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Science Values and Objectivity

Science Values and Objectivity

Peter Machamer
Gereon Wolters
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    Science Values and Objectivity
    Book Description:

    Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science?As Science, Values, and Objectivityreveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research.Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors toScience, Values, and Objectivityrecognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world.Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7086-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction Science, Values, and Objectivity
    (pp. 1-13)
    Peter Machamer and Gereon Wolters

    Most people today agree that values enter into science—some values, somehow, somewhere. Few people, if any, still uphold the notion that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. Two places where it is easy to see how values may enter come quickly to mind. First, values affect researchers’ decisions about which projects and problems they will work on. That someone chooses to go into AIDS research because it is well funded or because the work may help solve a pressing social problem are clearly cases where values come into play. Some scholars chose research topics that are...

  2. 1 The Epistemic, the Cognitive, and the Social
    (pp. 14-23)
    Larry Laudan

    My aim in this chapter is to direct attention to a matter philosophers of science barely examine let alone satisfactorily address: the relationship between the philosophy of science and the theory of knowledge. Like many things we take for granted, this relationship is not well understood. Most philosophers, whether of science or the more traditional sort, would respond that the philosophy of science is applied epistemology—that is to say, it brings the categories and tools of analytic epistemology to bear on understanding the practices called science. Sidney Morgenbesser was, I believe, voicing the conventional wisdom when he quipped in...

  3. 2 Is There a Significant Distinction between Cognitive and Social Values?
    (pp. 24-51)
    Hugh Lacey

    There is a distinction between cognitive and social values. But is it significant? Cognitive values are characteristics that scientific theories and hypotheses should possess for the sake of expressing understanding well. Or, as Larry Laudan puts it, they are attributes that “represent properties of theories which we deem to be constitutive of ‘good’ theories” (Laudan 1984, xii). Social values are characteristics deemed constitutive of a “good” society. Does this distinction illuminate key features of scientific knowledge and practices?

    The tradition of modern science would answer this question with a resounding yes, and this underlies the commonly held view of science...

  4. 3 Epistemic and Nonepistemic Values in Science
    (pp. 52-77)
    Mauro Dorato

    In a preliminary investigation of the complex and uneven territory covered by the relationship between science and values, it is important to distinguish different ways in which values can enter into the natural and social sciences. Very often these differences have been conflated, to the detriment of our understanding of the geography of the territory.

    I contend that science’s value dependence has at leastfourdifferent forms, which give us four different roles that values play in the scientific endeavor: (1) values functioning as selectors among different fields of investigation; (2) values functioning as selectors among alternative, empirically equivalent theories...

  5. 4 The Social in the Epistemic
    (pp. 78-89)
    Peter Machamer and Lisa Osbeck

    In considering the role of values in science, it has been traditional to acknowledge a distinction between two principal categories or kinds of values: social values and epistemic or cognitive values. Like many things taken for granted, however, the basis for this conventional separation appears fragile when closely examined and its force and import are deserving of considerable rethinking. Various possibilities exist for renovation. One might attempt to strengthen the basis of the distinction by bringing greater clarity and precision to it or by drawing finer differentiations on one side or the other (as Laudan does in chapter 1, for...

  6. 5 Transcending the Discourse of Social Influences
    (pp. 90-111)
    Barry Barnes

    In many parts of the sociology and history of science there is now a deep reluctance to refer to “social influences on science,” and rightly so. Yet scholars in these fields have long debated the extent and importance of such influences and have viewed the issues involved as straightforward, even if contentious. Historical studies have documented instance after instance wherein “social factors” or “influences” have affected scientific work, whether beneficially or adversely. Instances of adverse influence have included spectacular cases, such as the thalidomide affair, in industrial laboratories, and others, no less striking, involving academic contexts and esoteric topics, like...

  7. 6 Between Science and Values
    (pp. 112-126)
    Peter Weingart

    Addressing the issue of science and values inadvertently leads to a host of well-worn themes, most prominent among them the discussion between Popperian philosophy of science and the sociology of knowledge over the impact of social values and interests on scientific knowledge.¹ That discussion has lasted for more than half a century without coming to a satisfactory solution; this suggests that something may be wrong with the definition of the problem. Niklas Luhmann (1990) has advanced a radical break with this line of debate by accepting the circularity of knowledge as constitutive of any knowledge production (294). In this view,...

  8. 7 How Values Can Be Good for Science
    (pp. 127-142)
    Helen E. Longino

    Values are good for science — the values of truth, objectivity, accuracy, and honesty in results are integral to most notions of good science. But these are not the values causing concern. The ones being questioned are those that might interfere with the realization of the “good” values: social values and to some extent pragmatic values, ideas about social relations or about social utility that may, without vigilance, be expressed in scientific reasoning or representations of the natural world. While much argument about the role of these sorts of values presupposes that they should not playa role in science, certain...

  9. 8 “Social” Objectivity and the Objectivity of Values
    (pp. 143-171)
    Tara Smith

    In recent decades, the longstanding image of science as value free and objective has come under attack. Part of this attack is justified. For scientific inquiry is saturated with value judgments. In determining what to study, what to look for, which methods to employ, which hypotheses to investigate and which to dismiss, how many studies to conduct to confirm initial findings, and so on, scientists are invariably discriminating between better and worse ideas. However internal or external the values employed—whether they are standards developed within biology for testing hypotheses, for instance, or values beyond science, such as the desire...

  10. 9 On the Objectivity of Facts, Beliefs, and Values
    (pp. 172-189)
    Wolfgang Spohn

    Rather than attempting to advance the well-belabored topic of objectivity, my focus in this chapter is modest: to introduce some distinctions for conceptual clarity, to sketch the routes to objectivity that appear most plausible against the background of the current discussion, and to point out some errors that unnecessarily heighten present confusions.

    I distinguish between a notion of objectivity accruing to facts and thus to objects and properties and building on ontological independence and a quite different notion of objectivity accruing to beliefs and idealizing intersubjective agreement. I will show that the latter notion is in principle applicable to values...

  11. 10 A Case Study in Objectifying Values in Science
    (pp. 190-219)
    Mark A. Bedau

    There are at least two different ways to connect values and science. One is through the evaluation of science, and the other is through the scientific investigation of values. The evaluation of science is a nonscientific, political, or ethical investigation of the practices of science. Various proposed and actual scientific practices call out for social and ethical evaluation. A few that have received recent attention are the human genome project, intelligence testing, and encryption algorithms. Such evaluations of science contrasts sharply with what I call “the science of values.” This is not one science or even one unified nexus of...

  12. 11 Border Skirmishes between Science and Policy: Autonomy, Responsibility, and Values
    (pp. 220-244)
    Heather E. Douglas

    Unlike the academically centered science wars of the 1990s, which appear to be petering out, the debate over the role of science in policy-making continues unabated since (at least) the 1970s. While many philosophers of science look to the creationism debates and science test scores to bemoan the decline of science in American society, policy-makers’ reliance on science has never been greater. Thousands of scientists participate in the shaping of policy at the federal level through both legislatively mandated and less formal committees. Science has become such an entrenched part of public policymaking that there is little chance science will...

  13. 12 The Prescribed and Proscribed Values in Science Policy
    (pp. 245-255)
    Sandra D. Mitchell

    In a series of articles Heather Douglas investigates the role of values in science, especially when that science is advising policy, and the ways in which normative considerations must direct the judgments of scientists (Douglas 2000, 2003; chap. 11, this volume). In her chapter in this volume (chap. 11) Douglas challenges the assumption that there can be a sharp boundary separating science and policy even when this boundary has been posited to protect science from political corruption and locate political responsibility in the hands of elected or appointed public servants. Her strategy is to document the history of governmental structures...

  14. 13 Bioethics Its Foundation and Application in Political Decision Making
    (pp. 256-274)
    Felix Thiele

    Questions concerning moral problems stemming from research in the life sciences and concerning the adequate methods and instruments for solving them are timely and urgent—especially in light of intense debates on the acceptability of research on human embryonic stem cells, human cloning, and pre-implantation diagnostics, to name only a few current applications of research in the life sciences.

    What role does the bioethicist play in dealing with these moral problems in public debates and the process of decision making in science and technology policy? Although it seems that in everyday life making a moral statement is connected with a...

  15. 14 Knowledge and Control: On the Bearing of Epistemic Values in Applied Science
    (pp. 275-293)
    Martin Carrier

    Among the general public, the esteem for science does not primarily arise from the fact that science endeavors to capture the structure of the universe or the principles that govern the tiniest parts of matter. Rather, public esteem — and public funding — is for the greater part based on the assumption that science has a positive impact on the economy and contributes to securing or creating jobs. Consequently, applied science, not pure research, receives the lion’s share of attention and support. It is not knowledge that is highly evaluated in the first place but control of natural phenomena. The...

  16. 15 Law and Science
    (pp. 294-310)
    Eric Hilgendorf

    The relationship between law and science can be investigated from various perspectives (Mnookin 2002). One could inquire into the ways the law restricts and promotes science or the degree to which modern science has altered the law. Biotechnology, for example, has challenged the adequacy of existing legal structures. Another route of inquiry is how science has affected the laws of evidence and the limits of judicial competence. One could follow the history of the connection between law and science or the varied interpretations of these concepts within each country’s legal culture. In Germany and many other European countries, the study...