ISHPSB-L Archives

February 2001


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Chris Young <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Intl Soc for the Hist Phil and Soc St of Biol <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 1 Feb 2001 08:01:03 -0600
text/plain (172 lines)
From: Carmine Colacino <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: International Conference: Science and Democracy
Date: Thu, Feb 1, 2001, 7:52 AM

Dear Colleagues,

Contributions will be considered also after the deadline (31 Jan. 2001).
This is why I am sending this announcement to you.
Contributions may be sent directly via e-mail at the address indicated below
(not to me).
For more information check the web site at:

Best regards.

C. Colacino




Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, Napoli

International Conference


Napoli, April 20-21, 2001
Call for Papers

Scientific Committee
F. Attena, E. Caccese, M. Mamone Capria

C. Colacino

Address: Dipartimento di Matematica
Università - 06123 Perugia
Tel.: 39.75.5855006
Fax: 39.75.5855024
E-mail: [log in to unmask]


The aim of this conference is to re-open the debate on a theme whose
relevance for everybody¹s life - and not only intellectual life - is by far
superior to the theoretical and analytical effort spent on it today.
The question of the democratic control on science, forcefully relaunched by
the epistemologist Paul K. Feyerabend in the Seventies, is on the whole
repressed in the present cultural atmosphere, partly because of automatic
associations with notorious incidents of political stymying of research,
like the Galileo and Lysenko affairs. However, it would be difficult to
interpret these historical events in terms of a supposedly overpowering
public opinion, since in fact the latter at most echoed decisions and
condemnations made 'with closed doors', in the usual seats of power
(cultural and not).
More recently, instead, in Western democracies currents of opinion have
developed - expressing themselves through public initiatives of individuals
and groups - mainly related to concerns over health, environment, and the
integrity of the human person: they have been occasioned, for instance, by
the introduction of new systems of energy production and agriculture;
technologies which are already in our dayly life (electric lines, portable
phones); the legal definition of new scientific criteria of Œlife¹ and
Œdeath¹; the absence or insufficience of official recognition of alternative
medicines etc. That at present the relationship between citiziens and
scientists - who often act as Œexperts¹ and consultants for political
representatives - is not balanced enough to permit a genuine dialogue, is
shown, on one hand, by the frequent appeals signed by Œexperts¹ and inviting
fellow-citizens to free themselves from a supposedly endemic "scientific
illiteracy", and on the other hand by the growing distrust of citizens
towards the scientific community, suspected of collusion with powerful
vested interests.
It is clear that trying to dissolve the problem by confining the decisive
discussions within privileged circles and pouring propaganda on anybody
else, will have the only effect of widening the gap between scientists on
one side, and the civil society supporting them and guaranteeing them a
public role on the other. Therefore it is important to study how a space for
substantial cognitive exchange can be created, equally distant from the
refusal to be informed (rather rare) and attempts at indoctrination (far
more frequent). An instance of the second kind is the identification - made
to discredit lay criticism - between rejection of one technology, with
rejection of the whole of technology, or indeed, science.
But in order to solve the problem of the democratic control over scientific
research, another problem has to be tackled first which is rarely thought of
as connected to it, namely, that of the internal politics of the scientific
communities. Although scientific knowledge ambitions to be free of political
and ideological biases, it is a fact that it is a profoundly Œsocial¹
knowledge: it is produced by hierachically organized groups, which evaluate,
award, and punish their own members, control in various fashions what
opinions can be held or even just discussed in a public setting, and so on.
This dimension of science has been for a too long time ignored by
epistemologists and historians, but a new generation of scholars has started
in the last two decades to offer interesting reconstructions of the social
context of research, thus giving back to it that character of human activity
which had been essentially erased in standard treatments. And as it is the
case for state politics, the internal politics of the scientific communities
cannot be understood if one neglects their Œforeign politics¹, that is, the
relationship with society - political institutions, economic powers, media
etc.; conversely, this relationship depends to a large extent on the
aspirations of the communities, first of all the necessity of financial
support for research projects which are more and more costly, and laden with
social consequences which are at least in need of being seriously debated.
Thus science is a meeting point, and sometimes a collision point, between
demands of reassurance and problem solving, by the society at large, and
group or individual aspirations, by its practitioners. For this reason, to
analyse correctly the nexus between science and democracy there is need of
different viewpoints and data, and the cooperation of different competences
and experiences.

The conference aims at investigating these two main areas in their different
aspects, welcoming both theoretical elaborations and documented case
studies. There will be two days, organized as follows:


- The sociology of scientific communities
- The making of a scientist, between method and specialism
- Communication and reception of scientific results
- Controversies in science
- The judgement of the peers: research projects, papers, careers
- Dissidence and emargination in science


- Public and private funds in scientific research
- Technological applications and social consent
- ŒExperts¹ and Œlaymen¹ in public debates
- Teaching, popularizing, informing
- Scientific rationality and its critics
- Assessing science without being a scientist


Participation is free. Participants are invited to send their contributions,
in a complete version, by 31 January, 2001, to the address cited above;
length should be of 10-15 pages in A4 format, 12 points; it is warmly
advised to send (by e-mail or diskette) the corresponding file, compiled
with Word for Windows or with any other word processor which can be
translated into it. All accepted contributions will be posted into the
website of the conference. For this reason, even those interested people who
may not be sure to be present at the conference are advised to send their
contributions anyway. Italian and English are the preferred languages, but
contributions in other (preferably neo-Latin) languages will also be
Because of limits in time, not all accepted contributions will be presented
orally at the conference. Every participant will be informed within one
month after the arrival of the paper whether it has been accepted or not,
and, by February 28, 2001, whether it has been selected for the oral
A volume of proceedings, containing a selection of the accepted
contributions, is planned.


Dr Carmine Colacino - [log in to unmask]
Herbarium Lucanum [HLUC] & Dept. of Biology
University of Basilicata. 85100 Potenza, Southern Italy
Tel. +39 0971205743; Fax +39 0971205742