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February 13, 2014

A Lunch BIT from Science in Democracy by Mark B. Brown

Posted by: Susan Mai

The value of Mark Brown’s Science in Democracy is that it recognizes the importance of scientific issues to political debates. It’s part intellectual history, part call for a new understanding of scientific and political participation by citizens. Here’s a particularly apt summation from a review in the history of science journal Isis:

Brown…avoids the naive suggestion that what we need is a return to value-free science, purified of politics, and he doesn't present another vague call for more public participation in science and science advising. Nor does Brown give in to the cynical claims that have sometimes tempted the science studies community: that science is always political and therefore disconnected from cognitive content, warranted belief, experimental and technological success, or truth. Brown's view that science can be, and sometimes should become, political does not allow for simple dichotomies between social and cognitive, political and epistemological. Nor does Brown set out an idealized or idealistic account of the politics of science. Not only does he grapple with the complex values that are required by democratic representation; he also looks at how various institutions can and do embody those values and how we might do better.

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