Institute of the Weltethos Foundation
at the University of Tübingen

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Global Ethic and the Sciences – Our Annual Theme 2022

Research – Classifying – Advising

The Corona pandemic has put the importance of science in a new light. Once again, it became clear how much we owe to scientific knowledge. But it also showed that many people are not reached by scientific discourse. Some even say that so-called infodemias additionally burden the social climate through misinformation and disinformation, so that ideological claims and unfounded fears do the rounds under the pretext of “scientificity.”

The dissemination of reliable, evidence-based information is therefore a task for everyone, a “responsibility of society as a whole,” writes the World Health Organization (WHO). But how can this responsibility be fulfilled in society at large? Especially when time and again it appears that totalitarian claims or refusals of discourse are hidden behind supposedly “scientifically based world views”?

How can the dialogue between science and democracy succeed under the conditions of plurality? And what is the relationship between politics and science or ethics and science? To get to the bottom of these questions and to discuss ways to responsible and accountable science, we have chosen the annual theme “Global Ethics and the Sciences” for 2022. In doing so, we focus on the aspects of “researching”, “classifying” and “advising”, not only for the field of medicine and health sciences, but also for technical and natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Research: The sciences are primarily committed to their interest in knowledge. They are, according to the German Constitution (“Grundgesetz”, Article 5) free in research and teaching. Scientists assume responsibility for these freedoms in their working methods and with regard to their research projects. However, they are also accountable to society. A major task is to clearly define the scientific ethos with which this role is to be fulfilled and performed in the 21st century. We also need to better understand how findings of scientific work and research can be made effective.

Classifying: In highly complex and multi-layered information situations, knowledge workers are supposed to provide orientation and put facts into perspective. But not only since movements like #ScientistsforFuture science is discussed in the tension between value neutrality and value orientation, between objectivity claim and activism. What kind of science is this “engaged”, i.e. morally motivated science? How open-minded and innovative, how serious and neutral can such science be, reflecting its own ideological foundations and basic questions? The Global Ethic Institute asks itself these questions with particular urgency, since it is an institution of the University of Tübingen, i.e. it is committed to the standards of scientific research and teaching, but on the other hand it also has a normative basis. This is because, based on Hans Küng’s idea of global ethics, we at the Global Ethic Institute address questions of business and corporate ethics in a global perspective – also in order to provide valuable orientation for practitioners.

Advising: Not only in the age of “post-factuality” and “infodemias” does consulting science repeatedly come under scrutiny. Reports on commissioned research and manipulated studies have encouraged this. At the center of the criticism is the desire for reliability of scientific results. But does this not contradict the culture of error and controversy that is indispensable for the advancement of scientific knowledge? This raises several questions: What role may and should science play in political and corporate decision-making? Can scientific forecasts and scenarios predict the future? What about the error culture in science itself? Can or should individual groups call on “the sciences” to support their arguments or demands?

We want to discuss all of this with you as part of our annual theme in lecture series, events, publications and discussions with experts from science and practice.