Richard Sclove asserts in his book, Democracy and Technology, that, given equal opportunity, non-scientists can not only understand technical information, but that they can also contribute to new scientific knowledge (Sclove, 1995, 50). He further argues that whether a non-scientist can grasp complex technical information is not the real problem. He contends that the real problem is the reverse argument – scientists making technical decisions without understanding the societal or political implications:
“Those who argue against lay involvement in socio-technological decision making often seem to be alluding to horrendous decisions and social consequences that they know will ensue. Yet review of actual experience with lay participation does not yield a bumper crop of disastrous decisions. After all, it was not panels of laypeople who designed the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear plants; who created the conditions culminating in tragedy at Union Carbide’s Bhopal, India, pesticide factory; who bear responsibility for the explosion of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger; or who enabled the Exxon Valdez oil spill” (ibid., 50).
Sclove argues that new scientific knowledge and technology are, “ineradicably value-laden and specific to particular cultural contexts, and thus should never be a candidate for monopolized production by supposedly impartial experts” (ibid., 50).
Sclove, Richard E. (1995). Democracy and Technology. New York, NY: Guilford Press.