Distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate values in climate modeling


Kristen Intemann


European Journal for Philosophy of Science


While it is widely acknowledged that science is not “free” of non-epistemic values, there is disagreement about the roles that values can appropriately play. Several have argued that non-epistemic values can play important roles in modeling decisions, particularly in addressing uncertainties (Moss and Schneider 2000; Kandlikar et al. (C.R. Geoscience 337:443-455, 2005); Risbey 2007; Biddle and Winsberg 2010; Winsberg (Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 22(2): 111-137, 2012); van der Sluijs (Climatic Change 75 (3) 359-389, 2012). On the other hand, such values can (even unconsciously) lead to bias (Pielke 2007; Oppenhiemer et al. (Science 317:1505-1506, 2007); Bray (Environmental Science & Policy 13:340-350, 2010); Oreskes and Conway 2010). Thus, it is important to identify when it is legitimate to appeal to non-epistemic values in modeling decisions. An approach is defended here whereby such value judgments are legitimate when they promote democratically endorsed epistemological and social aims of research. This framework accounts for why it is legitimate to appeal to non-epistemic values in a range of modeling decisions, while addressing concerns that the presence of such values will lead to bias or give scientists disproportionate power in deciding what values ought to be endorsed.



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