Well he is on to something and has a good point.
There is a real problem with the public's perception of science. From a sociological point of view, it very much does resemble a priestly cast like religion.
Let me give you a rather mundane example. Transit is a big issue in my home town of Toronto. Now there is a very real debate to be had here in terms of subways, rapid bus, LRT, regional rail...
But there is a certain class of citizenry that takes it's beliefs from the people who 'claim' science by stating the answer is so obvious because it is in this REPORT.
You will often hear in Toronto for example this report clearly says that light rail is the answer. Here's the catch... ever read into these 'reports'
Allow me to summarize:
Create a bunch of weights (subjective criteria)
- average travel time (x %)
- people near stop ( y %)
- cost ( z %) ...
Then do the calculation and come to a conclusion. The problem is you basically already know the answer by choosing your weights.
For example, in light rail versus subway, the real choice in the reports is actually based on people near a station. Light rail in their report using shorter stop spacing which means more people near transit. Subways, typically have fewer stations/fast travel time, but of course have less people near a station. You might have to walk more.
Again, a perfectly reasonable debate that can occur based on what you value or what you think is best or what you can afford.
But there is this undeniable group of people who decide to adhere to a report, unaware of what is actually in the report... how things were weighted, unaware that most of it is basically subjective based on the values assigned in the weighting process, unaware of the restriction of options, etc.
But again, no need to have a discussion or admit a simple difference of opinion. Afterall, a study showed it is the best option, and you must just be anti-science if you disagree with it.
And yes, it is very hard to know the context of each study without actually delving into the details. It is very much like religion in the sense that the average person gets their understanding from a pastor/organization of some kid.
science gained a great reputation largely because it had little power. Sure, I'll use science to investigate the law of gravity...
But now 'science' is being invoked on how to spend billions in healthcare, transit, decide the taxation policy, manage human made systems like the economy...
In my view, science will not cure politics... politics will infect science.
The more people see 'science' being invoked into all these subjective areas, the less they are likely to believe the institution of 'science' in other areas.
From a layman point of view, it is the same body that tells one global warming is an urgent problem and that light rail must be chosen over subways.