Biases and Feedbacks in the Knowledge System: From Academia to the Public and Back

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In the philosophy of science, there are multiple concepts trying to answer the question of how scientists 'know' things, all circling around the notion of observation, thesis, falsification and corroboration - namely, the usual concepts of scientific practice. However, a whole different question is 'how does the public know things?'. Understanding the answer to this question is crucial, since (at least in Western democracies) the public is the entity which funds, and through funding directs to a certain extent, the course of science. Here I discuss 'the knowledge system', a concept (proposed by the American writer Alex Epstein), which can generally be thought of as the set of institutions and processes which take part in the way the public becomes knowledgeable about certain (scientific) topics. I argue that the 'knowledge system' contains two inherent flaws, namely (i) the accumulation of biases; and (ii) strong feedback loops, which are almost unavoidable. I demonstrate these flaws with some examples and show how these flaws can (and already do) lead to policy suggestions that de-facto abolish academic freedom. Finally, I discuss possible ways to overcome - or at least minimize - the effect of these flaws on science and the scientific community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-526
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - 19 Oct 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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