Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal

Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal

HEATHER E. DOUGLAS
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrc78
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  • Book Info
    Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal
    Book Description:

    The role of science in policymaking has gained unprecedented stature in the United States, raising questions about the place of science and scientific expertise in the democratic process. Some scientists have been given considerable epistemic authority in shaping policy on issues of great moral and cultural significance, and the politicizing of these issues has become highly contentious.

    Since World War II, most philosophers of science have purported the concept that science should be "value-free." InScience, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal,Heather E. Douglas argues that such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science. She contends that the moral responsibilities of scientists require the consideration of values even at the heart of science. She lobbies for a new ideal in which values serve an essential function throughout scientific inquiry, but where the role values play is constrained at key points, thus protecting the integrity and objectivity of science. In this vein, Douglas outlines a system for the application of values to guide scientists through points of uncertainty fraught with moral valence.

    Following a philosophical analysis of the historical background of science advising and the value-free ideal, Douglas defines how values should-and should not-function in science. She discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning, and outlines seven senses of objectivity, showing how each can be employed to determine the reliability of scientific claims. Douglas then uses these philosophical insights to clarify the distinction between junk science and sound science to be used in policymaking. In conclusion, she calls for greater openness on the values utilized in policymaking, and more public participation in the policymaking process, by suggesting various models for effective use of both the public and experts in key risk assessments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7357-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  5. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: Science Wars and Policy Wars
    (pp. 1-22)

    When considering the importance of science in policymaking, common wisdom contends that keeping science as far as possible from social and political concerns would be the best way to ensure science’s reliability. This intuition is captured in the value-free ideal for science—that social, ethical, and political values should have no influence over the reasoning of scientists, and that scientists should proceed in their work with as little concern as possible for such values. Contrary to this intuition, I will argue in this book that the value-free ideal must be rejected precisely because of the importance of science in policymaking....

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE RISE OF THE SCIENCE ADVISOR
    (pp. 23-43)

    With the current omnipresent need for science advice, how to ensure the soundness of such advice has become an ongoing source of difficulty in government. Yet the need for sound science advice was not always obvious. At the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, there were no regular avenues for science advice to the government, much less regular contact between scientists and policymakers. Although the National Academy of Sciences had been founded during the Civil War to provide science advice to the government, after the Civil War the academy drifted from advising prominence to being primarily an...

  7. CHAPTER 3 ORIGINS OF THE VALUE-FREE IDEAL FOR SCIENCE
    (pp. 44-65)

    While scientists took on an ever more visible, even if more contentious, public role throughout the 1960s and 1970s, philosophers of science came to ignore this public role. One might imagine that philosophers of science would illuminate this role, examining the place of expertise in a democracy and helping to shape public discussion of the proper relationship between science and society. Yet since the 1960s, philosophers of science have been largely silent on these issues. Most philosophers of science consider their work to belong to a subfield of epistemology, the study of knowledge, and as such are solely concerned with...

  8. CHAPTER 4 THE MORAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF SCIENTISTS
    (pp. 66-86)

    The debate among philosophers of science in the 1950s concerning values in science hinged on the proper role of scientists in a modern democracy. Should scientists be giving advice to decision-makers? And should they, when giving this advice, consider the context of use and the potential consequences of error when deciding what to say? Or should scientists decide which empirical claims are adequately supported with no thought to the importance of these claims to society? These questions fundamentally concern the moral responsibilities of scientists as scientists. If, with Rudner and Churchman, one thinks that scientists should consider the potential consequences...

  9. CHAPTER 5 THE STRUCTURE OF VALUES IN SCIENCE
    (pp. 87-114)

    Even when making empirical claims, scientists have the same moral responsibilities as the general population to consider the consequences of error. This apparently unremarkable statement has some remarkable implications. It means that scientists should consider the potential social and ethical consequences of error in their work, that they should weigh the importance of those consequences, and that they should set burdens of proof accordingly. Social and ethical values are needed to make these judgments, not just as a matter of an accurate description of scientific practice, but as part of an ideal for scientific reasoning. Thus, the value-free ideal for...

  10. CHAPTER 6 OBJECTIVITY IN SCIENCE
    (pp. 115-132)

    The value-free ideal is a bad ideal for science. It is not restrictive enough on the proper role for cognitive values in science and it is too restrictive on the needed role for social and ethical values. The moral responsibility to consider the consequences of error requires the use of values, including social and ethical values, in scientific reasoning. Yet the inclusion of social and ethical values in scientific reasoning seems to threaten scientific objectivity. Our notion of objectivity should be reworked and clarified in light of the arguments of the previous two chapters. We need an understanding of objectivity...

  11. CHAPTER 7 THE INTEGRITY OF SCIENCE IN THE POLICY PROCESS
    (pp. 133-155)

    Thus far, I have argued that scientists, when making judgments in their work, have a moral responsibility to consider the consequences of error, including social and ethical consequences, a responsibility that cannot be readily shifted to other parties. If they have this responsibility, then the proper role for values in science is not captured by the value-free ideal, and a new ideal is needed. This ideal must protect the integrity of science while allowing scientists to meet their general responsibilities. I have presented such an ideal, centered on the practice of limiting all kinds of values to an indirect role...

  12. CHAPTER 8 VALUES AND PRACTICES
    (pp. 156-174)

    Science, even science to be used in public policy, should not be value free. Scientists must make judgments about the acceptability of uncertainty, and these judgments require a range of values, including ethical and social values where relevant. The integrity of science depends not on keeping these values out of science, but on ensuring that values play only acceptable roles in reasoning. The direct role for values is acceptable only when deciding which research to pursue and, in a limited sense, how to pursue it. Once the work is under way, scientists must keep values to an indirect role, particularly...

  13. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 175-178)

    Reliance on the value-free ideal has produced something of a mess. Scientists have thought that any consideration of ethical or social values, particularly in the assessment of evidence, would undermine scientific integrity and authority. Yet one cannot adequately assess the sufficiency of evidence without such values, especially in cases where science has such a profound impact on society. Thus, a crucial source of disagreement among scientists has remained hidden, unexamined and unacknowledged. This has heightened the sound science–junk science disputes, as a lack of expert consensus often leads to charges of junk science on one side or the other....

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 179-192)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 193-204)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 205-210)