Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Ideology, science, and public policy
  1. Nancy Milio
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor N Milio
 University of North Carolina, Carrington Hall no 7460 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460, USA;

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

While science alone cannot answer moral dilemmas, the best available knowledge is essential in judging how public policy affects people and habitats.

Ideologies—strong beliefs based on untestable assumptions—are the antithesis of science. Whether economic (the “invisible hand of the market” will solve social inequities “in the long run”), religious (“we” hold the sole truth of a divine entity), or political (our way is the best governance for assuring liberty and justice), these kinds of widespread beliefs are acceptable in individuals, indeed their right to espouse. Ideologies are weak, even counterproductive, as guides to government policy.

Science, basic or applied, does not claim to be “truth”, only to reveal plausible, testable hypotheses, methodologically acceptable, transparent, and replicable. It is an essential ingredient to responsible and responsive policymaking, not the sole criterion. It can help develop, implement, evaluate, and uncover potential consequences of policies, thereby clarifying the moral and economic choices facing decision makers. Ideologies preclude the input of new information or compromise with non-believers.

Americans are experiencing the results of ideologically driven policies. The Bush Administration’s 2006 Budget Plan is a statement of its beliefs, allocating over $2.5 trillion accordingly, with sharp impacts on the health and welfare of Americans, the environment, and much of the world. One theme is promotion of mainly a fundamentalist brand of Christianity. The administration believes “faith based” programmes—now receiving $2 billion yearly—are cheaper, because they rely in part on church volunteers, and are more effective, because of their religious commitment. Yet, no federal effectiveness studies have been done …

View Full Text

Linked Articles