When science becomes important for stakeholders, when decisions are urgent, when social values are affected, and uncertainties large - then science is confronted with a number of challenges. Science operates in a postnormal situation. Some people, among them me, then speak of "post-normal" science, even if the terminology is not very well defined.
Climate science is in such a post-normal situation; other contemporary examples refer to BSE and other environmental issues.
I wondner, are there other, bigger cases? Cases, which may allow us to study how a scientific community liberates itself from the limitations and constraints of a post-normal situation?
I have two cases in mind, one is the (relatively short lived) Arian physics-period in the 1930s of Germany, the other is the 30-year conflict (ca. 1932-1962) about genetics in the Soviet Union, which is associated with the name of Trofim D Lysenko. By chance I came across a 1994-book by Soyfer, who describes the rise (and fall) of Lysenko mainly as a matter of evil and good; the analysis of Roll-Hansen (2005, 2008) I find much more convincing, as it describes the intellectual context, the Zeitgeist not only in the USSR but also in the West, the utility of some arguments in favour of a broader societal context, the mending with race theory and eugenetics, which brought about the collapse of genetics in the USSR with a formal decision in 1948. Interesting also that Lysenkoism disappeared from the governmental, intellectual and academic stages (but not necessarily from the popular folklore) not because of the disolution of the USSR but simply because new scientific findings became known.
I would appreciate hearing your opinions on these matters - and suggest that we keep in mind Nils Roll-Hansen's suggestion: "In brief, it is time to study the Lysenko effect rather than the Lysenko affair".
Roll-Hansen, N., 2005: The Lysenko Effect. The Politics of Science. Amherst, NY: Humanity Book
Roll-Hansen, N., 2008: Wishful Science: The Persistence of T.D. Lysenko’s Agrobiology in the Politics of Science, OSIRIS 2008, 23 : 166–188
Soyfer, V. N., 1994: Lysenko and the tragedy of Soviet science, translated from the Russian by Leo Gruliow and Rebecca Gruloiw,Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 380 pp