Jan 15, 2023
‘630 million threatened by rising seas!’; ‘Study blames climate change for 37% of worldwide heat deaths!’; ‘Fossil fuels must stay underground!’
Despite the headlines and 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human activity is one of the major causes of climate change, just seven in ten Americans believe that climate change is real and only six in ten consider human activity to be a leading cause. As a survey of beliefs, these statistics are concerning. The bigger problem, however, is that they aren’t held in a vacuum, but are formed within and contribute to the functioning of democratic societies.
If we want a genuinely democratic state, how can we establish public policies – informed by our very best science – if a sizable minority of people reject the science? What can be done, descriptively and ethically, to change the minds of those who hold (what experts might consider) unreasonable beliefs?
According to Robin McKenna, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, these questions demonstrate the role and importance of contemporary epistemology. Drawing from the latest empirical research on how we form beliefs and how and why we change our minds, McKenna argues that we can improve our epistemic situations by creating environments in which we are more likely to form beliefs that align with the science.
To bring about a better world, people must recognise that their beliefs aren’t formed in an ideal and impartial state. To protect democracy and the natural world, says McKenna, we must combat misinformation and political bias through ethical and effective marketing.
Part I. Communicating Science
Part II. Further Analysis and Discussion
Robin McKenna, Persuasion and Intellectual Autonomy (chapter).
Robin McKenna, Persuasion and Epistemic Paternalism (paper).
This episode is produced in partnership with the Philosophy and the Future project at the University of Liverpool. For more information about philosophy at Liverpool, head over to www.liverpool.ac.uk/philosophy.