Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Distinctions - Science, policy, politics

For local consumption.
Talking with a friend this morning (thanks, friend!), I think the human tendency toward dualism might have sent us talking past each other. Here's how I see the distinctions between science, policy and politics:

Science: Determining what is. Involves
a) doing the science, aka investigation
b) understanding the science: street smarts about interpreting reported results of the investigations of others.

Policy: What we should do about it. Based on the science, it also involves:
a) values (e.g. whether it's desirable for human civilization to continue, whether it's ok to revert to human lives being nasty brutish & short)
b) risk analysis (evaluating alternative policies based on outcome spectrum-of-probability and hazard; includes the implications of uncertainty)
c) technology (what tools are at our disposal); created via engineering
d) economics (how to tweak the playing field to most effectively deploy (and encourage) the technology at our disposal); makes use of ecology and psychology

Politics: What policies are feasible, and how one can go about getting them implemented. Involves stuff I should be interested in, but, alas, am not.

Conclusion: Policy isn't science, but it also isn't politics; one can talk about policy without becoming enmeshed in politics.

1 comment:

Anna Haynes said...

Speaking of policy, there's a wonderful climate policy exchange in Grist today - Can’t greens and libertarians just get along on climate?
More like this, please.