Scientists and World Order: The Uses of Technical Knowledge in International Organizations

By Ernst B. Haas; Mary Pat Williams | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Knowledge and Action: Rationalism and its Assumptions

In this chapter we offer a summary of views expressed by prominent scientists claiming a sweeping mandate for inserting their knowledge into the act of political choice. In the aggregate, the thrust of this view proclaims the duty of scientists to assure nothing less than the survival of man in the face of challenges brought about by the misuse of both science and technology.

Science is thought capable of suggesting what ought to be done in order to assure man's survival; it can tell us about the limits on political choice. Put less sweepingly, science as knowledge at least tells us what must not be done if we are to increase the chances of survival. Science and engineering as method limit choice by telling us what can be done. These methods attempt to specify ends and to enumerate the means; they also seek to mesh ends and means in such a way as to maximize efficiency, speed, and magnitude of impact. How will this be done? Experts will increasingly advise the politicians who make the crucial choices. In a global society in which access to knowledge is deemed crucial, the possessors of that knowledge will be in a position to insert their views into the processes of decision-making. In the aggregate, their beliefs constitute a model of world order geared entirely to the objective of social survival, as distinguished from the currently accepted model of nation-state survival. It is mankind--and not a subset of the species--which is to survive.

The increasing importance of scientific and technological experts might not suggest any particular world order model if it were not for the style of thought which tends to be typical of many such scientists. These scientists implicitly or explicitly stress the "connectedness" of processes and structures; this, in turn, leads to universal imperatives derived from the presumed uniformity of nature. Therefore, such scientists tend to argue, man's survival in the biosphere imposes new and different kinds of political

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