Program 5th Descartes Lectures,
5-7 September 2016

The entire conference will be held in the Tias building (ground floor), on the campus of Tilburg University

Campus Map

Monday, 5 September

9:00-9:45 Registration
9:45-10:00 Opening by the Rector Magnificus of Tilburg University, Professor Emile Aarts
10:00-11:15 René Descartes Lectures I (Room TZ 4)
Heather Douglas: “Science and Values: The Pervasive Entanglement”Chair: Jan Sprenger
11:15-11:30 Coffee Break (15 min)
11:30-13:00 Commentaries by Matthew Brown and Kristina Rolin
13:00-14:15 Lunch
Parallel Session A1 (Room TZ 3)

Chair: Colin Elliot

Parallel Session B1 (Room TZ 5)

Chair: Alfred Archer

14:15-15:00 Karolina Pulkkinen:
“Epistemic Values and the Classification of Chemical Elements”
Thomas Boyer-Kassem & Julie Jebeile:
“Is value-free scientific expertise possible?”
15:00-15:45 Rui Silva:
“The Role of Values in the Natural and Social Sciences”
Daniel Steel:
“Sustainability and the Infinite Future: A Case Study of a False Modeling Assumption in Environmental Economics”
15:45-16:15 Coffee Break (30 min)
Parallel Session A2 (Room TZ 3)

Chair: Kristina Rolin

Parallel Session B2 (Room TZ 5)

Chair: Eric Schliesser

16:15-17:00 Eser Bakdur & Michael Poznic:
“The Case of Simplicity: Are Certain Cognitive Values indeed Non-Epistemic Values?”
Arthur Petersen:
“A Latourian analysis of wonder and truth values in scientific practice”
17:00-17:45 Silvia Ivani:
“What We (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Fruitfulness”
Alessandra Cenci:
“Developing Welfare Indicators for Public Health Care Allocations”
17:45-19:00 Reception

Tuesday, 6 September

10:00-11:15 René Descartes Lectures II (Room TZ 4)
Heather Douglas: “Science and Democracy: Squaring Expertise with Accountability”Chair: Matteo Colombo
11:15-11:30 Coffee Break (15 min)
11:30-13:00 Commentaries by Arthur Petersen and Torsten Wilholt
13:00-14:15 Lunch
Parallel Session A3 (Room TZ3)

Chair: Daniel Steel

Parallel Session B3 (Room TZ 4)

Chair: Thomas Boyer-Kassem

14:15-15:00  Donal Khosrowi:
“Tradeoffs between Epistemic and Moral Values in Evidence-Based Policy”
Kian Mintz-Woo:
“Domains Where Moral Philosophers Lack Ethical Expertise”
15:00-15:45 Jan Sprenger:
“Scientific Objectivity and the Replication Crisis in Psychology”
Matthew Brown:
“Values in Science: From Objectivity to Moral Imagination”
15:45-16:15 Coffee Break (30 min)
Parallel Session A4 (Room TZ3)

Chair: Matthew Brown

Parallel Session B4 (Room TZ 4)

Chair: Torsten Wilholt

16:15-17:00 Sarah Wieten:
“Values That Fit: Guidance for Adopting Entangled Values in Medicine”
Jaana Eigi:
“Democratising science policy or democratising science?”
17:00-17:45 Seamus Bradley:
“Philosophers as Mediators: the Case of Econophysics”
Stephen John:
“Science, truth and dictatorship: wishful thinking or wishful speaking?”
19:30- Conference Dinner

Wednesday, 7 September

10:00-11:15 René Descartes Lectures III (Room TZ 4)
Heather Douglas: “Science Communication: Beyond the Deficit Model”Chair: Silvia Ivani
11:15-11:30 Coffee Break (15 min)
11:30-13:00 Commentaries by Daniel Steel and Eric Schliesser
13:00-14:15 Lunch
Parallel Session A5 (Room TZ 3)

Chair: Naftali Weinberger

Parallel Session B5 (Room TZ 11)

Chair: Arthur Petersen

14:15-15:00 Kim Kaivanto & Winston Kwom:
“The Precautionary Principle As a Heuristic Patch”
Eric Schliesser:
“When the truth is Ideology: On Status Quo Bias in Economics [and your favorite social science]”
15:00-15:45 Per Wikman-Svahn:
“Values in Worst-Case Scenarios”
Selene Arfini, Tommaso Bertolotti  & Lorenzo Magnani:
“Social Media and Scientific Literacy: Ignorance Distribution in Virtual Cognitive Niches”
15:45-16:15 Coffee Break (30 min)
Parallel Session A6 (Room TZ 3)

Chair: Felipe Romero

Parallel Session B6 (Room TZ 11)

Chair: Silvia Ivani

16:15-17:00 Elena Rocca & Fredrik Andersen:
“Same evidence, different assesssment: the role of primary suppostions in the scientific discernment of risk”
Kristina Rolin:
“Social Diversity in Science and the Social Value Management Ideal”
17:00-17:45 Torsten Wilholt:
“Symmetries and Asymmetries in Epistemic Risk Management”
17:45-18:30 Final Roundtable
18:30-19:30 Reception
20:00- Farewell Dinner

Abstracts in Alphabetical Order:

Author(s) Title Abstract
Selene Arfini, Tommaso Bertolotti & Lorenzo Magnani Social Media and Scientific Literacy: Ignorance Distribution in Virtual Cognitive Niches The popularity of social networking websites covering all aspects of life is being mirrored by an increased academic interest, from communication studies to sociological and political investigations. However, surprisingly little has been done in a cognitive and epistemological perspective, that would examine the quality and the belief-generating impact of the information shared on SNS. In this paper we aim at bridging this gap by considering a specific social network website,, as a technological tool enabling users to build virtual cognitive niches (as imagined communities) and distribute informing affordances, which may in turn prove to be deceptive chances.
Eser Bakdur & Michael Poznic The Case of Simplicity: Are Certain Cognitive Values indeed Non-Epistemic Values? It has long been considered that values that drive the conduct of scientific inquiry are essentially of an epistemic kind, e.g., truth, empirical adequacy, simplicity, etc. These values have also been referred to as cognitive values. Recently, scholars such as Laudan (2004), Steel (2010) and Douglas (2009, 2013) distinguished certain cognitive values from epistemic values such as empirical adequacy and consistency. In this paper, we will examine the question whether it is reasonable to distinguish simplicity as a cognitive value from epistemic values and inquire into whether simplicity is an epistemic value yet.
Thomas Boyer-Kassem & Julie Jebeile Is value-free scientific expertise possible? Should scientific expertise take into account the interests or values of society? According to an argument from inductive risk (Rudner, Douglas), non-epistemic values have to enter the picture. This threatens the so-called linear model of expertise. We argue that this model should be amended: scientific expertise can be value-free in the sense that scientists will not choose the non-epistemic values (but not in the sense that they will not use non-epistemic values in their judgments), on the condition that these non-epistemic values are provided by the requiring institution, and thus externalized. We consider the case of the IPCC.
Seamus Bradley Philosophers as mediators: the case of econophysics
Philosophy can help clarify the role science plays and should play in a democratic society, and the role that values play within science. This is so due to philosophers’ big-picture thinking and their ability to work at the interface between the worlds of science and policy.
That same set of skills is also needed in well-functioning interdisciplinary science, and philosophers can also play a valuable role here. I shall discuss a case study of how philosophy can mediate disputes about the validity of an exercise in interdisciplinary modelling: econophysics.
In all three cases — clarifying the role of science in democracy, clarifying the role of values in science, and mediating interdisciplinary methodological disputes — the intellectual midwifery of philosophy serves to make science work better in the context of a democratic society.
Matthew J. Brown Values in Science: From Objectivity to Moral Imagination The values in science debate has shifted ground, from arguments for and against the ideal of value-free science, to detailed arguments about normative guidance for value-laden science. In this new phase, we seek to provide accounts of objectivity, scientific integrity, or the norms of responsible science. The guidance is mainly oriented towards compliance and retrospective evaluation. We say: “Be objective; be responsible; don’t be negligent.” We want to know: Did they act with scientific integrity? Was it wishful thinking? Who is responsible for the results?” While there is still an important place for such work, just as there is a place for refining arguments for and against the value-free ideal, I want to suggest a second shift: from compliance-oriented discussions of objectivity, integrity, and responsibility, towards an approach centered on the moral imagination. Rather than focus (merely) on present obligations and retrospective evaluations, ethical frameworks that center the moral imagination emphasize prospective anticipation of consequences and opportunities as key elements of ethical decision-making. The turn to moral imagination, and the emphasis on the positive benefits of value-laden science, is precisely what the current discussion needs.
Alessandra Cenci Developing Welfare Indicators for Public Health Care Allocations: New methodological trends and Philosophical Perspectives This article provides a philosophical view on the current state of the research in public health economics regarding methods to develop welfare indicators for allocation of resources in healthcare. In particular, the analysis deepens on latest advancements in the field namely the Cost-Values Analysis (CVA) and the Multidimensional First Order Dominance Approach (FOD). It elucidates which –methodological, normative, practical- insights they offer to measure well-being, health states, health inequalities when compared to conventional methods used to inform health care allocations such as the QALYs/DALYs (i.e. Quality adjusted life year/disability adjusted life year). In particular, the possibility of obtaining not only more efficient but also fairer allocations of healthcare and public health resources is seen as relying on the combined adoption of more objective/robust methods (e.g. FOD) and wide-ranging normative views within the contemporary egalitarian thinking (e.g. the Capability Approach). Both features are seen as pivotal for social justice in democratic settings.
Sharyn Clough Values as Evidence in Science If values are ubiquitous in science, then we can no longer use the presence of values to discriminate between good and bad science. Some scientific hypotheses can be empirically well-supported and value-laden. How? Much depends on the nature of empirical support, and the definition of values. I argue that values can function as empirical claims, and that where relevant and well-supported by evidence, values can increase the empirical strength of particular scientific theories. Responding to recent commentaries, I analyze the empirical strength of feminist values in particular and show that the evidence-based nature of these values is neither a weakness nor an idealization.
Jaana Eigi Democratising science policy or democratising science? Some tensions in Philip Kitcher’s well-ordered science The aim of the paper is to analyse connections between Philip Kitcher’s account of science and his proposals about the social organisation of science in light of the distinction between democratisation of science and democratisation of science policy that Helen Longino proposes. I show how Kitcher’s account of the role of values in science serves as the basis for his proposals about the democratisation of science policy in well-ordered science and I argue that certain other aspects of Kitcher’s account similarly call for a proposal for democratisation of science. The lack of the latter introduces important tension in Kitcher’s account.
Silvia Ivani What We (Should) Talk About When We Talk About Fruitfulness What are the relevant values to assess a scientific theory? This question remains hotly debated. Thomas Kuhn (1977) suggested a list of five desirable values that scientists should take into account in theory choice. That list included accuracy, consistency, scope, simplicity, and fruitfulness. Since then, several philosophers have proposed many lists and discussed the meaning and role of these values. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to fruitfulness. In this paper, I suggest a new approach to assess fruitfulness, focused on the methods and tests used by a research program to formulate and validate hypotheses and predictions. Moreover, I make use of a specific case study, i.e., the Adaptationist Programme, to show how this approach improves the understanding and assessment of fruitfulness.
Stephen John Science, truth and dictatorship: wishful thinking or wishful speaking? This paper uses the case study of Lysenkoist genetics in the USSR to argue that concerns about “wishful thinking” are better understood in terms of “wishful speaking”, where scientists make claims which are not well-established because of the non-epistemic consequences of others believing those claims. Shifting attention to the communicative helps us to identify a desideratum for any appeal to non-epistemic values in science: that the values are “apt” in the sense of shared by the audience of the claim. Finally, I argue that democracies may be prone to “wishful speaking”, but democrats can explain why wishful speaking is wrongful.
Kim Kaivanto & Winston Kwon The Precautionary Principle as a Heuristic Patch In this paper we attempt to recover an integrated conception of the Precautionary Principle (PP). The alpha=0.05 inferential-threshold convention widely employed in science is ill-suited to the requirements of policy decision making because it is fixed and unresponsive to the cost tradeoffs that are the defining concern of policy decision making. Statistical decision theory — particularly in its Signal-Detection Theory (SDT) variant — provides a standard framework within which to incorporate the (mis)classification costs associated with deciding between preventive intervention and non-intervention. Circumstances that yield a (1,1) corner solution in the SDT model are also sufficient for preventive intervention under the PP. Thus the PP can be understood as a heuristic variant of the SDT corner solution, where the SDT model serves to patch the incongruity between the inferential practices of science and the inferential requirements of policy decision making. Furthermore, SDT’s analytical structure directs attention to a small number of variables — (mis)classification costs and prior probabilities — as determinants of the (1,1) corner solution. Psychological biases impinging upon these variables — omission bias and protected values — combine within SDT to successfully retrodict features of the PP previously considered puzzling, if not inconsistent or incoherent.
Donal Khosrowi Tradeoffs Between Epistemic and Moral Values in Evidence-Based Policy I argue that several key epistemic values in the Evidence-Based Policy (EBP) paradigm stand in a trade-off relation with a wide range of moral values that policy-makers may be interested in pursuing. The reason is that while standard EBP methods are informative about average treatment effects they remain silent on heterogeneity in agents’ response to policy interventions. Because of this, these methods are uninformative on the distributive consequences of policy. This makes it difficult for policy-makers to pursue distributive values such as equality or priority for the worst-off. I sketch out how this challenges both value-freedom and neutrality in EBP.
Kian Mintz-Woo Domains Where Moral Philosophers Lack Ethical Expertise Ethical experts do not know substantive moral truths, but are able to provide other information that is helpful to making moral choices. An ideal ethical expert is both well-versed in the non-moral aspects of the domain in question as well as the moral theories that could be applied. In a domain where the moral theory is fixed, greater ethical expertise along the dimension of moral theory is unhelpful. Economics is such a domain. I argue that those who should be considered as having greater ethical expertise for a normative choice in such domains are \emph{not} those with greater understanding of moral theory; they are those who have more information about the domain where the choice arises. Two interesting implications follow from this argument. The first is that the moral philosopher would in such domains be relegated to the sidelines. The second is that, in social decision-making, weighting the preferences or suggestions of those who have such familiarity above suggestions of the public could be justifiable.
Arthur Petersen A Latourian analysis of wonder and truth values in scientific practice In Bruno Latour’s anthropology of the moderns (“An Inquiry into Modes of Existence”, 2013 [2012]) no less than 15 values with associated truth (or ‘felicity’) conditions are distinguished which all play a normative role in modern-day practices. Scientific practice is typically mainly concerned with the value of ‘reference’, with as truth condition that chains of reference bring back information. However, other values simultaneously play out in scientific practice. I will present a Latourian analysis of the phenomenon of ‘wonder’ vis-à-vis uncertainty and ignorance, with references to Immanuel Kant (his “Critique of the Power of Judgment”), William James and Heinrich Rickert.
Karoliina Pulkkinen What classification of the chemical elements in 1860s can teach us on epistemic values Epistemic values are characteristics of scientific representations that are regarded as desirable or valuable (Kuhn 1977, McMullin 1982). It does not take long to notice that the focus of the literature on values has remained in the context of justification. This is evident from the fact that values have been mostly discussed within the framework of theory choice, justification and other normative projects. Some have went as far as condemning some groups of values as ‘dangerous’ while simultaneously remaining agnostic on what values belong to that group (Nolan 2014).
These normative projects would benefit from a closer understanding on how values are part of the process of constructing scientific representations. For this reason, I will have a closer look at values in the context of discovery and examine how they have been part of forming classifications of chemical elements in the 1860s. I will demonstrate that the differences of the classifications of J.A.R. Newlands, Lothar Meyer, and Dmitri Mendeleev can at least in part be explained by the differences valuing. Mendeleev wanted his table as complete as possible, whereas Newlands was interested in the simplicity expressed by the quantitative aspect of the elements, while Meyer valued accuracy.
After comparing the classifications, I will focus on two epistemic values present in the classifications – simplicity and completeness – and suggest ways to revise our analyses of them. I will argue that understanding simplicity as parsimony does not do justice to the kind of simplicity that the chemists were after.  More effort should be directed to developing Dorothy Walsh’s account of simplicity as intellectual elegance (Walsh 1979). I will also suggest ways to deepen Chang’s 2012 definition of completeness.
Chang, H. 2012. Is Water H2O? New York: Springer.
Kuhn, T. 1977. Objectivity, Value Judgement, and Theory Choice. In The essential tension: Selected studies in scientific tradition and theory change, 320-339. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nolan, D. (2014). The Dangers of Pragmatic Virtue. Inquiry, 57(5-6), 623–644.
Walsh, S. (1979). Occam’s Razor: A Principle of Intellectual Elegance. Americal Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 241- 244.
Elena Rocca & Frederik Andersen Same evidence, different assessment: role of primary suppositions in the scientific discernment of risk. Primary suppositions are here defined as the set of assumptions, undetermined by evidence, that are unquestioned during the everyday labor of scientists, yet they determine the structure for individual scientific reasoning. As a case example, we analyzed peer-reviewed scientific argumentation in favor of or against strict regulation of a specific biotechnology in agriculture, and identified the basic assumptions underlying each argument. Results show that different evaluations of the risk are based on different primary suppositions. We suggest that primary suppositions are crucial in the field of risk and uncertainty assessment, and deserve more attention in the discussion about value-laden science.
Kristina Rolin Social diversity in science and the social value management ideal The social value management ideal is an alternative to the value-free ideal of science. It recommends that the role of non-epistemic values in scientific inquiry is analyzed, criticized, and judged as either acceptable or unacceptable by a scientific community which satisfies certain conditions. I defend the social value management ideal by responding to two objections, one suggesting that the ideal is not capable of incorporating all the cognitive diversity that is epistemically beneficial in science, and another one suggesting that the ideal is too generous to the kind of social diversity which is problematic from a moral and political point of view.
Rui Silva The Role of Values in the Natural and Social Sciences At first sight, the social sciences are much more value-laden than the natural sciences, but this point has been disputed. To analyse the problem, it is convenient to assess the significance of the main arguments for the value-ladenness of science. These arguments may be classified in three broad categories: methodological, linguistic and sociological arguments. I conclude that, although some arguments for the view that social science is value-laden apply as well to the natural sciences, there still remains a difference of degree in value-ladenness, while other arguments do not seem to be relevant to the natural sciences.
Jan Sprenger Scientific Objectivity and the Replication Crisis in Psychology The social sciences, and psychology in particular, are suffering under a replication crisis: a failure to reproduce effects that were observed in earlier studies and published in high-ranking journals. Evidently, this failure undermines the epistemic authority of the affected sciences. Often, it is argued that this phenomenon is due to a research culture that sets wrong incentives and rewards unreliable studies. According to this line of criticism, many reliable, but unspectacular results disappear in the proverbial “file drawer”. In my talk, I trace this phenomenon to its roots in statistical methodology, argue against some quick and easy fixes (e.g., to use confidence intervals instead of hypothesis tests), and propose a methodology for interpreting “insignificant” results in hypothesis tests.
Sarah Wieten Values that Fit: Guidance for Adopting Entangled Values in Medicine that Goes Beyond “Illegitimate and Legitimate” I argue that we can improve on previous attempts to differentiate appropriate and inappropriate values for a scientific project. My paper proceeds in four sections. First, I critique the legitimate/illegitimate distinctions based on the two line drawing metrics suggested in the literature: epistemic content and the completeness of the non-value involved evidence (the “lexical-priority” metric). I argue that both these distinction drawing metrics fail to be universally applicable across all sciences, and fail to assist in practical distinction drawing. In a larger second section I argue for transparent, local, and context-based value adoption in particular sciences and provide an example case for use in statins medical research. In a brief third section I entertain possible counter-arguments to my account of transparent, local and context-based value adoption including worries about relativism and the “entrance” of politics into science. Lastly I consider what implications this more complicated picture of values in medicine requires; if what must be done is more than asking “Is this value legitimate based on metric X?” this will require more training, more communication and transparency, more philosophical involvement and more forums for debate and discussion about adopted values both in clinical practice and in medical research.
Per Wikman-Svahn Values in Worst-Case Scenarios The role of values in worst-case scenarios is particularly important and revealing as worst case scenarios are typically characterized by high scientific uncertainty and high social stakes. This paper examines the role of values in assessing and managing worst case scenarios by using a process-model of how scientific information is used in decision making and a theory of how “contexts of communication” influence values in science and policy. The model and theory are tested using real examples of scientific assessments and decision-making involving worst-case scenarios of future sea level rise.
Torsten Wilholt Symmetries and Asymmetries in Epistemic Risk Management A characteristic feature of Heather Douglas’s distinction between permissible and impermissible kinds of value influences in scientific research is that as far as indirect value influences are concerned, scientists may (and should) consider the extra-scientific costs of getting it wrong in their methodological decisions. According to Douglas, the extra-scientific benefits of getting it right may and should not be thus taken into account.
In this talk, I will critically discuss this asymmetry between the costs of getting it wrong and the benefits of getting it right. I will argue in favor of treating them symmetrically: Ceteris paribus, in cases of decisions in which scientists are obliged (or permitted) to consider the costs of getting it wrong, the situation is such that scientists are equally obliged (respectively permitted) to consider the benefits of getting it right.

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