“Science and the Public: Rebuilding the Relationship”
Department of Philosophy
University of Waterloo, Canada
Science and the public seem more alienated from each other than ever. With flat scientific literacy levels and rising distrust of particular scientific claims (e.g. regarding the safety of vaccines or the causes of climate change), scientists are frustrated at the public’s intransigence, and the way in which politicians use public distrust as an ideological tool to block political action. Is there any hope for rebuilding the relationship? Or are we captive to our worldviews and thus giving reasons is irrelevant? This talk will suggest positive steps we can take to rebuild the relationship, based on a clearer understanding of the nature of science, the proper roles for ethical and social values in science, and the political terrain in which we all must operate. With such an understanding, we can see which arguments should be made and which structural changes we should seek. A range of empirically testable options opens for us, an improvement on the current apparent stalemate.
Heather Douglas is the Waterloo Chair in Science and Society and Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Her work focuses on the science-policy interface and understanding science in democratic societies. She received her Ph.D. from the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has published numerous articles as well as a book, “Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal”, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009). She is a Fellow of the Institute for Science, Society, and Policy at the University of Ottawa and a Professor of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, where she convenes the Science & Health Policy Research Cluster.