Is Science the Mirror of Democracy?

27essa.1.650 Even though I appreciate its spirit, I don't quite fully buy the argument. Dennis Overbye in the NYT:

When the new president went on vowing to harness the sun, the wind and the soil, and to “wield technology’s wonders,” I felt the glow of a spring sunrise washing my cheeks, and I could almost imagine I heard the music of swords being hammered into plowshares.

Wow. My first reaction was to worry that scientists were now in the awkward position of being expected to save the world. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

My second reaction was to wonder what the “rightful place” of science in our society really is.

The answer, I would argue, is On a Pedestal — but not for the reasons you might think…

It is no coincidence that these [value that are found in science] are the same qualities that make for democracy and that they arose as a collective behavior about the same time that parliamentary democracies were appearing. If there is anything democracy requires and thrives on, it is the willingness to embrace debate and respect one another and the freedom to shun received wisdom. Science and democracy have always been twins.

Today that dynamic is most clearly and perhaps crucially tested in China. As I pondered Mr. Obama’s words, I thought of Xu Liangying, an elderly Chinese physicist and Einstein scholar I met a couple of years ago, who has spent most of his life under house arrest for upholding Einstein’s maxim that there is no science without freedom of speech.

The converse might also be true. The habit of questioning that you learn in physics is invaluable in the rest of society.