The battle of hubris: can science save South Africa?

SCIENCE is often held up as a panacea for South Africa’s problems: the data will tell you whether the country can afford free university tuition or how to conserve water, science will instruct us in how to curb the obesity epidemic spreading among our citizens, or create the employment vital to quality of life.

But an international meeting of science academies in Hermanus this week said while science is important in decision-making, it cannot fix the world’s problems – but decisions and policy are poorer without it. “Policy is rarely determined by evidence alone,” said Peter Gluckman, chief science adviser to the prime minister of New Zealand. Public opinion, political ideology, fiscal objectives and obligations, and diplomatic issues form the foundation of government policy. “But better policy is made if robust scientific evidence is used.”

The challenge of science advice, Gluckman said, is hubris. “Scientists think they have all the answers, think they are above citizens, while policymakers think they don’t need scientists when they have Wikipedia.”


For more, find the analysis — originally published by Independent Newspapers — here.

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