Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Conference on Doubt and Skepticism

On May 4-6 2017, there will be an interdisciplinary conference, “From Reasonable Doubt to Undue Scepticism,” at Birkbeck College, London. The conference will bring together scholars from various disciplines (psychology, epistemology, philosophy of science, law, statistics) and practicing professionals (lawyers/judges, clinicians, climate scientists, forensic scientists, journalists) to work towards an understanding of reasoning and decision-making under uncertainty through the lens of the notion of ‘reasonable doubt’. The goal is not only to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue, but also to pay particular attention to everyday practice. This should shed new light on epistemological and psychological questions about the nature and dynamics of belief and action, as well as on difficult judicial issues. Fostering such a dialogue among disciplines, and between researchers and practitioners, should also have implications for currently pressing societal issues such as the role and credentials of experts in democracy, conspiracy theories, science denial, and the epistemology and psychology of the social media — in short, societal concerns rooted in the difficulty of navigating an overwhelming mass of information.

Keynote speakers

Professor Branden Fitelson (Northeastern University)

Professor Larry Laudan (University of Texas at Austin)

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol)

Professor Paul Roberts (University of Nottingham)

Professor Dan Simon (University of Southern California Gould School of Law)

Call for papers

In addition to the keynote presentations, a few slots will be open for contributed papers. We invite submissions from scholars or practitioners in any field relevant to the topic of the conference. The deadline for submission is December 20th, 2016. Among the issues to be addressed are the following: What is the meaning of ‘reasonable doubt’ as a legal standard of proof (how should it be understood, and how is it, in practice)? What would a Bayesian decision-theoretical account of ‘reasonable doubt’ as a possible norm of reasoning and decision-making look like? Are there criteria to tell apart reasonable doubts from unreasonable ones? Who is legitimate in setting them, and in virtue of what kind of credentials? How can critical thinking be promoted without encouraging science denial and undermining the credentials of scientists? More generally, any reflection on how experts (climate scientists, forensic scientists, health professionals, etc.) and decision-makers, but also journalists having to pass on information to the public, deal with doubt and uncertainty in their day-to-day work would be welcome.

Further information about the conference’s topic and specific issues to be addressed, as well as the submission page, are available at: For any question, please write to

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