The use of scientific arguments as a mode of justification. What place does it have in politics and law? A case study of EU GMO regulation

de Europa:177-212 (239)
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The aim of this master’s thesis is to analyse and highlight the interaction between science, politics and law. More precisely, our research question concerns the use of scientific arguments in social spheres (notably in politics and law) instead of legal or political arguments. In fact, we want to raise the way in which certain actors invoke scientific arguments to impose "objective" elements of fact in debate and, in this way, refrain from politically and "subjectively" discussing these same elements (or, at least, their social consequences). This Master’s thesis will adopt an interdisciplinary theoretical framework (chapter 1) mobilising philosophy of science, philosophy of law, sociology of law, legal technique and analytical theories. Then, we will apply it to a case study: the European regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) after the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling of 25 July 2015 (chapter 2). The first chapter will provide theoretical elements to rethink the interaction between science, politics and law. The first section will propose a 'state of the art’ of the philosophical literature on the relationship between science (as a regime of truth) and politics. This master’s thesis will assess a truth under construction rather than a transcendental truth. Section 2 anticipates authoritarian claims based on science by considering the relationship science can have with power (Foucault). A solid review of philosophical, sociological and legal literature highlights the risks of giving decision-making power to an all-powerful science. Notably, the use of science to justify discriminatory policies is emphasised as these policies could not be challenged because, at the time, it was considered an objective scientific truth. Finally, section 3 offers a critique of the narratives of neutral and objective science, through the approach of science in action. This sociological approach presented all the doubts and subjectivity of science in action. The second chapter will propose a case study to illustrate the theoretical framework. We have chosen GMOs because they constitute a hybrid 'event', marked by scientific controversies, and with major socio-economic implications. The legal framework of GMOs in the European Union will be presented in the first section. In addition, the legal status of new breeding techniques (NBTs) will be examined. The second section will analyse the ruling of the European Court of Justice which made NBTs subject to GMO regulation. Finally, the third section will propose a reflection on the philosophy of law on the modes of existence of scientific, legal and political disciplines.

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Pierre Walckiers
Université Catholique de Louvain


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