Internationales Zentrum für Ethik in den Wissenschaften (IZEW)

PNS 3 Symposium: ‘Post-truth’ and a crisis of trust?

Perspectives from post-normal science and extended citizen participation.

Discussions of recent political events – most notably the presidential election in the United States and the referendum in the United Kingdom to (Br)exit the European Union - frequently refer to ideas of ‘post-truth’, ‘post-evidence’ or ‘post-factual’ politics. In its ambiguity, the idea of a ‘post-truth’ age manifests a crisis of trust in both democratic and scientific institutions. At the same time, it implies the untenable assumption that politics and policies were once, and should be again, based on a unique truth provided by science (comprising the whole spectrum of natural and social sciences, and humanities).

Since the early 1990s, the post-normal science approach has been applied to issues in the science-society interfaces characterised by uncertainty and complexity, including a plurality of legitimate perspectives. These cases have been described in terms of uncertain facts, high stakes, disputed values and urgent decisions. In light of this, the conception of science as a privileged ’fact-provider’ for governance seems increasingly unsatisfying and problematic.

This third PNS Symposium [PNS1 in Bergen, NO and PNS2 in Ispra, IT] intends to provide a space for discussing the current predicament of declining trust, increasing complexity and uncertainty in the science-society interfaces by deploying a variety of critical framings including, but not limited to, those inspired by post-normal science.

The purpose is to challenge current ideas of ‘post-truth’, as well as reductionist interpretations of facts and evidence, and explore ways for advancing the quality of knowledge inputs to policy-making. A parallel purpose is to show examples of communities beyond the scientific domain engaging to co-create usable knowledge, which has been dubbed “extended peer communities”.


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