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Inductive Risk and Epistemically Detrimental Dissent in Policy-Relevant Science

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posted on 2023-08-15, 13:33 authored by Tyler PaetkauTyler Paetkau

 While dissent is key to successful science, it is clear that it is not always beneficial. By requiring scientists to respond to objections, epistemically detrimental dissent (EDD) consumes resources that could be better devoted to furthering scientific discovery. Moreover, bad-faith dissent can create a chilling effect on certain lines of inquiry and make settled controversies seem open to debate. Such dissent results in harm to scientific progress and the public policy that depends on this science. While Biddle and Leuschner propose four criteria that draw on inductive risk as a method for separating this EDD from beneficial dissent, de Melo-Martín and Intemann reject this approach for failing to capture paradigmatic instances of EDD. Against de Melo-Martín and Intemann’s objections, I propose the inductive risk account can be saved and strengthened through the following modifications: 1) removing the requirement that the four conditions of EDD be jointly satisfied, 2) requiring that each criterion be measured as a matter of degree rather than as a binary, and 3) requiring that the four criteria are measured holistically. These modifications not only mitigate the criticisms but produce five benefits over Biddle and Leuschner’s account, including: 1) capturing paradigmatic instances of EDD, 2) reflecting the degree to which an instance of EDD is problematic, 3) capturing the interactions between criteria, 4) avoiding legitimizing inappropriate dissent, and 5) reflecting changes to the epistemic standing of dissent. As such, I argue that the modified IndRA provides a powerful tool for identifying EDD and strengthening science. 


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Lead author country

  • Canada

Lead author job role

  • Postgraduate Student

Lead author institution

McGill University

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