“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcom in “Jurassic Park.”

With the extreme politicization of major issues like climate change, vaccines and the teaching of evolution in schools, scientists (including myself) are clamoring to learn more about how people receive and respond to scientific information. Our ostensible goal is to ensure that important decisions, whether made in our homes or halls of government, are informed by the best available science. However, it is essential that we learn to recognize the kinds of questions that science can, and cannot, answer.

In this struggle to ensure that science is not pushed out from its well-earned place in our polity by those with political or economic motivations to do so, there is a risk of coming on too strong. Indeed, some scientists and science advocates are responding to those who question or deny scientific advice with what can only be described as a haughty imperialism that embodies a mistaken assumption that social problems can or should be solved by science alone.

A growing cohort of science celebrities, such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, prolific science communicator Bill Nye and climatologist Michael Mann, have mobilized in defense of science, leveraging their reputations to weigh in on many of the world’s trickiest policy debates. Tyson, for example, narrated the controversial genetically modified organism (GMO) advocacy film Food Evolution. He also argued that Earth needs a “Rationalia”: a society where policy is based solely on “the weight of evidence.”

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