At the start of the pandemic the UK government made a lot of the claim that it was following the science in determining its course of action.
The general feeling was that this was a Good Thing. After all, science had been quick off the mark in identifying the virus and cracking its genetic code so wasn’t it generally a good idea to hand the tiller over to the scientists and trust them to steer us through the pandemic?
It is only on reflection that it becomes clear just how bad an idea this following the science is. In fact it isn’t even an idea - more a complete abdication of responsibility dressed up in a catch phrase.
Science, for all its potency, does not have a destination. How can we follow the science when the science has no idea where it is going? We might as well say we are following the law.
Which is not to say that there is no role for science and engineering in planning for a post-pandemic world. While government is forced to respond to short-term imperatives, the resulting disruption to economic activity presents an opportunity to initiate all sorts of ambitious longer term goals: the green economy, universal basic income, localisation, lifewide education, integrated health and social care.
Restructuring on this scale would call for significant levels of scientific and engineering input but the underlying vision is something that must be owned and initiated by a wide range of social institutions,
As it is, the government’s only discernible long-term goal is the restoration of the familiar, pre-pandemic, service-based economy with the role of science confined to little more than regulating the pace at which we are allowed to return to our old, unsustainable ways.