Do Democracies Need KnOWLedge?

Jen­nifer Shields
York Uni­ver­si­ty

Do Democ­ra­cies Need KnOWL­edge?

Abstract. This paper serves to review the book Why Democ­ra­cies Need Sci­ence, writ­ten by Har­ry Collins and Robert Evans. Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to this paper is the insti­tu­tion of The Owls, which Collins and Evans pro­pose in their text. A theme which is present through­out the book, a theme which Collins and Evans seek to work through is that of post-truth; the first sec­tion of the paper will address the con­cept of post-truth. Next, the birds of sci­ence will be exam­ined, in the sec­ond sec­tion; this is a clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem Collins and Evans devel­op, from a bor­rowed anal­o­gy from Ri-chard Feyn­man. After exam­in­ing the eagle sci­en­tists, the hawk sci­en­tif­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists, and the vul­ture philoso­pher-apol­o­gists, atten­tion will be paid to The Owls of sci­ence. The third sec­tion per­tains to The Owls. The Owls are an insti­tu­tion which Collins and Evans note and which includes social sci­en­tists and those with a rig­or­ous under­stand­ing of the social analy­sis of sci­ence [Collins, Evans, 2017, p. 78]. The role of The Owls is to serve to bet­ter advise politi­cians in a post-truth era. The pur­pose of this paper is to argue that the the­o­rized insti­tu­tion of The Owls is an insuf­fi­cient mech­a­nism to deal with a post-truth era. After intro­duc­ing The Owls, the fourth sec­tion of the paper con­sid­ers the neu­tral­i­ty of an Owl, as a con­sen­sus does not guar­an­tee truth or cor­rect­ness. The fifth sec­tion then exam­ines The Owls and democ­ra­cy, as Collins and Evans do not spec­i­fy the type of democ­ra­cy in which The Owls would oper­ate. The sixth sec­tion notes the exclu­siv­i­ty present with­in the insti­tu­tion of The Owls, as it is restrict­ed to only two occu­pa­tions, and is seem­ing­ly elit­ist. Final­ly, I con­clude by ask­ing the ques­tion – what does this mean for sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy stud­ies? As the insti­tu­tion of The Owls seems like an insuf­fi­cient one to deal with a post-truth era.

Key­words: post-truth era, The Owls, democ­ra­cy, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy stud­ies, politi­cians, con­sen­sus, experts, exclu­siv­i­ty

DOI: 10.5840/dspl20203110


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