ABSTRACT

Begin with a bit of political theory, in this case the emblematic passage in the most consequential political theory text of the twentieth century, Carl Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political:

Words such as state, republic, society, class, as well as sovereignty, constitutional state, absolutism, dictatorship, economic planning, neutral or total state, and so on, are incomprehensible if one does not know exactly who is aff ected, combated, refuted, or negated by such terms. ([1932] 1996: 30-31)

What does this have to do with expertise? Plenty. Expert claims routinely “aff ect, combat, refute, and negate” someone or some faction or grouping of persons. When scientists proclaim the truth of Darwinism, they refute, negate, and whatnot the Christian view of the creation, and thus Christians. When research is done on racial diff erences, it aff ects, negates, and so on, those who are negatively characterized. This is why Phillip Kitcher argues that it should be banned (2001: 95). Some truths are too dangerous to ever inquire into, because, he reasons, even by inquiring we legitimate the negation that racial distinctions already carry. Expert claims also favor or disfavor policies or decisions that have factions or persons supporting them. When Robert Oppenheimer insisted on technical grounds that the H-bomb was unfeasible, his opinion disfavored, not to say negated and combated, the faction that supported the decision and favored the position of Stalin (cf. S. Turner 2003a). Claims about the human contribution to climate change favor the faction that believes in an extensive role of the state in regulating the economy. All these claims are “political.”