A long time ago the church and the state were inseparable. In our time, is the same true for the sciences and the state? Does the state encourage scientific (and thus technological) developments and does science influence the state to police the state in a scientific way? For sure many efforts are made by the state to impose the scientific ideology on its citizens to ensure that for future generations the ideology will not vanish into thin air. And what about the concept of the panopticon, in wich the connection is very tight and even gave us new sciences. By the way three of the very few realizations of a panopticon are made in Holland, the country where I live. All three are prisons (wich gave birth to criminology) and exact copies of one another.

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    Hhhhm... not sure if it's site policy but I personally prefer less editorialising... 'If so that would be a very undesirable situation' seems a little didactic and puts me off what is otherwise an interesting question. Might benefit from some more details, too. Could you give details on any political or politically related situations which may have prompted your question, perhaps? Commented May 12, 2016 at 11:43
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "hand in hand". Religion and the state had very specific relationship, in that (1) the state/rulers used religious authority to prop up their legitimacy; (2) religion used the state power to impose itself on citizens, both visavi competing religions; and visavi adherence of its worshippers to the life rules of the religion; (3) In some cases, religious hierarchy obtained political/social/economic power due to #1/#2. ...
    – user4012
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:28
  • ... and "Sciences" is way too broad. There's a major difference between relationship between the state and algebraic geometry on one hand; the state and particle physics on the other (the latter needs much funding); and the state and various malthusian believers in various branches of science.
    – user4012
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 13:30
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    "The church" is a institution. "Science" is not. So this question isn't clear at all. Also, your comment about it being undesirable has no context what-so-ever. So we can't even respond to that.
    – user1530
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 15:30

3 Answers 3


Just for a little history, there were two ways in which the government controlled religion. The first was the Establishment of religion, or the direct subsidization, which occurs still in the U.K. with the Church of England. The second is through the prohibition of other, competing religions. Obviously, this is still an issue in places like China or Saudi Arabia, and is an open question in Germany with Scientology.

If the sciences, natural or otherwise (there is no such thing as an exact science), had a relationship with government like churches did in the past it would take one of these two forms. In order to answer the question, we should therefore look at funding, and at prohibition on research topics.


The best data exist for the U.S., so I will rely upon that, but anecdotal evidence suggests that similar patterns hold across the OECD. While the Federal government is a major source for funding, it is far from the most influential. Furthermore, there are multiple agencies funding different, and even sometimes opposing research. Non-government research funding from endowments, private universities, foundations, and corporations, to name a few. In democracies, there is no 'establishment' of a 'set science.'


This form of relationship was common in the Soviet Union, but has died out for the most part. China, and a few other authoritarian countries, maintain more direct control on what is allowed to be studied, but even China has abandoned the idea of "Marxist" science, for the most part.

Two possible exceptions to this bear mentioning. Speech codes exist at a number of universities in the U.S.. These restrictions on speech can be seen as a prohibition on certain kinds of research, and there is anecdotal evidence that faculty and researchers self-censor to avoid running afoul of the dominant ideology. However for the most part, these codes are local or cultural and, as far as I know, are never nationally imposed.

Many countries in Europe have laws against holocaust denial and some in the U.S. have advocated using anti-corruption and racketeering laws to prosecute Climate Change skepticism. Both of these would be examples of prohibitions on certain research. For the most part, the laws against holocaust denial are of such limited scope, however, that they do not affect most research agendas whatsoever—after all, there aren't many topics or research which touch on the factuality of the Holocaust, or which might be advanced by problematizing it. Given the broad reach of subjects related to climate change skepticism, including but not limited to policy, biology, chemistry and physics and many organizations which fund them, if any government were to actually start prosecuting 'denialists' using RICO laws, it would be a much more intrusive prohibition, and would be the most significant attempt to directly control the sciences by democratic governments to date.


For the most part, there is not an analogous relationship between the sciences and the state in the modern era, in democratic countries. There is enough funding and a free enough research environment that nearly any agenda has a chance to flourish. Even in non-democratic ones, the relationship is not particularly strong, and a lot of good research has come out of less free locations like China.

There are, however, movements that could signal a shift in that relationship that would change the answer. Whether or not that would change the relationship to be exactly like the ancient one between church and state remains to be seen.

  • I agree there is no such thing as an exact science. But are government decisions based on science? Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:31
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    That's a completely different question, and an unresolved one at that. My experience and perception have been that politicians decisions are driven by interests. They like to use 'science' as a justification for their decision, but what politicians accept as science is mostly driven by their ex ante preferences and interests. Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:36
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    I honestly don't know what you are talking about. What is this thing of 'worldwide culture' and competition with 'natural cultures'? I'm not being cute or ironic. You are using words I understand, but for the life of me I don't know what you are referring to or what you are trying to say. Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:30
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    You provide the evidence of a meta-control structure, and I'll assess it in terms of the modern relationship to government and science. Otherwise, you're just speculating, at best. Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:52
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    @descheleschilder I guess for me to understand I need to seem some explanation of what 'natural cultures' means. Can you provide an example of a 'natural culture'? You are using uncommon terms and not providing clear definitions. It's very hard to follow your logic. (Also, if you just mean 'scientists', then just say that. The superfluous and flowery language is likely hindering your point--hence the language barrier :)
    – user1530
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 21:01

Like anything else, the sciences, be they 'hard' or 'soft' sciences, physical or social, can be controlled by whoever has the means to control information and manner in which is received. This is primarily a matter of what are known as information systems, and may be either physically, philosophically or systematically coercive in nature. However, it is worth noting that it is not necessarily the democratically elected public representatives nor even their executive, judicial or administrative branches which necessarily hold power...

Anyone who has the means to create and/or disseminate information may act to sway the sciences even if one believes such to be based on wholly objective criteria. At the widest possible level one can even begin to influence the very paradigms on which science functions...

We can, for example, question the very idea that a 'double-blind' trial even exists, or that it is possible to isolate for specific conditions, or that such isolation is useful in the real world. On other levels we could use the media, and manipulate it in various ways, so scientists feel unconsciously drawn towards certain subject matter and are moved to explore the world and its properties in different ways. On another level still, if we find ourselves in a position of directly coercive power (say, your supervisor at university while you do a PhD, or your lecturer's boss, who decides if she gets paid or not...) then we can just say 'no, you can't look into this, look into that instead...'

So yes, government can affect the sciences in the ways you outlined, but so can most people in most situations, where they have the will to do so. The degree to which they are able to, however, is a complicated thing to chart. Though the Katz centrality may give you some ideas in this regard.


Many consider the 'social sciences' to be little more than political indoctrination or expoundiation of ideology. For example, in university it is not unique to have social science professors directly support one form of ideology while directly attacking another. The 'hard sciences' ( which require verifiable testing) are immune from ideology.

  • In theory, but in reality, hard sciences can be mired in ideological politics as well.
    – user1530
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 15:32
  • Would you call the belivers in "climate change" "social" even though they pretend to be "hard science" followers? Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:06
  • Could you put a little more detail into this answer? At the moment that seems to be present in your answer is: 'some people have opinions; sometimes science is affected by ideology'. I would like to feel like I'm learning something important as I feel the original question touches on a subject the implications of which are both deep and wide-ranging. Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:12
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    @sabbahillel no idea who that question is addressed to, but climatology is a hard science. Studies written to try and argue against it fall into the soft sciences due to the complete lack of scientific rigor.
    – user1530
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 16:56
  • @blip I was talking about those who do not actually follow climatology in order to politicize the argument against "Man Caused Global Warming" by calling the actual scientists "Deniers" and change their arguments to fit whatever suits their agenda. Commented May 12, 2016 at 19:33

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