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Hazeborg, N.

Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

Defenders of Truth

Rethinking the methods of science communication

There is much misunderstanding about science. This thesis concerns the knowledge gap that exists between the well-informed and the laypeople. Scientists often find it difficult to communicate the contents and value of their work to laypeople, even if the lives of these people can be positively affected by it. Some people outright deny the truth claims of science, even when confronted with evidence. This science denial phenomenon may lead to dire consequences as knowledge and myth become increasingly inseparable.

The question I ask is this: how can science communication improve to have more effect?

In the first chapter, I look at the phenomenon of “science denial”, where it comes from, how it happens and what consequences it has.

In the second chapter, I look at the way science communicates, or attempts to communicate, with the general public. I will examine the kind of language games that are played within the academic sphere, and address the need for translation. Special attention is given to the field of science communication or “popular science”, the forms it takes and the challenges it faces. I will explain why science communication, in its current form, has not always been successful at averting the challenge of science denial.

In the third chapter, I will look at the general philosophical concepts that are implicit in the way science communication works at this moment. I will recount how, in the late 2oth century, the modernist notions of truth were – unsuccessfully – challenged by the rise of postmodernism, in the shape of a movement called “science studies”. Although postmodernism failed to make a significant impact on the inner workings of the academia, I will argue that it has left us with some useful concepts and viewpoints that may help us face the challenge of science denial in a different way.

In the fourth chapter, I will suggest some ways in which the lessons of the third chapter can be implemented into different ways of practicing science communication. These ways don't center around trying to shut the deniers up, but around making explicit the implicit values present in discussions that are superficially about facts. Hopefully, new forms of science communication are possible that will be better equipped to meet the challenges of science denial. This thesis ultimately aims to provide an insight into what form these might take.

Last modified:13 November 2015 4.58 p.m.