Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance edited by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger - ISBN 9780804759014 - Stanford University Press 2008



Discovered in WithoutNotesJune11#Agnotology and of obvious help for understanding epistemology (especially for OwnConcepts#Epistemotaxis, Cognition#EpistemicElitism and AlgorithmicEpistemology#Constraints) from a less positive (and eventually positivist) viewpoint without going in irrational paranoia. Also motivated by TheDarkSideOfCreativity which invites to question a generally positively perceived concept to be analyzed with a more objective viewpoint.

Pre-reading model

Draw a schema (using PmGraphViz or another solution) of the situation of the area in the studied domain before having read the book.


  • 1 Agnotology: A Missing Term to Describe the Cultural Production of Ignorance (and Its Study)
    • "ignorance as native state (or resource),
      • ignorance as lost realm (or selective choice), and
      • ignorance as a deliberately engineered and strategic ploy (or active construct)." (p10)
    • "Cigaretteers will jump from being Popperian to constructivist as it suits them; they love to argue that no number of experiments can verify a theory, but they also know how to hammer away at the language of a claim until it falls to pieces." (p24)
    • "The industry loves this form of the <<null hypothesis>>: they start by assuming "no harm done," and then fail in their feeble efforts at falsification." (p25)
    • "Science responds to funding opportunities, which means that ignorance can be maintained or created in certain areas simply by <<defunding.>>" (p27)

Part I - Secrecy, Selection, and Suppression

  • 2 Removing Knowledge: The Logic of Modern Censorship
    • description of the classification process
    • "[secrecy as a threat to democracy] is political at every scale, from attempts to excise a single critical idea to the vain efforts to remove whole domains of knowledge."
  • 3 Challenging Knowledge: How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War
    • "To accept that the free market may be creating profound problems that it cannot solve would be, as one of us has argued elsewhere, <<ideologically shattering>>. When scientific knowledge challenged their worldview, these men responded by challenging that knowledge." (p85)
    • "The great economist John Maynard Keynes famously noted that there is no free lunch. The western world has experienced 150 years of unprecedented prosperity built by tapping the energy stored in fossil fuels. That was our lunch. Global warming is the bill."
  • 4 Manufactured Uncertainty : Contested Science and the Protection of the Public's Health and Environment
  • 5 Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance
    • "What we attend to and what we ignore are often complexly interwoven with values and politics." (p136)
    • "Ignorance —far from being a simple, innocent lack of knowledge— is a complex phenomenon, which, like knowledge, is interrelated with power. " (p145)

Part II - Lost Knowledge, Lost Worlds

  • 6 West Indian Abortifacients and the Making of Ignorance
    • explaining how a plant might travel without the knowledge that goes with it, in particular it if has political importance, e.g. population control
    • remarks on the social difficulty to study the phenomenon
      • including because of the lack of vocabulary in another language
  • 7 Suppression of Indigenous Fossil Knowledge: From Claverack, New York, 1705 to Agate Springs, Nebraska, 2005
    • impact of racism on how knowledge itself will be evaluated
      • overall since a paradigm replace the previous one, this is not surprising even if not epistemologically correct
  • 8 Mapping Ignorance in Archaeology: The Advantages of Historical Hindsight

Part III - Theorizing Ignorance

  • 9 Social Theories of Ignorance
    • multiple definitions
      • negative knowledge as knowledge of the limits of knowing
      • conscious ignorance as knowing that we don't know
      • meta-ignorance as not knowing that we don't know
    • overall importance of trans-disciplinary approach
      • but insisting on the social aspect
  • 10 White Ignorance
    • "If the society is one structured by relations of domination and subordination (as of course most societies in recent human history have been), then in certain areas this conceptual apparatus is likely going to be shaped and inflected in various ways by the biases of the ruling groups. So crucial concepts may well be misleading in their inner makeup and their external relation to a larger doxastic architecture." (p237)
    • Wikipedia:Maurice Halbwachs on Wikipedia:Collective memory, and that "if we need to understand collective memory, we also need to understand collective amnesia." (p241)
  • 11 Risk Management versus the Precautionary Principle
    • "industry has reinforced its appeal to science and developed a strategy that valorizes science-based risk as real to the exclusion of all value-based considerations. This construction of ignorance in the realm of values has led to a clash between the ways in which regulators assess and the public experiences risk." (p265)
  • Chapter 12
    • "In order to not be accomplices in the social construction of ignorance, journalists must be more confident of what they know and how they know it." (p280)
      • journalists are fundamental cogs of a larger epistemic system which I have so far mainly ignored, EpistemologicalModel and News should reflect their unique position more seriously

See also

Overall remarks and questions


So in the end, it was about X and was based on Y.


Point A, B and C are debatable because of e, f and j.


(:new_vocabulary_start:) new_word (:new_vocabulary_end:)

Post-reading model

Draw a schema (using PmGraphViz or another solution) of the situation of the area in the studied domain after having read the book. Link it to the pre-reading model and align the two to help easy comparison.


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