Central Questions: Do we need science to play an authoritative role in policymaking in order to overcome societal challenges, such as pandemics and climate change? If we give science such authority, do we threaten the stability of democracy? Why do we value democracy to begin with? If people have limited knowledge of science, how does that impact their ability to meaningfully participate in a policymaking process that utilizes science? Does democracy require this participation? How can we formulate science- based policies that limit freedoms if people reasonably disagree with the value assumptions that scholars now argue are inherent to science? In other words, if science isn’t objective, does it conflict with democracy? Can we resolve these issues by improving science communication and public trust in science? If so, what’s the best way to do so? Or must we trade in democracy for technocracy, or rule by experts, in order to overcome societal challenges?
Course Goals: You’ll learn to critically think, write and debate about the role of science and science communication in democracy. My aim as an instructor is to help you to come to and to communicate your own conclusions about the central questions of the course. In line with UPenn’s SNF Paideia Program’s mission, this course provides you “with the knowledge, skills, and ethical frameworks necessary to be informed, engaged, and effective community members, and to lead fulfilling and integrated personal, professional, and civic lives.” This course is not about memorizing facts, so there’ll be no tests.