Science Court (SciCourt) is a project aimed at addressing the double threat of record low trust in institutions and record high polarization facing the U.S. democracy. These phenomena amplify basic limitations in the way humans reason that make it impossible for people to agree on facts, let alone come to consensus. Distrust and polarization are the results of a century long trend and are not going to reverse quickly. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways to allow a democracy to function in the current hostile environment. SciCourt is an adaptation of the U.S. jury system, based on understanding from scientific research on how people reason and collaborate, designed to ensure agreement on facts and a rational decision-making process for controversial societal issues.
SciCourt is implemented in the University of Minnesota Honors Program as an Honors Seminar titled “Science Court: Strengthening Democracy through Rational Discourse” (HSem 3511H). The seminar is interdisciplinary involving students from across the university. It is structured like an engineering design course with the students working collaboratively in three teams (Science, Legal and Media). The students select a controversial case and spend an entire semester studying it in depth and then argue it in a mock trial in front of a citizen jury. The Legal Team argues both sides of the case based on a common set of facts that have been vetted by the students on Science Team for scientific integrity. The Media Team reports on the progress of the preparations, trial and verdict through this website.
For a more details, see the Introduction to Science Court.
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2018 Science Court in Mondale Hall Room 25, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN. A student attorney from the legal team is questioning a witness from the science team.