Trust is the glue that binds our social interactions. Much of our social life, particularly in technologically advanced societies, is made possible through complex divisions of cognitive labor and reliance on the testimony of trained experts in various ﬁelds. A high level of trust in expert opinion is necessary for the eﬀective functioning of this division of cognitive labor. A marked feature of recent political upheavals in Europe and US is the breakdown of trust in experts. This talk aims to contribute to the understanding of this breakdown by focusing on conditions of trust in science.
The talk argues that idea of trust in science is both contextual and multi-factoral and any analysis of the reasons for lack, or breakdown, of trust in science should be sensitive to these complexities. Baghramian begins by distinguishing between (a) the exercise of trust among scientists and the type of trust that non-scientists place in science; and (b) between procedural and agential epistemic trust in science. She argues that while scientists have increasingly relied on procedural considerations and what we call a ‘heuristics of trust’ in placing their trust in the work of their colleagues, trust in science among non-scientists is primarily based on agential considerations. Agential epistemic trust diﬀers from procedural trust in the extent to which it incorporates normative and non-cognitive features, elements that are largely absent from procedural trust. In particular, she argues that an expression and acknowledgement of personal vulnerability is key to agential trust which in turn leads to an, often unfulﬁlled, expectation of assurances of benevolence from science.