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Lunch Lecture @FRIAS Reflections with Armin Grunwald

Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Philosophy of Technology
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analytics (ITAS), KIT

Armin Grunwald - Scientific policy advice: myths and truths about facticity for shaping the future
When Jul 22, 2020
from 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM
Where Zoom-Meeting
Contact Name
Attendees Universitätsoffen / open to university members
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Scientific policy advice: myths and truths about facticity for shaping the future

In times of fake news and manipulation of public opinion, many voices call for higher public acceptance of facts and data, also for the field of scientific policy advice such as technology assessment. In my lecture, I will deconstruct this view as an ideology in itself by demonstrating that neither data nor facts are automatically objective. Often, the opposite is the case because data are selective and have been collected for dedicated purposes and by dedicated and often value-laden methods. Even if facts and data were objective, they cannot replace normative reasoning about the way where to go in the future. In non-determinist systems, as society is, the future cannot be derived solely from data necessarily belonging to the past. Humans have the capability to develop ideas of the future also against data of the past: future is more than the data-based prolongation of past facts. Therefore, scientific policy advice must observe the situation described by the data available but also must critically reflect on their possible normative and interest-based bias, and has to think beyond the data.

The talk is part of the Lunch Lecture Series 2020 “Science and Society in a Postfactual Era”

The values of science are under attack. The world is increasingly turning to science and technology for solutions to persistent socio-economic and developmental problems. Yet, at the same time, many people – from concerned citizens to powerful stakeholders – do not trust science. Public trust is suffering as falsehood is presented as ‘alternative facts’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’, and the ‘dual use’ and unintended consequences of emerging technologies as artificial intelligence or genetic engineering is perceived as an increasing risk.  The resulting devaluation of science-based reasoning is a problem for the scientific community, but also for democratic societies that rely on rational discourse and evidence-based decision-making. At the same time, social movements, such as Fridays for Future, emphasize the importance of scientific facts and hope to induce social and political change with evidence-based policies.

From a normative perspective, attention and adherence to the ethical and legal standards of science are crucial for creating trust in science among policy-makers and the general public. Furthermore, obstacles to the diffusion of scientific knowledge and its applications such as scientific illiteracy and lack of access to new technologies jeopardize the potential of science to help successfully address the grand challenges of our times. In this Lunch Lecture Series we will (1) map how science-based reasoning and decision-making is threatened and (2) how emerging digital technologies fuel postfactual and irrational discourses in society as well as (3) explore concepts and ideas, such as the ‘right to science’ that could strengthen science as a central tenet for democracy, human flourishing and sustainable development.