Evidence against the “Nuclear State”: Contesting Technoscience through Gegenwissenschaft in the 1970s and 1980s

Stefan Esselborn, Karin Zachmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter investigates the emergence and development of Gegenwissenschaft in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the 1970s and 1980s as a case of institutionalized contestation of technoscientific evidence practices, focusing in particular on those actors working on environmental and nuclear energy-related issues. An institutionalized West German counter science scene emerged in the late 1970s, when the evidence problems of the West German anti-nuclear movement served as a catalyst in the foundation of new institutions. Particularly in the early 1980s, the new field witnessed heated internal debates about its stance both on so-called established science and on scientific methods in the attempt to reconcile radical ambitions with political and institutional pragmatism. In spite of initial resistance from established scientists, German counter scientists quickly achieved recognition as credible purveyors of scientific evidence and managed to gain access to scientific expert committees and public research commissions. Although radically opposing the authority of established organizations in science and technology, Gegenwissenschaft did not systematically attempt to contest scientific evidence practices per se. We argue that it is therefore best understood not as an anti-scientific movement, but as an expression of the (political) reflexivization of German science and technology in the 1970s and 1980s.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvidence Contestation Dealing with Dissent in Knowledge Societies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781000839852
ISBN (Print)9781032219103
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


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