice to the current cooperation between science and politics.” Hershey insists on the functional description of the science in a modern democracy that is important to its existence.

“Scientific expertise is very important. Without it, we would not go through a crisis, but there are always other legitimate, normative, or interest-related considerations that we need to take into account that make clear that politics cannot be an executive body for science alone. And if politicians can do it in an argumentative debate. With scientific experience, I don’t think science is too skeptical of its desire to crack down on the expert system.

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Hershey would like to separate the roles more clearly. In short: the largest amount of scientific expertise possible, but the least possible amount of political legitimacy. Science cannot be the only authority to legitimize political decisions. It is subject to taxation, and experts are also important targets of populist defensive responses. So it is really dangerous for science to make itself the only authority to legitimize politics itself. The game comes into play. It could be. The use of science through politics. “

From a critical writer to a contemporary diagnostic sociologist

Historian Hirschsee sees a different kind of progress. Representatives of social theory are gaining in importance. “What amazes me, especially in the pandemic, is that this very general view of things actually comes with force from sociology, and that, like people at the time, it somehow slips into the role that writers are actually doing. Intellectuals, they’re being used to. Play. “

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