Nuclear energy, Gmos, stem cells: the more science advances, the more society seems to make resistance. On an almost daily basis, we witness protests against the commercialization of transgenic food, rallies against radioactive waste facilities, heated debates on embryo stem cells research and euthanasia. Are we really facing a radical clash between science and society? Are our institutions suitable to deal with the challenges of research and innovation? Are citizens sufficiently equipped to discuss such issues? In short: how can increasingly complex and technical policy decisions be coupled with the needs of democratic participation? Drawing upon a vast range of evidence taken from several European countries and United States, the book argues that such questions and conflicts can neither be considered episodic, nor dismissed through labels like 'obscurantism' or 'antiscientism'. Delegating choices to the experts, or reconducting them to individual ethics, is not sufficient anymore to unravel the dilemmas of a science in which the expectations of patients enter the laboratories and a society in which scientists protest in the streets to obtain more resources and autonomy. A full and mature awareness of the challenges and conflicts around contemporary technoscience has significant implications not only for the scientific sphere, but for democratic politics itself. Since any technology comprises a vision of humanity, nature, and society, transparent and accountable institutions and procedures are necessary in order to achieve public choices among many possible alternatives. We can no longer rely on the comfortable illusion according to which selected problems can be kept out of politics, and be solved either at a scientific level or in the inner sphere of individual conscience. Emerging technoscience controversies provide us with an opportunity to rediscover democracy, as a genuine confrontation among different ideas regarding our future. Whether we like it or not, it may be time to resume discussing the world in which we want to live.
Contents: Introduction. Science-Society as a Clash of Civilizations? - 1. The Technocracy Response: All Power to the Experts (with the Blessing of Well-Educated Citizens). - 2. Einstein has left the building: coming to terms with post-academic science. - 3. Citizens in the laboratory, Scientists in the Streets. - 4. Choosing the World We Want: Democracy in the Age of Technoscience. -References.
Massimiano Bucchi teaches Sociology of Science at the University of Trento.