By invitation
  • Aleksandar Rankovic Diplômé en sciences et politiques environnementales, Aleksandar Rankovic est titulaire d’une licence en sciences de la vie  …

Discussion Meeting: Ignorance, Science and Democracy 

From 01st of December 2016 to 02nd of December 2016, Paris

École Normale Supérieure (ENS), 24 rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris

A speech by Aleksandar Rankovic during this workshop organised by the ENS. 


Researchers, and recently the general public, realize that ignorance is no longer simply an absence of knowledge; it has become an instrument of power, with its specific methodology of use in many areas of business, economics and politics. The study of how ignorance is produced ("agnotology") is now a familiar topic. Its features and consequences are increasingly documented in such diverse cases as tobacco, climate change, nuclear accidents, endocrine disrupters or neonicotinoids. We are witness to the fact that enhanced manipulation of ignorance parallels the development of our so-called "knowledge society".

In this meeting, we propose to focus on the following related aspects of this ongoing evolution.

1. How the very weapons of reason against ignorance (doubt, in-depth analysis, self-criticism...) are used to question scientifically established information; how the promotion of ignorance accompanies progress in economic concentration, globalization and technoscience, increasingly becoming part of strategies for business and governments.

2. Recognizing the concept of agnotology, this meeting will seek to flesh it out. What are the institutional, academic, corporate and ideological toolboxes that impact the production of ignorance or the dissemination of confusion?

3. The stakes in the production of ignorance and non-knowledge are often high, involving risks to society and human survival. Most of the work on agnotology so far has come from social scientists, whereas the risks themselves most often involve the work of scientists from the natural sciences. This conference seeks to promote discussions between researchers from the humanities and from the "hard" or "soft" sciences on the aims and social status of present-day science and technology, on risk and expertise, and on what is perhaps the crux of the matter: Do we need to reconcile science and democracy in decision-making, and if so, how?


  • Thierry RIBAULT, Clersé-CNRS-Université de Lille 1, France, and Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany
  • Kate BROWN, Dept of History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Md., USA
  • Harry BERNAS, Centre de Sciences Nucléaires et de Sciences de la Matière, CNRS-Université Paris-Sud/Paris Saclay, Orsay, France