Scientific Disagreements, Fast Science and Higher-Order Evidence

Philosophy of Science 90 (4):937-957 (2023)
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Scientific disagreements are an important catalyst for scientific progress. But what happens when scientists disagree amidst times of crisis, when we need quick yet reliable policy guidance? In this paper we provide a normative account for how scientists facing disagreement in the context of ‘fast science’ should respond, and how policy makers should evaluate such disagreement. Starting from an argumentative, pragma-dialectic account of scientific controversies, we argue for the importance of ‘higher-order evidence’ (HOE) and we specify desiderata for scientifically relevant HOE. We use our account to analyze the controversy about the aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

Author Profiles

Daniel C. Friedman
Stanford University
Dunja Šešelja
Ruhr-Universität Bochum


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