Speaker Name(s): Massimiano Bucchi, Ph.D.
Description: Whether the issue is genetically modified organisms, stem cells, or nuclear energy, public debate appears to be constricted within a consolidated pattern. There are the advocates of the unbridled development of science and technology; there are those who call for restraints on science’s encroachment into fields that have traditionally been the prerogatives of social, political, and religious choices and practices. Paradoxically, the two sides share the same prejudice: they both consider science and society to be internally compact entities, rigidly separate, and impervious to each other. On this view, science’s task is to supply a constant flow of new proposals which society then inspects and (often) rejects. But there are, in fact, frequent overlaps between scientific discourse and public opinion, and between research priorities and the expectations of citizens and consumers, which erode the boundaries between science and society and expose the divisions internal to each of them: suffice it to mention the debates on climate change or biomedicine. This tangled relationship between science and society fuels the conflict between advocates of scientism and anti-scientism: a deceptive case of role-playing that hinders fuller understanding of the challenges raised by contemporary science and technology. This lecture is co-sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute