‘The Place of Doubt in the Credibility of Science’

The Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU), of which ACU is a founding member, is hosting a webinar on Friday 21 May.

ACU’s representative on SACRU’s Research working group, Dr David Kirchhoffer of the Queensland Bioethics Centre, says, “The working group is developing a series of webinars that include experts from its member universities to address important issues that are arising in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr Kirchhoffer says, “The COVID-19 Pandemic has provided ‘science’ with an opportunity to flex its muscles at multiple levels, evidenced most dramatically in the rapid development of several effective vaccines. And yet, all along, there have been ‘doubters’.

“The doubters have ranged from politicians and businesspeople, to experts asking serious questions, to what many depict as conspiracy theorists. There has been a corresponding pattern in media coverage, with some seeking to assuage all doubt on the basis of ‘evidence-based’ science, while others stir the pot with the help of influential leaders.

“Part of the problem could be that doubt in fact has a real place in science, but that this place is not well understood, not only among politicians, media outlets and the public, but even among many scientists. Doubt, argued theologian Avery Dulles SJ, can be a Christian virtue: doubt keeps our commitments under criticism and thus avoids the pitfalls of superstition and fanaticism.

“In this respect, it could be argued that ‘faith’ and ‘science’ have something in common. Doubt is a prerequisite for good science because it leads us to ask questions in the first place and protects us from a kind of ‘scientism’.

“In this webinar, an expert panel will explore the place of doubt in science in order to further the appreciation of what it means to say that ‘we are following the science’.”

Dr Kirchhoffer will co-moderate, with Dr Laia Ros i Blanco, Head of Research and Innovation at Universitat Ramon Llull, a panel of experts including:

  • Fabián M. Jaksic: Professor and Director of the Center of Applied Ecology and Sustainability of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
  • Philip Landrigan: Director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College
  • Angela Wagener: Professor Emerita of Marine and Environmental Chemistry at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro

The event will be delivered by Zoom (in US and Canada Eastern time).

To attend this event, register online here. Registration is required. 

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