Science, Expertise, and Democracy

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Weinberg, Justin; Elliott, Kevin
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The combination of government’s significant involvement in science, science’s significant effects on the public, and public ignorance (of both politics and science) raise important challenges for reconciling scientific expertise with democratic governance. Nevertheless, there have recently been a variety of encouraging efforts to make scientific activity more responsive to social values and to develop citizens’ capacity to engage in more effective democratic governance of science. This essay introduces a special issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal on “Science, Expertise, and Democracy,” consisting of five papers that developed from the inaugural Three Rivers Philosophy (TRiP) conference held at the University of South Carolina in April 2011. The pieces range from a general analysis of the in-principle compatibility of scientific expertise and democracy to much more concrete studies of the intersection between scientific practices and democratic values in areas such as weight-of-evidence analysis, climate science, and studies of locally undesirable land uses (LULUs).