Abstract

While enlisting the labor of nonscientists on a large scale for scientific knowledge making is now commonly praised as citizen science, citizens in those scientific undertakings usually do not contribute what Harry Collins and his colleagues in the Third Wave call contributory expertise and usually do not take part in the technical decision-making process of knowledge production. There are nevertheless other kinds of citizen science, in which participation of nonexperts, though not consistent with the limits imposed by the normative prong of the Third-Wave thesis, should not be judged as per se illegitimate or relegated simply to political actions. I will argue in this article, with the evidence from cases involving nonexperts in scientific truth making, that a different set of prescriptive rules is more warranted: lay citizens should not be denied participation in technical decision making simply because they do not speak the specialist language; the society that lives the form-of-life of Western science has an obligation to provide translation service to those who have stakes and wish to speak on technical questions but do not speak the language of a specialism; lay citizens who make propositional claims with the assistance of translation are only entitled to present their arguments, to question opposing claims, to defend their case, and in the end to receive an explanation of why and how the final decision is made on terms and rules mutually accepted by all parties; political decision making intrinsic to and necessary for the resolution of a technical question should theoretically be open to all, including those who do not speak specialist language, subject only to practical feasibility; disputes over values necessary for resolving a technical question should be properly settled through ideal deliberation under conditions of mutual engagement involving all parties of public life.

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