I agree very much with most of Carolyn Raffensperger’s argument. Understanding Risk does stand out for its willingness to admit that we need to rethink our assumptions about the privileged role that scientists and “experts” play in public decision making on topics of risk and environment. Involving publics in meaningful ways with scientists can make better science, but only if the scientists allow this to happen. I agree with Carolyn when she writes that this might require scientists engaging in inductive reasoning — some- thing many of them have been trained not to do! Surely the scientific method is powerful. Deductive reasoning is powerful. We do not need to abandon it in order to recognize that building a definition of the problem “from the ground up” might be a competent and politically expedient way to proceed. Still, I disagree that this is the main message to take from the report. The debate about why to involve lay people in public decision making may have matured, in a sense, via the status a National Research Council committee has, but Understanding Risk does not provide anything new to that debate.
Human Ecology Review
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Published by the Society for Human Ecology.
Human Ecology Review is an open access journal.
Webler, Thomas, "Beyond Science: Deliberation and Analysis in Public Decision Making" (1998). Environmental Studies. 10.