The Rights of Science and the Rights of Politics: Lessons from the Long-form Census Controversy

Michael Yeo


One of the main issues in the long-form census controversy concerned the relationship between science and politics. Through analysis of the arguments and underlying assumptions of four influential and exemplary interventions that were made in the name of science, this paper outlines a normative account of this relationship. The paper nuances the science-protective ideals that critics invoked and argues that such conceptual resources are needed if science is to be protected from undue political encroachment. However, in their zeal to defend the rights of science critics claimed for it more than its due, eclipsing the value dimension of policy decisions and failing to respect the role of politics as the rightful locus of decision making for value issues. An adequate normative account of the relationship between science and politics in public policy must be capable not only of protecting science from politics but also of protecting politics from science.


science; evidence; values; policy; politics; census

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