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Cailin O’Connor

University of California, Irvine, USA
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Abstract: Scientific Polarization

Sometimes scientific communities polarize over mat- ters of fact, even when they share epistemic goals, and have access to the same evidence. In this talk, I discuss why scientists might polarize in this way. Drawing on the motivating case of chronic Lyme disease, I present results from epistemic network models where actors share evidence, seek truth, and nonetheless po- larize. This happens when scientists become skeptical of evidence shared by community members whose beliefs diverge too far from their own. This tendency towards mistrust hurts the knowledge-producing capacity of the group in many cases, and can lead to the emergence of epistemic „factions“ that share multiple, polarized beliefs. But, as I discuss, it is nonetheless often a reasonable epistemic strategy.

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