Competing conceptions of science in the L’Aquila “Major risks” trial


Friday 9th December, 5pm

Competing conceptions of science in the L’Aquila “Major risks” trial, withFederico Brandmayr, University of Cambridge

In the last twenty years, science and technology studies have increasingly turned their attention to the methods and practices by which individuals and groups attribute certain characters to science to define its nature and distinguish it from other social spheres, such as politics, administration and the media. The theoretical aim of these studies is to explain why different groups select certain characters and ignore others, thus constructing conceptions of science that are often in conflict with each other. The talk will discuss some conjectures drawing from a study of the L’Aquila “Major risks” trial and of the public debate that accompanied it. During the controversy, science was depicted sometimes as an influential and authoritative institution, at other times as a stock of knowledge unable to influence the behavior of laypeople; certain actors emphasized the practical and short-term benefits of science, while others emphasized its theoretical and speculative dimension. These conceptions had different implications on the decisions taken by the judicial authority, and thus constituted rhetorical tools that could be used strategically by the actors involved.