Blog author: jballor
Thursday, November 17, 2005
By

Thomas Lessl, Associate Professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Georgia, talks about the “priestly voice” of science. He argues that “scientific culture has responded to the pressures of patronage by trying to construct a priestly ethos — by suggesting that it is the singular mediator of knowledge, or at least of whatever knowledge has real value, and should therefore enjoy a commensurate authority. If it could get the public to believe this, its power would vastly increase.”

Lessl makes an important point about the effect of this on popular perceptions of science: “The priestly character of scientific rhetoric has to do with the need to identify science with the most essential human values by making it a world view — by creating a public culture based in scientism. The best known example of this approach to scientific communication in recent memory would be that taken by Carl Sagan. Perhaps more successfully than any other popular writer of the last century, except perhaps H. G. Wells, Sagan was able create the sense that history has a scientific destiny.”

Read the rest of the interview with Dr. Lessl here.


  • http://marinerministries.org/wordpress/?p=9 marinerministries.org

    HT:Acton.org

    But if the scientific culture can convince us that deep down we are all scientists, or at least that we should all aspire to this elite realm of knowing, then science might enjoy patronage for life. Priestly rhetoric, in other words, tries to recreate society in science’s image.

  • http://blog.lewrockwell.com/lewrw/archives/009317.html LewRockwell Blog

    I also recommend this interview with my former colleague Tom Lessl, a professor of speech communications at the University of Georgia and expert on the rhetoric of science. “[S]cientific culture has responded to the pressures of patronage by trying to construct a priestly ethos — by suggesting that it is the singular mediator of knowledge, or at least of whatever knowledge has real value, and should therefore enjoy a commensurate authority. If it could get the public to believe this, its power would vastly increase.” What an apt description of many aspects of neoclassical economics! (HT: Acton PowerBlog)

  • http://www.jaredbridges.net/?p=699 TruePravda

    The Acton Institute’s Powerblog points to interview with University of Georgia communication professor Thomas Lessl, who notes that:
    …scientific culture has responded to the pressures of patronage by trying to construct a priestly ethos â…

  • http://blog.acton.org/index.html?/archives/572-Faith-in-Science.html Acton Institute PowerBlog

    To expand the “scientist” as “priest” metaphor a bit, you may find it interesting to read what Herman Bavinck has to say on the fundamental place of “faith” with respect to all kinds of knowledge, including not only rel