Dealing with Disagreement (PHIL41380)
|Semester||Semester Two||Module Coordinator||Professor Maria Baghramian|
In today’s complex societies many of our decisions depend on expert advice and opinion, but experts can and do disagree, sometimes vehemently, and not all their disagreements seem open to resolution. An immediate question facing all of us, and not just those in public positions of decision making, in particular when it comes to decisions concerning some of the greatest challenges facing humanity, such as environmental policy, is how to react to seemingly “faultless disagreement” among experts, or disagreements where neither side seems to be making any obvious errors, and its sorry corollary, the misrepresentation and misunderstanding of this in the media and civic society.In this MA module we investigate the ill understood, but socially and politically significant phenomenon of peer disagreement. The ultimate goal of the course is to gain a better understanding of the role and consequences of disagreement among scientific experts and its implications for policy decisions by governmental agencies and the formation of public opinion. More specifically, the module addresses the following questions: a)What are the best ways to understand and deal with peer disagreement among scientific experts who advise policy makers on politically and economically sensitive areas such as climate change? b)What are the optimal strategies for choosing and trusting one set of expert opinion over a dissenting one? c)What is the impact of disagreement among scientific experts on policy decisions as well as on the formation of public opinion? The study also utilises the methodologies of Experimental Philosophy in order to collect and analyse empirical data on the reactions of the general public to disagreement among experts in different arenas.
The module is running in conjunction with an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Irish Research Council New Horizons Award Scheme titled “When Experts Disagree: A comparative study of peer disagreement in the natural sciences and its effect on policy decisions”.