During the last few months Brian Leiter has agitated against what he usefully calls "epistemic egalitarianism." See here:
I always think of philosophy as an epistemic egalitarian enterprise--you are as good as your last argument.
It's not only because I am a huge fan of wikipedia that I am reserved about Leiter's trust in the experts and their authority. Let me explain, but, first, epistemic egalitarianism (EE) should not be confused with Bush-ite science-bashing. EE is not anti-science, it is just very skeptical of claims from authority.
What *in the context of public policy* could be said in favor of EE's stance? (Within a scientific community EE rules in some limited sense.)
1. Scientific authority can get willfully abused (Nazi medicine, eugenics, etc). But let's leave this aside.
2. A. Scientific expertise is fairly narrow and it can easily be misapplied in public policy domains. B. Few scientific experts are trained in neighboring fields as to judge the interactions among their expertise and other experts.
3. scientific expertise gets selected for by interested parties, including (alas) self-selection.
4. scientific experts are normal rent-seeking agents.
5. When scientific experts get it wrong in matters of policy they do not tend to run the costs of their errors.
Note that none of these (2-4) points mean we should not seek expert advice or base policy on scientific knowledge. (The fifth one may incline us to be very cautious about scientific experts.) But points 2-4 do encourage transparency of the sort that EE insist on in order to let (skeptical) non-experts weigh in on and scrutinize expert authority in decision-making processes. (Incidentally, there are good feminist, stand-point theorist's arguments for this position.)