Headline: Endangering the integrity of science by misusing unvalidated models and untested assumptions as facts: General considerations and the mineral and phosphorus scarcity fallacy

There is increasing demand for science to contribute to solving societal problems (solutionism). Thereby, scientists may become normative activists for solving certain problems (advocacy). When doing this, they may insufficiently differentiate between scientific and political modes of reasoning and validation (de-differentiationism), which is sometimes linked to questionable forms of utilizing the force of facts (German: Faktengewalt). Scientific findings are simplified and communicated in such a way that they acquire a status as unfalsifiable and absolutely true (truth to power). This becomes critical if the consistency and validation of the findings are questionable and scientific models underlying science activists’ actions are doubtful, oversimplified, or incorrect. Herein, we exemplarily elaborate how the integrity of science is endangered by normative solutionist and sociopolitically driven transition management and present mineral scarcity claims that ignore that reserves or resources are dynamic geotechnological-socioeconomic entities. We present the main mineral scarcity models and their fallacious assumptions. We then discuss the phosphorus scarcity fallacy, which is of particular interest as phosphorus is non-substitutable and half of all current food production depends on fertilizers (and thus phosphorus). We show that phosphorus scarcity claims are based on integrating basic geoeconomic knowledge and discuss cognitive and epistemological barriers and motivational and sociopolitical drivers promoting the scarcity fallacy, which affects high-level public media. This may induce unsustainable environmental action. Scientists as honest knowledge brokers should communicate the strengths but also the constraints and limits of scientific modeling and of applying it in reality.

Publication Year
2021
Publication Type
Academic Articles
Citation

Scholz, R., & Wellmer, F. W. (2021). Endangering the integrity of science by misusing unvalidated models and untested assumptions as facts: General considerations and the mineral and phosphorus scarcity fallacy. Sustainability science, 16(6), 2069-2086. doi:10.1007/s11625-021-01006-w.

DOI
10.1007/s11625-021-01006-w
Links
https://publications.iass-potsdam.de/rest/items/item_6001190_3/component/file_6… https://publications.iass-potsdam.de/rest/items/item_6001190_3/component/file_6…
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