Science, Values, and Citizens
Science is one of the most important forces in contemporary society. The most reliable source of knowledge about the world, science shapes the technological possibilities before us, informs public policy, and is crucial to measuring the efficacy of public policy. Yet it is not a simple repository of facts on which we can draw. It is an ongoing process of evidence gathering, discovery, contestation, and criticism. I will argue that an understanding of the nature of science and the scientific process should be the central goal for scientific literacy, rather than a grasp of specific (often disciplinary) facts. With this understanding of science as a backdrop, the paper then turns to modes for citizen engagement with science. This paper articulates different ways citizens can engage with science, including four avenues for legitimate contestation of scientific claims. I then look more closely at contestation of science on the basis of values. That science can be legitimately contested by non-experts on a range of grounds means that science communication should not just aim at getting citizens to accept scientific claims, but rather to engage in a more robust two-way conversation about science.
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