The tension between professional expertise and democratic gover-
nance is an important political dimension of our time. Democracy’s
emphasis on equality of citizenship, public opinion, and freedom of
choice exists in an uneasy relationship with the scientific expert’s ra-
tional, calculating spirit. At times, especially in cases pertaining to
science, technology, and the environment, the tension breaks out into
open conflict. Think, for example, of the contemporary challenges of
the religious creationists to the scientific teaching of biological evolu-
tion, or the growing public rejection of genetically engineered foods.
Some writers even suggest that the division between those with and
those without expert knowledge will be one of the basic sources of
social and political conflict in the new century.
Often such conflicts result from the overapplication of scientific
rationality to public policy making. Concerns about the apolitical
character of technocratic modes of thought and action have emerged
as critical social questions in the second half of the twentieth century.
Fundamental to these concerns is the role of democratic participation
in an increasingly expert-driven society: do most citizens have the
knowledge and the intellectual wherewithal to contribute meaning-
fully to the complex policy decisions facing an advanced industrial
society? The question poses a challenging issue for democratic theory
and practice.
Everyone, at least officially, is for democracy. The call for citizen
participation is a prominent theme in both public and academic dis-
cussion. The United States, moreover, spends enormous sums of
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