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Public Science in Liberal Democracy

Public Science in Liberal Democracy

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 360
  • Book Info
    Public Science in Liberal Democracy
    Book Description:

    This timely and thought-provoking collection makes an important contribution to the literature and will appeal to anyone interested in scientific research and its political and philosophical ramifications in democratic society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8472-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Jene Porter and Peter W.B. Phillips
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: The History, Philosophy, and Practice of Public Science
    (pp. 3-20)

    Although the history of science, the sociology of science, and the philosophy of science are well-established fields of inquiry, the concept of ‘public science’ is relatively new. In the eighteenth century, public policy issues were dominated by questions of constitutional framing; in the nineteenth century, constitutional questions were joined by the issue of the proper role of government in the economy. It was not until the latter part of the twentieth century that science became a dominant player in the formation of public policy questions.

    Science and its products have always had a public good character to them. Whether contributing...

  6. Section One: The History of Public Science in Theory and Practice

    • 1 The Element Publicum
      (pp. 23-39)

      Modern science relies on trust, even if that trust is often grossly ill informed. On that very trust rests foundations of credibility, status, moral authority, and claims to massive amounts of funding, both private and public. Yet, trust is not self-generated. It is, by definition, granted, an acknowledgment of expertise in a public world. The difficulty we have before us, however, is the dissonance between the apparent incoherence of much of modern scientific thinking – think of global warming, especially as it resonates among the broad public – and, at the same time, numerous obstacles of access to science in an age...

    • 2 Science, Democracy, and Philosophy: From Marginal Achievements to Impossible Opportunities
      (pp. 40-59)

      Taking relations between science, democracy, and philosophy as a theme, let me begin by erecting a scaffold for reflection on these three key elements in European history. Consider a generalized historicophilosophical narrative that goes something like this: In the Greek and Roman worlds philosophy was the source of knowledge (as opposed to opinion) about both the good and nature. In the medieval period philosophical knowledge or reason about the good was displaced by theological knowledge or revelation, but philosophy remained as the basic source of knowledge about nature. This is why Aristotle, the archetypical natural philosopher of antiquity, after his...

    • 3 Public Geoscience at the Frontiers of Democracy
      (pp. 60-83)

      In common with science, the American form of democratic government functions best in an atmosphere of open, tolerant exchanges of ideas by an educated citizenry. From the earliest days of the nation, ‘geoscience’ has been a part of the U.S. democratic system. In the broadest sense, geoscience means the study of the Earth, the distribution of its materials, and the processes that modify these materials. The geoscience subdisciplines of geography (cartography), mining geology, petroleum and coal geology, and hydrogeology were essential in the early settlement and economic progress of the citizenry and contributed to the later manufacturing economy. Geoscience continues...

    • 4 Public Science, Society, and the Greenhouse Gas Debate
      (pp. 84-108)

      One place to start the debate about public science in liberal democracy is with definitions. TheConcise Oxford Dictionarydefinesdemocracyas ‘(a state having) government by all the people, direct or representative; form of society ignoring hereditary class distinctions and tolerating minority views’ andliberalas ‘favourable to democratic reform and individual freedom.’ One of the key defining features of a liberal democracy is a vigorous and open media, one willing to question the range of political, social, and scientific issues confronting society. We cannot address this theme without also considering the role of the media in communicating complex...

  7. Section Two: Solutions to the Problems:: Philosophic

    • 5 The Role of Humanities Policy in Public Science
      (pp. 111-120)

      Plato’s masterwork,The Republic, begins with a playful act of coercion, when Socrates’ friends force him into a conversation on the nature of justice. At the end of Book 4, after finally offering his definition of justice, Socrates tries to conclude the conversation. He is forced to stay, however, and to further explain his thoughts concerning the nature of the ideal community.

      This is the setting for Socrates’ account of what he calls the three waves – a series of suggestions, each more odd than the last, that he hardly dares mention, out of fear that they will seem ridiculous to...

    • 6 Science Studies Encounter with Public Science: Mertonian Norms, the Local Life of Science, and the Long Duré
      (pp. 121-134)

      When we talk about ‘public science,’ we must not confuse it with the related notion of the ‘public understanding of science’ (or ‘PUS,’ that ugly term used by British administrators and those earnest popularizers of received images of science).¹ PUS itself may have had its origin in the eighteenth century – with notions of the spread of ‘Enlightenment’ – right at the very time of the rise of ‘public science.’ The two were closely related, but in unexpected ways. Science, as we have seen in the works of Larry Stewart and Margaret Jacob, was public from the very start (Stewart 1992).


    • 7 The Democratic Deficit of Science and Its Possible Remedies
      (pp. 135-148)

      There is an old adage that goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Philip Kitcher, inScience, Truth, and Democracy(2001) brings forward as examples of brokenness the human genome project, the cancellation of the superconducting supercollider, and investigations of race and IQ. Martin and Richards (1995) bring forward the controversies over water fluoridation and over Linus Pauling’s theories about vitamin C and cancer. At one level, all that these examples demonstrate is that the experts disagree and that funding sometimes goes to and sometimes is denied to one project or the other. They do not by themselves show...

    • 8 New Atlantis Reconsidered
      (pp. 149-173)

      The relationship between liberal democracy and modern science, heretofore symbiotic and thus relatively harmonious, shows clear signs of becoming increasingly troubled in the twenty-first century, affecting both entities in the relationship. The public’s interest in promoting certain sectors of scientific research while restricting and even forbidding other sorts of research; the lure of fame and fortune implicit in the economy’s ever-increasing dependence on commercializing technology; the growing electoral salience of public policy issues that involve scientific knowledge and theorizing, some of it highly speculative (as evidenced by an absence of unanimity among putative experts); the liability of such issues and...

    • 9 Expertise, Common Sense, and the Atkins Diet
      (pp. 174-193)

      Different kinds of scientific expertise bear different kinds of relation to common sense and to lay concerns. Particle physics, for example, is hard to understand, and much of it is counter-commonsensical. But, for the most part, that is not a problem for the laity, just because it is not an expert practice that they care much about. Experts may regret this state of affairs; they may recommend new initiatives in ‘the public understanding of science,’ but, for present purposes, it is more pertinent to understand why there is such a lack of concern. In such cases, the public let experts,...

    • 10 The Role of the Public Academic Scientist in the Twenty-first Century: Who Is Protecting the Public Interest?
      (pp. 194-204)

      For much of the twentieth century, scientists working in public universities and research institutes provided a pool of experts capable of offering specialized expertise on scientific and technical issues and advice on how developments in those areas might affect the public good. Such scientists were, in general, held in high esteem as protectors of the public interest in scientific and technical matters and were sought out as expert resources for public policy formulation. Scientists at public universities and other institutions conducted scientific experiments and the results were disseminated at conferences and in technical literature, where the results became ‘public domain.’...

    • 11 The Science Literacy Gap: Enabling Society to Critically Evaluate New Scientific Developments
      (pp. 205-212)

      The pursuit of science and knowledge is generally regarded as essential for innovation and technology advancement. Scientific progress has served society’s needs well throughout history, sometimes with associated risks and health or environmental consequences, but broadly speaking the impacts have been positive (Mokyr 2002). But with advancement comes change. Change fosters fear. Fear generates headlines. Facts become blurred by beliefs, and beliefs become powered by politics. Fear exploited by ideological groups is a proven weapon against innovation. Science today is a battleground, and society desperately needs to become better equipped to understand and make judgments about new technologies. But how...

  8. Section Three: Solutions to the Problems:: Institutional

    • 12 Science and Policymaking: The Legitimation Conundrum
      (pp. 215-238)

      It is important to consider the contribution of science to public policy in liberal democracies. Does science have a privileged role in public policy? If it does, does such a role permit science to retain its ‘independence and objectivity’? Both questions invite us to reflect on the appropriate relationship between science and democracy and the circumstances under which science can contribute to legitimate governing in liberal democracies. What image of science and what role for scientific knowledge in the public policy process will enhance legitimate policymaking?

      There is no single answer to this question. Rather, societies divide within and across...

    • 13 Bringing Balance, Disclosure, and Due Diligence into Science-Based Policymaking
      (pp. 239-263)

      The questions posed in this book refer to the science guiding public policy as ‘public science.’ Chris Essex and I, in our bookTaken by Storm(Essex and McKitrick 2002) used the term ‘official science’ to mean much the same thing. These terms are new, but the situation is not – the underlying problem of incorporating esoteric advice into public policy is as old as society itself. Recall, for instance, the story from Genesis chapter 41 about Pharaoh and his ominous dreams. Seven dying cows appear and eat seven fat cows; then seven shrivelled heads of grain swallow up seven plump...

    • 14 Technoscience in an ‘Illiberal’ Democracy: The Internet and Genomics in Singapore
      (pp. 264-277)

      The issue of the relationship between science and democracy has been tackled by sociologists in a number of different ways. Given the fact that democracy is an essentially contested concept with various models and practices associated with it, this state of affairs is hardly surprising. Up until ascendancy of the social constructivists, the concept of science itself was essentially uncontested and perhaps even uncontestable. There was little disagreement about the essential ingredients of science and, a few dissenters notwithstanding, not much debate over the desirability of the constant and continuous advancement of science which was unambiguously equated with human progress....

    • 15 Retaining Scientific Excellence in Setting Research Priorities: Lessons from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
      (pp. 278-294)

      The accelerated pace of globalization has stimulated dramatic changes in trade, finance, intellectual property, information and communications technology, health, environment, and security. The opportunities and threats brought by globalization spill over national borders, and addressing the challenges they pose often requires collective action at the global level. In the absence of a global government able to establish and enforce policy regimes and rules and to collect taxes and raise revenues, global programs are increasingly being used to organize global collective action – particularly to meet the growing demand for the provision of global public goods.

      Global programs are partnerships whose members...

    • 16 Toward Centres for Responsible Innovation in the Commercialized University
      (pp. 295-312)

      In hisScience, Truth, and Democracy, philosopher Philip Kitcher (2001) proposes ‘well-ordered science’ as the ideal to which the organization of the research enterprise should aspire. Distinct from government by ‘vulgar democracy,’ in well-ordered science a highly informed public, coupled with a public-spirited research community, sets overall research priorities. As a philosopher, Kitcher avoids a detailed comparison of this ideal to the reality of making science policy in the contemporary United States. But he does imply that reality falls short of the ideal on both counts of informed public participation and unselfish scientific service. He therefore recognizes the needs, respectively,...

    • 17 Citizens and Biotechnology
      (pp. 313-334)

      Two of the most enriching concepts to ever capture the imagination of scholars are science and democracy. Both have received tremendous attention and, arguably, success as the dominant forms of thought in the world today. Science has justified the massive expenditure of government funds worldwide, and democracy has justified a range of interventions, including trade embargoes, international sanctions, and even war. Interestingly, both, in the rhetoric of their practitioners, are considered constantly refined ideals, but ideals nonetheless.

      To comment on either requires a tremendous measure of expertise, but to comment thoughtfully on both is an even more daunting task. Despite...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 335-343)