“Post-Truth,” Science and Democracy: Defending Scientific Practices without Scientism

17. März 2022 15:00 — 15:45
University of Amsterdam
Science Park 904
1098 XH Amsterdam

The Conference

The annual CONGres is a congress organised by Biology, Psychobiology and Biomedical Sciences students from student association CONGO of the University of Amsterdam.

Abstract for the Talk

The popular diagnosis that we are living in a “post-truth era” responds to the rise of open falsehoods, outright lies and hostility towards the sciences and humanities in politics. It typically includes three claims: a historical diagnosis that we are witnessing an unprecedented quantity and a new quality of untruth in politics; an explanation why the openly avowed falsehoods are fiercely supported; and strategic advice how to react to the thread “post-truth” poses to liberal democracies.

On the one hand, all three parts of the diagnosis of a “post-truth era” are problematic. First, it is unclear when the age of honesty, rationality or truth in politics ended and the “post-truth era” began. Second, the popular appeals to the stirred emotions, the stout ignorance or the missing trust in experts of those supporting “post-truth politicians” meets empirical and conceptual objections. Thus, third, the political strategies against “post-truth politics” not only miss their mark, they frequently advocate a mix of scientism and post-democracy, which actually belong to the causes of the rise of untruth in politics.

On the other hand, the diagnosis of a “post-truth era” is rightfully concerned with the rise of untruth in politics. In the talk, I will argue that non-sovereign conceptions of truth and knowledge from feminist epistemology can help to defend scientific practices epistemically against science denialism without succumbing to scientism.