Science Communication, Cultural Cognition, and the Pull of Epistemic Paternalism

Journal of Applied Philosophy 40 (1):65-78 (2022)
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There is a correlation between positions taken on some scientific questions and political leaning. One way to explain this correlation is the cultural cognition hypothesis (CCH): people's political leanings are causing them to process evidence to maintain fixed answers to the questions, rather than to seek the truth. Another way is the different background belief hypothesis (DBBH): people of different political leanings have different background beliefs which rationalize different positions on these scientific questions. In this article, I argue for two things. I argue that two attempts by proponents of the CCH to discredit the DBBH fail. And I argue that this matters, because while the CCH makes epistemic paternalistic interventions seem called for (as some philosophers have argued compellingly), the DBBH does not. The DBBH makes it much easier to stay closer to an ideal of deliberative democracy.

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Alex Davies
University of Tartu


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