Same evidence, different assessment: role of primary suppositions in the scientific discernment of risk.


Elena Rocca & Frederik Andersen


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.