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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Open Letter to Mr Junker, President to be of the European Commission – On the Matter of Chief Scientific Advisor, and Anne Glover in Particular

Dear Mr Junker,

I note that you have deferred the decision on whether you will or will not have a Chief Scientific Advisor.

Whether or not the post of Chief Scientific Advisor is needed is something for public discussion, as is the process by which such a post should be filled, along with the means of monitoring the appointee’s activities. Improvements to policy making processes are also something worth discussing, but one should not look to the natural sciences for insights here (notice I did not say evidence), but to philosophy of science and to cognitive psychology, particularly the work of the Nobel Prize winning, Professor Daniel Kahneman, who would I think, be amused by the very naïve remarks that scientists make about being objective, rational, unbiased, independent, and so forth. Here one can observe that there is nothing more irrational than claiming to be rational, and nothing more subjective than claiming to be objective. And as for claims of independence, there is nothing stranger than humans and their beliefs (as Kahneman has often observed)!

The above apart however, there is still the matter of Anne Glover, and the fact that there is such a matter, is in itself a warning sign that there is something fundamentally wrong, both in terms of the way the post of Chief Scientific Advisor is constituted, and with the person currently holding the post.

If you were to seek a means to reinforce the image of a lack of democratic process and values in the institutions of the European Union, and to communicate the message (to a public that is increasingly hostile to the European Union) that its institutions are outdated and rooted in values from times long past, then you need look no further than Anne Glover. She is a person who can be well summarised as, a case study in the failure of democratic processes and values. Some will also say she is yet another step along Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

She stands as a warning of worse to come – the re-emergence of technocracy. And, as for the “best” evidence of her technocratic inclinations, one needs look no further than her public pronouncements and the comments that she has associated herself with:

“People can have their own opinions, but not their own facts.”
“Science is currently not in the room when the decisions are made and this cannot continue like this.”
“Political decisions should be based on science.”
“In an ideal world, in which policies were based on peer reviewed scientific data, policies would evolve but would not change from one government to another.”
“If it is politically acceptable to decide not to base a final policy on data and science, this should be transparent and clear.”

What she is saying is this: “When people are allowed to choose, they choose wrongly. Only science is in possession of the truth and this truth will be determined by scientists based on current orthodoxy. Scientists know what is best for the common good. Politicians should do what scientists tell them to do because scientists are in possession of the truth, which is something only they can understand. Those that are in possession of different truths are wrong and suffering from a deficit. Science has a right, that no other group has, to participate in the government of the people, and scientists do not have to be elected to these governing roles through democratic process. When politicians do not do what they are told, they have to tell the people that this is the case.”

Does this sound familiar? It should do, but in case it does not, consider the above as it might have been written in times long past:

“When people are allowed to choose, they choose wrongly. Only religion is in possession of the truth and this truth will be determined by priests based on current orthodoxy. Priests know what is best for the common good. Politicians should do what priests tell them to do because priests are in possession of the truth, which is something only they can understand. Those that are in possession of different truths are wrong and are heretics. Religion has a right, that no other group has, to participate in the government of the people, and priests do not have to be elected to these governing roles through democratic process. When politicians do not do what they are told, they have to tell the people that this is the case.”

You would not accept theocracy so why accept technocracy? They are but the same things, but with different names, and they both lead to the same disastrous outcomes.

Anne Glover is a technocrat. She is not just proposing a fundamental change to the government of the people without their consent, but has used her office to undertake a political campaign to implement these changes, in a way that is only possible in an undemocratic institution such as the European Commission. See now why so many people want to leave the European Union? It is a matter of preserving democracy, which, in the end, is far more important than the economic prosperity of a society that already has more than its fair share of material things.

Paraphrasing another technocrat from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the infamous, discredited, and highly deluded, Frederick Winslow Taylor (the father of the nonsense that is Scientific Management) Ann Glover is advocating the following:

“Under our system of government we will tell politicians what to do and how they are to do it and any improvement they make upon the instructions given to them will be fatal to success.”

The above is a system of government that can only be maintained through authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which is Hayek’s point, and the model for this is the Soviet Union. It is one thing to use information (not evidence) provided by science to support policy development, quite another thing to place science in a central role that seeks to usurp the wishes of the people in the name of some elusive concept known as the truth, which history demonstrates is usually nothing more than dogma, based on one groups misguided belief that they have more legitimacy than others.

Mikhail Gorbachev, in the dying days of the Soviet Empire said, “the party does not lay claim to being the sole bearers of the truth.” It was a telling remark about the nature of Communism and its silent narrative that it was the sole source of the truth. What Anne Glover is laying claim to, is that science is the sole bearer of the truth and in doing so she is laying the foundations, through her naivety, for the beginnings of a Soviet style European Union – a technocracy. Have we learned nothing from the tragedy that was the 20th century? Apparently not!

It is within your power to stop this slide towards technocracy. History has shown us that there are none so dangerous as those who think they know the truth. Anne Glover is such as person, so send her back to where she belongs, to her micro world of the laboratory. Future generations will thank you for this, for it only takes the right social, economic, and political conditions – the ones that Western Civilisation are currently creating – for Anne Glover’s way, and worse, to look like attractive options. Now is the time to act to stop this happening.

And to conclude, I make a summarising comment upon the nonsense of Anne Glover and her beliefs, by paraphrasing Thomas Paine:

“One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of having scientists involved in policy making, of having chief scientific advisors who believe that they have a right to govern and who are able to reveal the truth, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn such people into ridicule by giving us an ass for a lion.”

Sincerely yours,

Paul T Kidd

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