Invited Speakers

We are very pleased that the following invited speakers have accepted our invitation:

Kristen Intemann

Montana State University

Science and Values: Understanding Distrust of Predictive Models

Maya Goldenberg (2022, forthcoming) argues that warranted trust requires that scientists and scientific institutions demonstrate i) epistemic competency, ii) moral reliability, and iii) a commitment to the public interest. It is often assumed that public skepticism of predictive models (e.g. climate change impacts or COVID-19 models) is based on false beliefs about how models work or the reliability of predictions. Thus, modelers focus on how to improve the actual or perceived epistemic competency of models. I argue that there are a host of other social and ethical reasons why various communities distrust predictive models. These include distrust of how models are being used, concerns about what is (and is not) represented in models, lack of acknowledgement of the ways that values play a role in both modeling and policy decisions, and an awareness of the ways in which certain models can be (unintentionally) biased. Thus, addressing the lack of trust in modelling will require not just increasing the reliability or epistemic competency of models, but also developing models and communicating about them in ways that can promote moral reliability and wellbeing. How best to do this is considered, particularly given concerns (e.g. John 2018) that having scientists be open, transparent, honest, and sincere may actually exacerbate unwarranted distrust among those whose trust in experts is already “fragile”.

Tarja Knuuttila

University of Vienna

Surrogate Reasoning: Representational and Artefactual Approaches

Scientific practice revolves around an amazing variety of constructed objects rendered by different representational tools and media, and enabling inferences concerning the natural and social phenomena scientists are interested in. The philosophical discussion has approached the epistemic uses of such artefacts in terms of surrogate reasoning. Insightful though this discussion has been, it has remained limited in scope in that it has tended to fuse surrogate reasoning with representation. I argue for an alternative artefactual approach that widens the discussion of surrogate reasoning beyond representation and modelling, covering various kinds of scientific constructs and the different analogical and other relations among such objects, and between them and the features of natural and social systems. I use examples from synthetic biology and economics to exemplify the artefactual approach to surrogate reasoning.

Sabina Leonelli

University of Exeter

The Ethics of Empiricism

The datafication of society is said to be revolutionising how researchers investigate the world, resulting in improved scientific communications, faster data integration and analysis, and more reliable outputs. Big and Open Data exemplify the newest frontier of empiricism, and scientific success in extracting knowledge from such objects is often hailed as demonstrating the power of (increasingly automated) inductive reasoning: science as the collection and interpretation of facts about the world. Building on in-depth, long-term studies of data practices in the biological and biomedical practices, I review the multiple failures of Big Data empiricism, drawing attention especially to the intersection of moral and epistemic problems that this approach to research fails to address or even to recognise as significant, with severe implications for the reliability and the robustness of the knowledge thereby generated. The study of data practices clearly shows the crucial role of ethics within empirical inquiry, thereby calling for an alternative framing of empiricism focused on the limitations of data as research components and the unavoidable value judgements involved in using data as scientific evidence.

Anna Leuschner

University of Wuppertal

From Denialism to Distraction: Reflections on Industry’s New Strategies against Climate Action

For a long time, industrial and political stakeholders have sought to postpone climate-policy mainly by manufacturing doubt over the existence of anthropogenic global warming and its impacts. However, given the overwhelming evidence of global warming during the last couple of years, more and more people have begun to understand the urgency of the situation. As a reaction, affected stakeholders are replacing the strategy of “doubt-mongering” by new strategies that seek to distract public attention. As Michael Mann has recently pointed out, two strategies are particularly salient: Blaming the Individual (BI) and Doom-Mongering (DM). I’ll explore both strategies and discuss how they could be effectively addressed with recourse to Parfit’s and Kernohan’s arguments on “accumulative harm”.

Liam Kofi Bright

London School of Economics

Du Boisian Alternative to Peer Review

Pre-publication peer review is an expensive waste of time. Probably. In this talk I will outline the case for this proposition, reviewing the evidence suggesting that pre-publication peer review does not justify its many costs and disadvantages, as well as making a more positive – albeit somewhat theoretical – case that a better system is available. I shall argue that this alternative system is not only to be preferred on epistemic grounds, but also that it better fulfils a certain Du Boisian ideal for the proper role of science in a democratic society. There is hence both an epistemic and democratic case for the alternative put forward.

Kevin Elliott

Michigan State University

Managing Value Judgments in Contexts of Scientific Dissent

One of the major difficulties facing contemporary science communication and policy making is the challenge of responding to widespread misinformation and disinformation without blocking legitimate forms of scientific dissent. Philosophers of science have suggested criteria for distinguishing dissent that is epistemically productive from dissent that is epistemically detrimental, but these criteria have come under criticism. This talk suggests an alternative approach to navigating scientific dissent. Rather than attempting to identify instances of dissent that are epistemically detrimental, it suggests using the literature on value in science to develop strategies for managing the disputed value judgments that underlie most instances of scientific dissent. Using a case study involving dissenting scientific views about the treatment of Lyme disease, the talk illustrates how this approach opens up new avenues for responding to scientific dissent in a productive fashion.