Contingency and Dissent in Science

Today society is scrambling to figure out how to manage the uses and abuses of science to minimize harm and maximize public benefit. But we face dramatically opposed attitudes to science. On one hand, it is presumed that the correctness of what science teaches does not come into question. On the other, there is widespread dissent even within the scientific community about results, methods and consequences. This project on contingency and dissent in science aims to develop tools for the scrutiny of the correctness of methods and results in the natural and human sciences based on detailed case studies.

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC|).

Project Leaders: Cartwright, Nancy FBA (Professor), Fennell, Damien(Dr) Research Fellow

Duration of the Project: February 2005 to April 2009


  • Collaborators in situ:
    • DiBucchianico, Maria Elena (Ms) (LSE) Sponsored Research Student
    • Efstathiou, Sophia(Dr) (UCSD and LSE) Occasional Research Assistant
    • Frigg, Roman (Dr) (LSE)
    • Morett, Fernando (Mr) (LSE) Occasional Research Assistant
  • Collaborators at a distance:
    • Chang, Hasok (Professor) (UCL)
    • Oreskes, Naomi (Professor) (UCSD)
    • Suarez, Mauricio (Professor) (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain)


Nancy Cartwright

  1. Cartwright, Nancy D. with Damien Fennell (forthcoming), 'Does Roush show evidence should be probable?, forthcoming in Synthese.
  2. Cartwright, Nancy D. (forthcoming), 'Relativism in the Philosophy of Science' to appear in Relativism: A Compendium, M. Krauz (ed.) Columbia University Press.
  3. Cartwright, Nancy D. (forthcoming), 'What Is This Thing Called Efficacy', forthcoming in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Philosophical Theory and Scientific Practice, September 2009, C. Mantzavinos (ed), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Cartwright, Nancy D. 'God's Order, Man's Order and the Order of Nature' (forthcoming), Science, Reason and Truth. Proceedings of the San Marino 2007 Symposium, M. Bersanelli, P. Van Inwagen, and C. Harper (eds.), 2009, Notre Dame University Press.
  5. Cartwright, Nancy D. (forthcoming), 'Natural Laws and the Closure of Physics', to appear in Visions of Discovery. New Light on Physics, Cosmology and Consciousness ed. Raymond Y. Chiao, William D. Phillips, Anthony J. Leggett, Marvin L. Cohen, and Charles L. Harper, Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Cartwright, Nancy D., Gabriele Contessa and Sheldon Steed (forthcoming),'Keeping Track of Neurath's Bill: Abstract Concepts, Stock Models and the Unity of Classical Physics', to appear  in The Unity of Science: Essays in Honour of Otto Neurath, Olga Pombo, (ed.) Kluwer.
  7. Cartwright, Nancy D. (2009), 'Evidence-Based Policy: What's To Be Done About Relevance', forthcoming in Models, Methods, and Evidence: Topics in the Philosophy of Science. Proceedings of the 38th Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy, Martin Thomson-Jones (ed.), Philosophical Studies 144:1, March 2009, 127-136. 
  8. Cartwright, Nancy D. (2009), 'Causality, Invariance and Policy', in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics, Harold Kincaid and Don Ross (eds.), Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 410-421.
  9. Cartwright, Nancy D. (2009), 'Why be Hanged for Even a Lamb?', in Images of Empiricism, Bradley Monton (ed.), Oxford University Press, 2009, pp 32-45.
  10. Cartwright, Nancy D. (2008), 'In Praise of the Representation Theorem', Representation, Evidence, and Justification: Themes from Suppes. (Lauener Library of Analytical Philosophy; vol. 1) Frauchiger, Michael and Essler, Wilhelm K. (eds.), Frankfurt, Paris, Ebikon, Lancaster, New Brunswick 2008: Ontos Verlag.
  11. Cartwright, Nancy D. (2008), 'Models: Parables v Fables', Insights 2008, Vol. 1, no. 11, Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University.
  12. Cartwright, Nancy D. with Hasok Chang (2008), 'Measurement', The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd (eds.), Routledge: London and New York, 2008, pp. 367-375.
  13. Mauricio Suarez and Cartwright, Nancy D. (2008), 'Theories: Tools versus Models' in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 2008, Vol. 39 (1): 61-81.

Damien Fennell

Articles and Chapters:

  1.  Fennell, Damien with Nancy Cartwright (forthcoming), 'Does Roush show evidence should be probable?, Synthese.
  2. (forthcoming), 'The Error Term and its Interpretation in Structural Models in Econometrics' in Causality in the Sciences, Oxford University Press.

DISCUSSION PAPER SERIES (edited by Damien Fennell)


  1. Cartwright Nancy (2009), "Hunting Causes and Using Them: Is There No Bridge from Here to There?" Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 05/09
  2. Roll-Hansen, Nils, "Why the distinction between basic (theoretical) and applied (practical) research is important in the politics of science", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 04/09
  3. Thompson, Chris (2009),"How to tell when efficacy will NOT translate into effectiveness", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 03/09
  4. Biddle, Justin (2009), "Adversarial Systems and the Privatization of Biomedical Research: An Epistemic Evaluation" Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 02/09
  5. Fennell, Damien and Nancy Cartwright (2009),"Does Roush show that evidence should be probable?" Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 01/09


  1. Fennell, Damien (2008), "Is Structural Econometrics Evidence Based?", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 10/08, London School of Economics.
  2. Solomon, Miriam (2008), "Norms of Dissent", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 09/08
  3. Cartwright, Nancy with Jacob Stegenga (2008), "A Theory of Evidence for Evidence-Based Policy", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 08/08
  4. San Pedro, Iñaki and Mauricio Suárez (2008), "The Principle of Common Cause and Indeterminism: A Review", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 07/08
  5. Reiss, Julian and Philip Kitcher (2008), "Neglected Diseases and Well-Ordered Science", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 06/08, London School of Economics.
  6. Frigg, Roman (2008), "Models and Fiction", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 05/08, London School of Economics.
  7. Dorstewitz, Philipp (2008), "Imagination in the Deliberation Process", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 04/08, London School of Economics.
  8. Howick, Jeremy (2008), "Double-Blinding: The Benefits and Risks of Being in the Dark", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 03/08, London School of Economics.
  9. Oreskes, Naomi, Erik M. Conway and Matthew Shindell (2008), "From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming, and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge", Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 02/08, London School of Economics.
  10. Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway (2008), "Challenging Knowledge: How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War" Contingency and Dissent in Science Project Discussion Paper Series, Technical Report 01/08, London School of Economics.


A series of invited lectures and workshops have been organized in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Our series of discussion papers documents some of this intellectual exchange.


Scientific Realism Revisited, 28-29 April 2009, LSE

John Worrall, Professor, Philosophy, LSE, 'Realisms for sale: entity, experimental, structural (epistemic and ontic), partial, 'full-on' .... But will the real realism stand up please? '

Mauricio Suarez, Professor, Philosophy, Complutense University, 'Fictions, inference, and realism '

Nancy Cartwright, Professor, Philosophy, LSE and UC San Diego, 'Phenomenological realism: how bold should we be?'

Sherrilyn Roush, Associate Professor, Philosophy, UC Berkeley, 'Optimism about the Pessimistic Induction'

Steven French, Professor, Philosophy, Leeds, 'One Trope or Two: How much metaphysics should the realist take with her tea? '

Bradley Monton, Associate Professor, Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder, 'What constructive empiricism gets wrong, and what it might get right'

Peter Clark, Professor, Philosophy, St Andrews University, Comments


Institutionalizing Epistemic Standards for Science, 1-2 December 2008, LSE

Michael Feuer, Executive Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education in the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Science, USA, 'Scientific Advice as Procedural Rationality: The Origins and Functions of the National Research Council'

Justin Biddle, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Philosophy, University of Bielefeld, Germany, 'Institutionalising Scepticism: Adversarial Proceedings for the Evaluation of Pharmaceuticals'

Matthias Kaiser, Director, National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology, Norway,'The price of precaution: The case of vaccinating the US population against the flu'

Nils Roll Hansen, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, Univ. of Oslo, Norway, 'The importance of distinguishing theoretical ('basic') and practical ('applied') science in analyzing scientific dissent and controversy'

Dissent in Science: its Origins and Outcomes, 3-4 March 2008, UCSD

Naomi Oreskes, Professor, History & Science Studies, UCSD, 'You can argue with the facts: A political history of climate change'

Marilena Di-Bucchianico, Research Student, Philosophy, LSE, 'Dissent in Science: The Superconductivity Case'

Elisabeth Lloyd, Professor, Arnold and Maxine Tanis Chair of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana U. Bloomington, 'Scientific Skeptics and Global Climate Change'

Beatrice Golomb, Associate Professor, Medicine, UCSD, 'Dissent in Medicine - Stacking the Deck'

John Beatty, Professor, Philosophy, UBC Vancouver, 'Should we aim for Consensus?'

Tal Golan, Professor, History and Science Studies, UCSD, 'What's wrong with some dissent? The 19th-Century Science Wars'

Miriam Solomon, Professor, Philosophy, Temple University, Philadelphia, 'Norms of Dissent'


16 February 2009, Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Emeritus Professor, History of Mathematics and Logic, Middlesex University, 'Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Man of Dissent'

10 October 2008, Angus Deaton,Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs| and the Economics Department| at Princeton University, Discussion of Deaton's Keynes Lecture 'Instruments of development: Randomization in the tropics, and the search for the elusive keys to economic development'

10 October 2008, Peter Achinstein, Professor, History and Philosophy of Science, Johns Hopkins University 'What to do if you want to defend a theory you can't prove: Maxwell's method of physical speculation'

5 June 2008, Aris Spanos, Wilson Schmidt Professor, Economics, Virginia Tech, 'Theory Testing in Economics and the Error Statistical Perspective' 


Nancy Cartwright


  1. Filosofisk Supplement, "Philosophy of Dappled Things -A conversation with Nancy Cartwright" by Gry Oftedal, November 2008


  1. "Can Queen Physics Rule All the Subjects in her Dominion?", Reichenbach Lecture, UCLA, April 2009
  2. American Educational Research Association meeting, invited participant in a session on Assessing the Impacts of Disciplined Inquiry: Implications of Modelling Evidence Generation in Phases for Research, Policy, and Funding Priorities, San Diego, April 2009
  3. "How to do things with causes", Presidential Address, American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, April 2009
  4. "Causality: What can be the use of it?", Edinburgh University Philosophy Society, March 2009
  5. "How do we know what a thought experiment teaches? Models, Fables and Parables", Workshop on The Experimental Side of Modeling, San Francisco State University, March 2009
  6. "Towards a Theory of Evidence for Effectiveness for Evidence-Based Policy", Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the National Research Council of the National Academies of the United States joint conference on Evidence-based policy: International experiences, Paris (France), March 2009
  7. "Evidence based policy! So what's evidence?", Maastricht University, November 2008
  8. "Evidence for Use", Philosophy of Science Association Biannual Conference, Workshop on Bending Science, November 2008
  9. "A Theory of Evidence for Effectiveness for Evidence-Based Policy", National Research Council, Standing Committee on Social Science Evidence for Use, Workshop on Evidence for Use, , Irvine, November 2008
  10. "Social Science Evidence; Social Policy Evidence: Observations from the Philosophy of the Social Sciences", National Research Council, Division of Behavioral And Social Sciences Education (DBASSE) Advisory Board meeting, Irvine, October 2008
  11. St Paul's Institute, Discussant on 'The Battle for Truth? The Science-Religion Debate', St Paul's Cathedral, October 2008
  12. University of Kent, Causality Study Fortnight: Causality and Probability in the Sciences, 'Causal Claims: From Science to Practice', September 2008
  13. "The Incompleteness of Physics and the Hodgepodge of Nature", Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, Oslo University, Annual Oslo Lecture on the Mind in Nature, , August 2008
  14. "Towards a Theory of Evidence for Evidence-Based Policy", Department of Philosophy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & Foundation on Experimental Reasoning, Reliability, and the Objectivity and Rationality of Science (E.R.R.O.R), Workshop on Philosophy of Science and Evidence Relevant for Regulation and Policy, , June 2008
  15. "Evidence-Based Government: Hunting Causes and Using Them", Home Office Seminar, UK, June 2008
  16. Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN), University of Oslo, PhD-minicourse 'The Notion of "Cause" Needed for the Philosophy of Mind', May 2008
  17. Templeton Foundation, Panelist at the conference 'A Comprehensible Universe: A Celebration of Michael Heller', May 2008
  18. "Evidence-Based Policy: So ... What's Evidence?"Department of Philosophy Colloquium, University of Toronto, April 2008
  19. "Evidence-Based Policy: What's To Be Done About Relevance", Thirty-Eighth Oberlin Colloquium in Philosophy, Oberlin College, April 2008

Damien Fennell

  1. "Reflections on Causality and Causal Inference", Causal Inference: State of the Art, University of Cambridge, March 2009
  2. "Identifying Causes in Econometrics", Causality and probability in the sciences (CAPITS 2008), University of Kent, Canterbury, September 2008
  3. "Is Econometrics Evidence-based?", Invited speaker, The Role and Evaluation of Evidence in Economic Analysis, University of Bologna, Italy, May 2008
  4. "Analysing the Rational Use of Formal Methods of Inference in the Special Sciences" Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable, University of Washington, Seattle, March 2008

Sophia Efstathiou

  1. "Tracking Causes of Health Outcomes: Why 'race' won't do", British Society for Philosophy of Science, July 2008 (refereed)
  2. "Validating race/ethnicity constructs for genetics research", American Philosophical Association Mini-Conference: Making Philosophy of Science more Socially Relevant, March 2008 (invited)


An overview of the project's research aims can be found here|.