Oppression and Scientific Authority

Heidi Grasswick with Maya Goldenberg

In the twenty-first century, it is reasonable to claim scientific knowledge as the form of knowledge most widely accepted as “authoritative” – that is carrying a legitimacy that suggests such knowledge should strongly shape (if not dictate) our beliefs, and further, our policies and actions that follow from such beliefs. And yet such authority can only be achieved when the scientific knowledge that is created stems from social practices that are not complicit with systems of oppression. That is to say, when knowledge has been created through scientific practices that themselves are shaped by broader social systems of oppression, the authority of the scientific knowledge is compromised. In this conversation with Maya Goldenberg, author of Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science, leading feminist epistemologist Heidi Grasswick will highlight some of the obvious and more subtle ways the practices of science can be shaped by systems of oppression, focusing on both the gendered and racialized dimensions of scientific practices. Only when scientific institutions and communities become aware of such potential pitfalls and actively seek to remedy them can the results of science hope to carry the kind of authority within society that many have sought for the endeavours of science. 

Heidi Grasswick is the George Nye and Anne Walker Boardman Professor of Mental and Moral Science at Middlebury College. She works in feminist epistemology and philosophy of science, as well as social epistemology more generally. She is particularly interested in the link between ethics and epistemology, and spends a lot of time thinking about how people can be responsible inquirers, and how to negotiate our trust relations with experts. 

Maya Goldenberg is a researcher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph. Her research addresses the fundamental epistemic question, “How do we know what to believe?” More recently, she has broadened her research into the science-values complex to investigate vaccine hesitancy as illustrative of poor public trust in scientific institutions. Her first book Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science is published in March by University of Pittsburgh Press. twitter.com/goldenbergmaya1


Friday 14th May

7.00 p.m. (UK time)/2.00 p.m. (EST)

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Published since 1923