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Uncovering Philosophical Biases in Scientific Controversies

DIGITAL CONFERENCE, June 2020, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway (virtual event, LINKS remain open)


The aim of this conference is to show how many scientific controversies concerning sustainability come down to different philosophical biases in scientific theory, methods, models and norms. The talks will fall into four thematic sessions: Sustainable food production and food systems; Climate change and adaption; Digitalisation and policy; Social responsibility and rational decision-making.

Research and practice for a sustainable future require that we synchronise efforts from multiple fronts. Experts from different fields must think, evaluate and act as a team. For this, we need a common academic culture and to speak a common language. And yet, it is hard to find a topic on sustainability that is free from scientific controversy: food production and consumption, GMOs, solar panels, nudging, fish farming, electric cars, etc.

Any discipline is situated within a paradigm where the scientific framework is set: theories, concepts, methods, research agenda, etc. Some academic cultures are very explicit about what is ‘allowed’ or ‘accepted’ practice, while in others it will be more difficult to discover the boundaries before stepping over them.

The aim of the event is to show how philosophical biases (basic implicit assumptions in science) can influence theory, models, methodological choices, evidence evaluation, predictions and interpretation of results, by looking at some real-life cases of scientific disagreements.

The speakers will present concrete examples and cases where philosophical biases (conceptual, epistemological, ethical or ontological) play an important role in scientific controversies. (See ‘Philosophical bias is the one bias that science cannot avoid’ for other examples.)

This conference is part of a pilot teaching course, Interdisciplinarity and Expert Disagreement in Sustainability Research, at NMBU, develped and taught by Rani and Elena.

Organising committee: Rani Lill Anjum and Elena RoccaNMBU CAPS – NMBU Center for Applied Philosophy of Science (NMBU CAPS), Norwegian University of Life Sciences