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Acceptable EvidenceScience and Values in Risk Management$
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Deborah G. Mayo and Rachelle D. Hollander

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780195089295

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195089295.001.0001

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Expert Claims and Social Decisions: Science, Politics, and Responsibility

Expert Claims and Social Decisions: Science, Politics, and Responsibility

8 (p.160) Expert Claims and Social Decisions: Science, Politics, and Responsibility
Acceptable Evidence

Rachelle D. Hollander

Oxford University Press

Concern for relationships among ethics, values, policy, and science and engineering is prominent in modern society. The existence of a program called Ethics and Values Studies in an agency of the U.S. government, the National Science Foundation, provides some evidence of this (Hollander 1987a, 1987b; Hollander and Steneck 1990). The bills introduced in the U.S. Congress to support bio(medical) ethics centers through the National Institutes of Health also provide evidence (U.S. Senate 1988). New initiatives support research and related activities in areas of biomedical ethics in the National Center for Nursing Research and the Office of Human Genome Research in the National Institutes of Health. In July 1988, the Board of Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council devoted one day of a four-day retreat to considering the ethical and value aspects of that issue (BRWM 1988). In this Chapter I shall attempt to show why such issues occupy particular attention now. My thesis is that a new acknowledgment of our collective moral responsibility is needed because of the political and social context in which science now operates. This context requires more sophisticated scientific and ethical analysis, as well as scientists, engineers, policymakers, interested scholars, and others working together to determine not just acceptable risk but also acceptable evidence. To provide perspective on these matters, we should note that interactions of science, technology, and society have raised these kinds of problems for a long time. A play by Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, written in 1882, raises all these concerns. An Enemy of the People is a story about the possibility of contamination in the water supply that feeds a town’s new mineral baths. The baths attract the summer visitors that have rejuvenated the community. A Dr. Thomas Stockmann has investigated and discovered the problem; he has documented it, and he is delighted to have made the discovery. He, after all, had warned the town fathers about the problem when they designed the water supply, and they did not listen. Now he presents the truth as he sees it—and he sees it in the worst possible light—to his brother Peter, the mayor, who had organized the efforts to construct the baths.

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