The economist Friedrich von Hayek said: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." At their best, the hard sciences serve a similar purpose. Statistics speak for themselves, Rationalians insist. But then again, so do four-year-olds, parrots and certain vending machines.
Science is a noble witness, but a nefarious judge.
Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently launched a hail of hubris across the internet with this tweet: "Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence."
Tyson's fantasy – a rational, science-based society – is nothing new. France's Reign of Terror near the close of the 18th century was sanctified in the revolution's Temples of Reason. Stalin and Mao murdered tens of millions in pursuit of Marx's scientific socialism. In the half-century before World War II, the world's greatest scientific minds conjured up eugenics – a dark pseudoscience of human breeding – and browbeat servile policymakers into a scourge of forced sterilizations in America and genocide in Europe. Nazi Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess stated – probably sincerely – that "National Socialism is nothing but applied biology."