Ask them what, though? And which ones? To be clear, I’m not exactly disagreeing with you. This is me using your remark as a jumping off point for further discussion, hence the new topic.
People seem to want scientists (and think tanks) to answer policy questions for them, but the kinds of questions fundamentally answered by the scientific method are often far too narrow to offer clear policy guidance. Scientists can tell you that global warming is happening and predict what the consequences will be, but not necessarily make prescriptions about what to do about it with any authority, because prescriptions require a value judgement. These judgments require a certain level of buy in from the populace that isn’t alway there.
Scientists are just as driven by ideology as anyone else. When left to their devices scientists and engineers simply impose (often in good faith) their ideology on us. Water treatment is an example of this: Technocrats make decisions about the relative risks you take with tap water because no one else cares. We cannot overly rely on scientists to craft policy. Instead, lawmakers need to be able to assess scientific issues more critically themselves…and more importantly to know when the issues don’t have clear answers. The debate over the precautionary principle is not something you can leave to the scientists.
The proof of coffee’s carcinogenicity is actually objectively pretty thin, but this study is (as any one study always is) not the last word by any means. This doesn’t, in itself, answer the question of whether coffee should carry acrylamide warnings. It shouldn’t, but not on the basis of this study. I don’t even know whether this study is well-conducted.
This is sort of unrelated, but I’ll connect it back, I promise. I glanced over the paper and it looks fine, but I literally cannot possibly critically analyze the sheer volume of studies thrown at me by the media–and that wouldn’t be an issue if the media wasn’t so fucking bad at reporting studies. And BB is not better at it, on average. This is me, every time I read a headline about a study:
And yet that runs counter to the breathless tone of most news reports. So when I do downplay the significance of a single study or the findings of a panel, people accuse me of being motivated by some bizarre political or ideological animus, or rather hilariously, of being anti-science. The way this connects back to policy is: People genuinely believe, based on the way studies are reported, that scientists know more than they actually do at levels of higher certainty than are merited by the evidence, and calling on scientists is not always helpful if the question you’re asking them is formulated to elicit or confirm a specific policy answer, since scientists often operate from imperfect knowledge. Where assigning too much certainty to scientists really hurts is illustrated in this status I posted a while back (replace FB with “the media” and you lose no meaning):
I’m certainly not arguing the other extreme, where scientists are politically irrelevant. I’m just offering some food for thought on the interrelationship between science, the media, and policy.