030059 Fact-checking of Scientific Claims: a Philosophy of Science Perspective (Seselja)

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Seminar takes place November 4, 10-16, December 16, 10-16 and January 27, 10-16
Contemporary social discourse has been flooded by fake news, echo-chambers, epistemic bubbles and other epistemically pernicious processes. Scientifically relevant information has not been spared: from `anti-vaxxers' to climate-change deniers, disinformation has also had an effect on scientifically relevant news. To combat such issues, social media have introduced the practice of `fact-checking'. However, fact-checking of scientific claims can be challenging. To start, neither does the frontier of scientific research typically produce `facts', nor can such claims easily be `checked'. Ongoing inquiry, often pervaded by scientific disagreements and controversies, is characterized by incomplete or conflicting evidence, and hence by a high degree of risk and uncertainty. At the same time, an unhinged spread of false or deceptive information can easily have numerous harmful consequences, including the loss of public trust in science. In this block seminar we will start from the philosophical discussions on the evaluation of scientific hypotheses, and the role of values in scientific inquiry. In addition, we will look into recent controversies surrounding the fact-checking of scientific claims. Throughout the course, students will work in teams, where each team will choose a case-study to research. The result of the research will be presented in the final block. The course will consist of three blocks, to be held on Saturdays. In addition, teams will have (online) coaching sessions in between the blocks. The reading list will be provided at the start of the course.