Science & Demoncracy: Michael Ignatieff

March 20, 2018 - "Open Society's New Enemies and the Assault on Truth" with Michael Ignatieff, President, Central European University, Budapest

The STS Program at HKS presents a lecture by Michael Ignatieff, President, Central European University, Budapest, and a panel discussion featuring Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, and Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Harvard Business School; James T. Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University; and Julie A. Reuben, Charles Warren Professor of the History of American Education, as part of the Science & Democracy Lecture Series.

As a philosopher of science, Karl Popper was unique, among 20th-century political thinkers, in the emphasis he placed upon scientific knowledge as a precondition for political freedom in a democratic society. Openness was, above all, a moral and intellectual commitment to falsification and to constant self-correction and self-criticism. The 21st century's 'new enemies' of open society—ideological nationalism and authoritarian populism, empowered by new technologies—pose a challenge to Popper's epistemological ideal of a free society and ask us to think again about 'the marketplace of ideas' model of democratic debate. The lecture responds to these challenges by exploring how to restore the authority of scientific knowledge in public debate.

Once a semester, the STS Program, with co-sponsorship from other local institutions, hosts an installation in its Science and Democracy Lecture Series. The series aims to spark lively, university-wide discussion of the place and meaning of science and technology, broadly conceived, in democratic societies. We hope to explore both the promised benefits of our era's most salient scientific and technological breakthroughs and the potentially harmful consequences of developments that are inadequately understood, debated, or managed by politicians, institutions, and lay publics.