Science, Uncertainty, and Society: Getting Beyond the Argument Culture to Shared Visions

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    Practical problem-solving in complex societies requires the integration of three elements: (1) active and ongoing envisioning of both how the world works and how we would like the world to be, (2) systematic analysis appropriate to and consistent with the vision and (3) implementation appropriate to the vision. Scientists generally focus on the second step, but integrating all three is essential for both good science and effective, democratic decision-making. Subjective values enter the vision of broad social goals and the pre-analytic vision that necessarily precedes any form of scientific analysis. Because of this need for vision, completely objective scientific analysis is impossible. To better support democratic decisionmaking, scholars of all varieties need to acknowledge the need to engage more directly in all three elements of the process while sharing their knowledge of how the world works and bringing their understanding of uncertainty more effectively to the table. This more integrated role of the scholars can help overcome the currently widespread denial of critical knowledge about how the world works, especially about climate, wellbeing, and evolution, and support better, more democratic decision-making about how we would like the world to be and how to get there.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)9-20
    JournalEcology, Economy and Society - the INSEE
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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