Science needs both to create new knowledge and also to disseminate it effectively so that that knowledge has an impact–so that it changes the world in a positive way. Why on earth would these two important ends be set in opposition to each other?
Why should “new knowledge” be expected to “change the world in a positive way“? Such an assumption bears the determinism of the faithful (and is rather more utopian at that). Perhaps, then, Mooney believes that science needs to be more like production: some root up ingredients; others mix them palatably, and yet further white-coat wonders box ‘em up and advertise.
Working out how something’s going to “change the world“, however, and deciding whether this would be a benefit or otherwise, isn’t a particularly scientific task. It’s fraught with speculations that may be impossible to test and, therefore, it’s subject to all the biases of prejudice. It hinges on more variables than a patient mind can grasp. It is, in other words, a downright sloppy procedure: one that lurches between science, ethics, theory and plain guesswork.
Sure, this might not be a problem if you’ve, say, devised a gadget that makes vegetables sprout in chocolate-flavoured tablet form. If you’re researching explosives, though – toxins; AI; nanotech – the responsibility might be somewhat heftier. Scientists engage themselves with clear-eyed study of the world; perhaps they need to be visionaries, ethicists and policymakers as well, but let’s not just blithely add it to their job descriptions.