Thomas Dietz: Integrating Science and Deliberation
"The Enlightenment," writes Thomas Dietz, "led to an estrangement of science and democracy even as it promoted both."
I'm reading Mediated Modeling: A System Dynamics Approach to Environmental Consensus Building by ecological economist Marjan van den Belt. The book includes a foreword by Dietz, who chairs the National Research Council Panel on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making.
The challenge for the 21st century becomes how to integrate science and deliberation. ... Our greatest opportunities arise when the public actually has a chance to influence a decision early enough that creative and flexible solutions can be proposed. Indeed, we need to move from thinking about decisions as isolated events to a process of governance.
To realize this opportunity we have to answer a number of difficult questions:
• How can the public be engaged in a way that leads to competent deliberation using the best available science?
• How can the science be engaged while taking proper account of the limits to our knowledge and the uncertainties inherent in even the best analysis?
• How can a process make use of quantitative information while giving proper weight to qualitative information?
• How can the public discourse help understand the limits of the models and the need for further research?
• How can the discourse proceed in ways that are respectful of all viewpoints while encouraging learning and change on the part of individuals and groups?
• How can a process move towards consensus and a decision while not forcing premature and fragile agreement?
In order to integrate science and democracy in environmental governance, we must be able to implement answers to these questions. The admonitions to use deliberative processes have been heard for two decades, but we don't know how to practice what has been preached. Mediated Modeling offers a practice that respects both scientific analysis and public discourse.