Enhanced Epistemic Trust and the Value-Free Ideal as a Social Indicator of Trust

Enhanced Epistemic Trust and the Value-Free Ideal as a Social Indicator of Trust

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  • September 12, 2022
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Publics trust experts for personal and pro-social reasons. Scientists are among the experts publics trust most, and so, epistemic trust is routinely afforded to them. The call for epistemic trust to be more socially situated in order to account for the impact of science on society and public welfare is at the forefront of enhanced epistemic trust. I argue that the value-free ideal for science challenges establishing enhanced epistemic trust by preventing the inclusion of non-epistemic values throughout the evaluation of evidence and communication of these values. By selectively silencing non-epistemic values, the ideal cannot take into account publics’ social and moral responses to inductive risk, which are instrumental for defining and determining public welfare. Furthermore, by emphasising epistemic values almost exclusively in science education and communication, the value-free ideal is presented to publics in such a way that it becomes a social indicator of trust. I show this through examination of the importance of values in decisions to trust, and conclude that values (and restrictions on them) can be used by lay publics to help decide which experts to trust.

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