This presentation examines the tensions between citizens and experts from an epistemological perspective. Toward this end, it employs the example of risk in environmental struggles. Much of the discussion of this topic has focused on the “irrationality” of the citizen, particular the citizen’s inability to understand or accept scientific findings and its implications for rational policymaking.
Through a comparison of the formal logic of science and the informal ordinary language logic of argumentation, this analysis turns the issue around and questions the rationality of the scientist in decisions pertaining to public policy. In the process, the presentation focuses on the socio-cultural context to show that ordinary citizens rationally focus on important questions that scientific experts ignore or neglect. Epistemologically demonstrating the scientist’s need to integrate the citizen’s perspective, the paper concludes with an approach for bringing them together.