, Volume 191, Issue 12, pp 2751–2765 | Cite as

Are there limits to scientists’ obligations to seek and engage dissenters?

  • Kristen Intemann
  • Inmaculada de Melo-MartínEmail author


Dissent is thought to play a valuable role in science, so that scientific communities ought to create opportunities for receiving critical feedback and take dissenting views seriously. There is concern, however, that some dissent does more harm than good. Dissent on climate change and evolutionary theory, for example, has confused the public, created doubt about existing consensus, derailed public policy, and forced scientists to devote resources to respond. Are there limits to the extent to which scientific communities have obligations to seek and engage dissenting views? We consider the two main criteria that have been offered for what constitutes “normatively appropriate dissent” or the sort of dissent that ought to have the opportunity to be heard and taken seriously. Many have argued that dissenters must (1) engage in uptake of criticism against their own views and (2) share some standards for theory appraisal. We argue these criteria ultimately are unsuccessful.


Scientific dissent Uptake of criticism Shared standards Diversity 



We would like to thank Boaz Miller and Sharon Crasnow for providing helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This paper also greatly benefited from the comments and suggestions of three anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History & PhilosophyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  2. 2.Division of Medical EthicsWeill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

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