Living With the Limits of Our New Clerisy’s Knowledge

R. Fernandez,  PJ Media,  2021.

We are living in a strange time when reason has fallen short of human expectations and there is, once again, pressure to place our trust in faith. Leighton Woodhouse hit the nail on the head when he argued that we have appointed a New Clerisy to rule over us, not because they are infallible but to save ourselves from the tide of uncertainty that seems to have engulfed our once seemingly confident global world. Unfortunately, the new clergy seem too fallible to take on trust. They flip-flop on expert advice and one scientist denounces the other on YouTube. Once things seemed more cut and dried. Once we were at the End of History. Science could predict the future more or less and the public hoped with increasing accuracy. Ever since the 17th century, the expectation was that the scientific revolution would supply the answers. As the frontier moved from the simple, computable problems of the early 20th century to complex systems — of which biotechnology, artificial intelligence, social networks, and eco-engineering are prime examples — they began to involve the management of uncertainty because it was difficult to control all the variables involved. The care with which some scientists have approached the subject of gene drives, a biological technology as powerful as “gain of function,” illustrates the challenges of dealing with uncertainties.

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