Discussing Lynda Walsh’s book Scientists as Prophets: A Rhetorical Genealogy (2013) with the author, focusing on Robert J. Oppenheimer. We also read a speech from 1950 he gave called “The Encouragement of Science.” What is the role of the science adviser? Should scientists just “stick to the facts,” or can only someone with technical knowledge make decisions about what to actually do? After leading the atomic bomb project during WWII, Oppenheimer thought that scientists needed to become politicians themselves to make sure that the power of technology wasn’t abused. Lynda’s thesis is that the social role of preacher-scientists like Oppenheimer is comparable to that of ancient prophets like the Oracle at Delphi: they serve to bring about political certainty by providing knowledge inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Listen to Lynda’s introduction and Learn more.
End song: “Request Denied,” by Mark Lint.