In 2010, when Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal unveiled a $220 million scheme to use sand berms to block the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig, scientists opposed the plan, stating that it would do little more than harm local ecosystems. Even after the national commission investigating the spill declared the initiative a failure for having captured only 1,000 of the nearly 5 million barrels of oil believed to have gushed into the Gulf, Jindal did not relent, calling the statements "partisan revisionist history at taxpayer expense."

Jindal's response reflects an ongoing — and potentially catastrophic — shift away from science-based policymaking. This is not how I imagined 21st-century politics would be.

When I was a graduate student in the humanities in the 1970s, my mentors thundered against the coming technocratic state. Politicians, I was told, would soon listen only to experts who would sacrifice human values for the sake of efficiency, while ordinary citizens' voices would be drowned out.