Aufklärung durch die Klimawissenschaften. Worüber und wozu?

In Rainer Enskat & Oliver Scholz (eds.), Wissenschaft und Aufklärung / Science and Enlightenment. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 127-148 (2018)
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The issue of climate change provides a drastic example of the importance, but also the precariousness of public trust in science. Climate science almost unanimously warns that global warming requires governments to effectively pursue long-term agendas of mitigation, adaptation and compensation without further delay. In democracy, however, this requires of citizens a long-term commitment to prioritizing the issue of climate change in their voting decisions. Recent developments prove such prioritizing unlikely as long as scientists think of themselves primarily as political consultants. In fact, climate scientists have long amplified their direct communication with the public, gaining additional support for climate policies, but also aggravating in the eyes of some (what sociologists call) the politicization of science. Against the background of these developments, the article asks what kind of normative model should henceforth govern the relationship of (climate) experts and citizens. Two families of proposals are considered. Scientistic models typically assume that citizens ought to base their autonomous political decisions on scientific facts and that the primary goal of scientists in dealing with the public should hence be to provide detailed, reliable scientific information. Proponents of the model of practical judgment, by contrast, criticize scientistic models for being overly demanding, and suggest the cultivation of practical judgment as an alternative. The article argues in favor of a scientistic model, but shifts the focus from the proliferation of information toward the cultivation of trust in science. According to the suggested account, citizens are obligated to make an effort to correctly identify the community of scientific experts, and to give in their own deliberations appropriate weight to identified expert recommendations.



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Jens Gillessen
University of Marburg

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