Before graduate school, I worked for the National Science Foundation for the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program. My time working for this program has left me looking for opportunities to learn more about how philosophers can work with the STS disciplines, as well as interested in the role of philosophy should play in society more broadly.
Disputants in public policy controversies — and public controversies involving science more generally — rely on a number of deeply mistaken and unrealistic ideas about science:
- they ignore the social context of science and the social responsibilities of individual scientists and the scientific community;
- they assume that science is “intellectually pure” and value-free;
- they criticize political opponents who fail to live up to this value-free ideal,
- while simultaneously ignoring failures among their own partisans;
- they treat honest admissions of uncertainty as signs of weakness and untrustworthiness; and
- they assume that scientific disciplines do not interact with each other.
In short, the public work with a compartmentalized, bureaucratized, and technocratic image of science that developed in the middle of the last century. We believe that this image has contributed to serious failures of public policy in the last few decades, such as the endless controversies about vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change.
The purpose of our group was to both explore challenges to this image in the scholarly literature and as engage with people and organizations who are challenging it in practice. We read works by historians, sociologists, policymakers, as well as philosophers.