Bog standards: Science and conservation at a public inquiry

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Abstract / Description of output

This paper examines a public inquiry into the proposed draining and exploitation of a peat bog, held to be of great significance by conservationists. Inquiries seem to offer a ‘naturally-occurring’ instance of the public understanding of science. Of course, the conventions and procedures of legal examination dictate that scientific arguments may be treated differently in court from the way they are normally handled by the public. Still, the purpose of the inquiry is to allow lay persons to pass judgements. The paper examines the argumentational strategy of the scientists supporting the conservationists’ case, and of the Queen's Counsel representing the developer. In particular, the QC is seen to use a rigid model of scientific rigour to criticize the ad hoc and sometimes tacit procedures of the scientists; although it is by no means clear that such ad hocery could be eliminated, he is able to suggest that their reasoning may actually be tendentious. The paper concludes by contrasting the debate in an inquiry with scientific controversies conducted in other contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-438
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1989

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