Expertise and the educated layman
John Derbyshire on National Review Online in response to a post on political parties and Intelligent Design, goes deeper:
The problem with science is that it's a gnosis -- a body of esoteric material you need to spend years mastering. It is therefore inevitable that the people who do master it become a gnostic elite; and it follows from that that any public issue involving science can, and usually does, degenerate into an elite vs. masses squabble.
I don't know any way out of that, but I do wish we could do a better job of showing people what a proper scientific attitude _is_, a thing which I think can be grasped by anyone, even without any specialized training in a particular science.
This speaks to what may be among the trickiest features for a technologically advanced pluralistic society to negotiate: while we certainly need oversight of specialized elites by well-rounded, critical-thinking laymen, this oversight needs to be infused with appreciation for what specialization requires and for the levels of analysis it allows. I myself depart from many libertarians in (consciously) allowing many of my values to be shaped by the expertise of others. For example, I don't take the primary job of a music or film critic to be informing be of stuff that I would like today (although that function is certainly nice), but rather showing me ways of liking new things, and new ways of liking old things. Similarly, but with graver import, I think that the primary job of an economist is not to provide me with ammunition for positions I am already determined to hold.
On a societal level, however, I'm worried about how well this balance will hold, and what the consequences (short- and long-term) might be if it further degenerates into "elite vs. masses" warfare.