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Navigating Social Conflicts Related to Environmental Health: Tools from the Philosophy of Science
December 8th, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Join us for our colloquium series on Re-envisioning the Environment: Diverse Voices in Environmental Health. This month, we invite Kevin Elliott, PhD, professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University, who studies the role of values in science as well as a range of ethical issues related to science and technology. Much of his scholarship is related to social issues raised by environmental pollution, and he is the author of the book Is a Little Pollution Good for You? Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is currently leading an NSF grant to study how diversity within environmental science teams affects their ethical standards and practices. He teaches courses related to the philosophy of science, science policy, and conservation ethics.
The title of his presentation will be: “Navigating Social Conflicts Related to Environmental Health: Tools from the Philosophy of Science”. This talk explores ways that scholarship from the philosophy of science can help environmental health researchers navigate social conflicts associated with their field. First, it highlights a dilemma that researchers currently face. On one hand, it is important for them to try to dispel misinformation and disinformation surrounding topics like climate change, vaccine safety, and environmental pollution. On the other hand, this “fight against doubt” has the potential to fuel a rigidity and lack of tolerance toward opposing viewpoints that can be harmful both to scientific debate and community engagement. In response to this challenge, the talk introduces philosophical scholarship on the array of value-laden judgments that permeate environmental health research and policy. By paying closer attention to these judgments, researchers can develop a more nuanced understanding of the reasons for opposing perspectives, thereby equipping them to counter misinformation while respecting legitimate opposing views and developing greater appreciation for the concerns raised by community members and activist groups.