College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Sheila Jasanoff - Cosmopolitan Visions: Science and Reason in a World of Difference

Professor Sheila Jasanoff is the Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

 

Event Details

Date: Thursday 3 March 2016, 5.30 - 6.30pm

The lecture may be followed by questions. Latest finishing time is 7pm.

Venue: Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL

 

Tickets for Event

Tickets for Professor Sheila Jasanoff's Gifford Lecture are free of charge but need to be booked in advance. 

Book your tickets here

 

Lecture Abstract

The Enlightenment ideal of humanity united in a common vision of the good, based on growing scientific knowledge and understanding, lies in tatters. Around the world, some deny evidence that we are changing the climate to our peril, that chemicals and genetic modification may threaten biodiversity, that research on pathogens could pose pandemic risks, and even that human beings evolved from earlier forms of life. These disagreements have prompted others to suggest that the fault lies in our own imperfect brains, and that human minds are incapable of grasping knowledge that seems new, unfamiliar, or fearful.

What these arguments and counterarguments overlook is that science’s role in public life is not simply to provide facts and truths but to help create meaning. The facts of science have to make sense in lived contexts in order for them to carry moral weight, as truths to live by. Reason, not science, is the vehicle through which communities around the world seek to integrate knowledge and values, and societies differ in the ways they judge what counts as good reason.

Shifting our attention from science to reason in public debates might allow us to break through recent stalemates, enabling productive cosmopolitanism in place of stale debates about facts and counter-facts. Drawing on the history of science studies in Edinburgh, I will argue that we are due for a second Enlightenment, one that respects ethical difference while embracing knowledge and truth.

 

Lecture video

Link to video on the University of Edinburgh YouTube page.

 

Biography

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies, with particular attention to the nature of public reason.

A pioneer in her field, Professor Jasanoff has authored more than 100 articles and chapters and is author or editor of more than fifteen books, including Controlling Chemicals, The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, and The Ethics of Invention (forthcoming).

From 1978 to 1998, she was Professor of Science Policy and Law at Cornell University and founding chair of Cornell’s Department of Science and Technology Studies. At Harvard since 1998, she is founding director of the Program on Science, Technology and Society. She has held distinguished academic appointments in the US, Europe, and Japan, and has lectured widely around the world.

Professor Jasanoff has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the J.D. Bernal Prize of the Society of Social Studies of Science, the Distinguished Achievement Award of the Society for Risk Analysis, the Sarton Chair of the University of Ghent, an Ehrenkreuz from the Government of Austria, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Arts and Letters.

She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science. She has been a consultant to many science policy organisations, including the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Professor Jasanoff holds an AB degree in Mathematics from Harvard, an MA in Linguistics from the University of Bonn, a PhD in Linguistics and a JD in Law, both from Harvard.  

Related Links

Find out more about Professor Sheila Jasanoff on her academic profile.

Mar 03 2016 -

Professor Sheila Jasanoff - Cosmopolitan Visions: Science and Reason in a World of Difference

Professor Sheila Jasanoff will deliver a Gifford Lecture entitled 'Cosmopolitan Visions: Science and Reason in a World of Difference'.

Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL