Mischaracterizing Uncertainty in Environmental-Health Sciences

Main Article Content

Kristin Shrader-Frechette

Abstract

Researchers doing welfare-related science frequently mischaracterize either situations of decision-theoretic mathematical/scientific uncertainty (defined in terms of purely-subjective probabilities) as situations of risk (defined in terms of reliable, often frequency-based, probabilities), or situations of risk as those of uncertainty. The paper (1) outlines this epistemic/ethical problem; (2) surveys its often-deadly, welfare-related consequences in environmental-health sciences; and (3) uses recent research on diesel particulate matter to reveal 7 specific methodological ways that scientists may mischaracterize lethal risks instead as situations of uncertainty, mainly by using methods and assumptions with false-negative biases. The article (4) closes by outlining two normative strategies for curbing misrepresentations of risk and uncertainty, especially in welfare-affecting science.

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How to Cite
Shrader-Frechette, Kristin. 2017. “Mischaracterizing Uncertainty in Environmental-Health Sciences”. Diametros, no. 53 (October):96-124. https://doi.org/10.13153/diam.53.0.1103.
Section
Ethics and Uncertainty
Author Biography

Kristin Shrader-Frechette, University of Notre Dame, Philosophy Department, Biological Sciences Department

Kristin Shrader-Frechette, ProfessorUniversity of Notre DamePhilosophy DepartmentBiological Sciences DepartmentO'Neill Family Endowed ChairNotre Dame, IN 46556USE-mail: Kristin.Shrader-Frechette.1@nd.edu
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