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Whenever I hear someone say that it is time to undertake a fundamental restructuring of our institutions, I shudder. It isn't that I doubt the usefulness of ever changing things around; on the contrary, I think that is frequently a very good idea. It's just that the suggestion is made so often, and it can't possibly be implemented as often as it is made. Consequently, calls for large-scale institutional change must be approached with a healthy skepticism.
In recent years, a regular subject of calls for change has been the set of processes we use in making scientific decisions, or more properly, our processes for deciding issues of public policy that include a scientific dimension. In his provocative and insightful contribution to this Symposium, Joel Yellin has joined this particular chorus calling for reform. Most of his ideas are well-reasoned and constructive, and I freely endorse them. But one part of his analysis—concerning the phenomenon sometimes known as Scientific Separatism—calls for brief comment. Professor Yellin is a Non-Separatist, which is to say that he does not believe that it is possible to break these complex policy decisions into separate scientific and political components. The Separatists, who consider that course both possible and wise, also believe that our institutions of government make scientific decisions badly and that, as a consequence, restructuring is necessary.
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