We generally regard science as a model of objective open inquiry. We have long relied upon science and scientists to ‘speak truth to power’. And we have long appealed to scientists and scientific knowledge to inform public policy decisions in a wide variety of areas that concern us. But science itself might also be regarded as appropriate for public discussion. This is because scientific theories can often be difficult to understand; because the evidence that supports them can often be difficult to interpret; because scientific knowledge changes with new discoveries and cannot be shown to be true in any absolute or final way; and because citizens and policymakers are often called upon to trust scientists about matters that they do not really understand. But it is also because scientific inquiry often seems to be influenced in questionable ways by a variety of non-scientific factors.
These are some of the issues that we invite you to explore in this discussion guide.
Note: this Discussion Guide is currently under revision. Publication of an updated edition is expected in later 2020.
The eight policy possibilities in this Discussion Guide are–
- Clarify What Counts as Scientific Knowledge–and Use It
- Ensure Fidelity to Reliable Scientific Methods
- Let the Scientific Community Govern Itself
- Let Those Who Fund Science Govern It–But Require Transparency & Accountability
- Promote Technology to Fuel Our Economic Engine–But Beware of Detrimental Consequences
- Support Pure Inquiry, Creativity, and the Free Flow of Ideas
- Encourage International Science–But Protect Our National Power & Interests
- Balance Science with Humanistic, Religious, and Other Cultural Institutions