A statement by Karin Zachmann, Professor for History of Technology TUM and speaker of the DFG FOR 2448 (Evidence practices in science, medicine, technology and society)
What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope? What is the human? The four Kantian questions are highly topical in the corona pandemic, which confronts the governments of the affected countries – now almost all on earth – with far-reaching decisions which in the last instance are about the conditio humana.
But which measures are appropriate as a reaction to the corona pandemic considering the difficulty to estimate the scope of the hazard? In order to know this, the infectious disease Covid-19 and its expansion dynamics have to be understood. The experts of the hour are on the one side virologists, epidemiologists, intensive care physicians, pathologists etc., therefore the experts of medical research and praxis. On the other side are the experts of pandemic research, which study its expansion dynamics and who resort to knowledge and methods from statistics, system analysis, traffic research, behavior research, etc. In the public depiction of the pandemic statistics and models are especially prominent. It is observable that the longer the crisis goes on and the more countries it catches, the initially very different political strategies start enforcing more and more the lockdown of social life and Social Distancing.
In doing so, with the goal of disrupting infection chains, the personal civil rights and liberties and democratic basic rights are interfered with. But in a democracy, which defines itself through the co-determination of the population, politics has a special duty to give reasons, so that the question arises, on which evidence the politicians act on. Evidence means here plausible and convincing knowledge, which reached a broad societal recognition, which is developed in negotiation processes. In the context of this contribution it will be asked which shapes of evidence are increased in value, who provides them and what makes them so pervasive.
See the full Statement Pdf (German only)