Science and Values: A philosophical perspective on the justifiability of evidence based policymaking
Wetenschap en Waarden: Een filosofisch perspectief op de rechtvaardiging van evidence based policy
Science is widely regarded as the most reliable epistemic source of providing knowledge about the world. Policymakers intend to make purposeful changes in the world. The practice of policymakers relying on scientific experts to make informed decisions about which policies to implement is called Evidence Based Policymaking. This thesis provides a perspective from the philosophy of science in order to discuss the justifiability of Evidence Based Policymaking (EBP) with respect to broadly democratic and liberal values. Justifying EBP with broadly democratic and liberal values entails that the practices of EBP promote, or at least are in harmony with, values such as democratic governance and enhancement of people’s freedom and autonomy. Identifying the conditions under which practices of EBP meet such desiderata minimally requires an understanding of how sciences and scientific experts are instrumental in realizing the public’s values, needs, interests, and pursuit of freedom. In order to approach this project, the thesis adopts a philosophical perspective to conceptualize how sciences are supposed to be guided by or promote society’s values, needs, and interests. Specifically, it adopts a perspective from the philosophy of science that focuses on the relationship between science and (societal) values. The kind of philosophy of science perspective on “values in science” that this thesis adopts has two overarching pursuits relevant for the project of the thesis. Firstly, it seeks to inform the debates about which values and non-epistemic considerations are supposed to inform scientific research. For instance, it discusses the proper sources/owners of the non-epistemic desiderata that inform scientific research and the proper social mechanisms to identify these non-epistemic desiderata (e.g. Kourany, 2010; Kitcher, 2011). Second, it offers theories of the non-epistemic values’ proper roles in scientific reasoning and research that specify how their involvement in science does not unduly compromise the epistemic pursuits of science. The values-in-science perspective thereby seeks to balance the instrumental value of science (i.e., its use to pursue certain societal projects and values) with its epistemic authority (i.e., its objectivity, non-dogmatism, and reliability). The thesis advances an understanding of EBP from the perspective of the values in science by addressing issues that come to the fore when EBP is acknowledged as a value-laden practice of informed decision-making.