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Peirce and Royce and the Betrayal of Science: Scientific Fraud and Misconduct

From: The Pluralist
Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010
pp. 87-104 | 10.1353/plu.2010.0003

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Peirce and Royce and the Betrayal of Science:
Scientific Fraud and Misconduct

I believe that the long-neglected ideas on science and scientific method of Charles Sanders Peirce and Josiah Royce can illuminate some of the current attacks on science that have surfaced: misconduct and fraud in science and anti-scientism or the "new cynicism." In addition, Royce and Peirce offer insights relevant to the ferment in contemporary philosophy of science around the various forms of pluralism advocated by a number of philosophers (see Kellert, Longino, and Waters). "Pluralism" is the view that "plurality in science possibly represents an ineliminable character of scientific inquiry and knowledge (about at least some phenomena) . . . and that analysis of metascientific concepts (like theory, explanation, evidence) should reflect the possibility that the explanatory and investigative aims of science can best be achieved by sciences that are pluralistic, even in the long run" (Kellert, Logino, and Waters, ix-x).

The topic of misconduct and deviance in science has been much discussed in the literature since the mid 1980s (Bechtel and Pearson). The issues are political, economic, social, ethical, and distinctly philosophical. The most fundamental question concerns the "nature of science" and the consequent query whether the scientific community has lost its way, betraying the foundations of its validity as an intellectual enterprise. As we shall see, this question clearly connects the issue of scientific fraud with discussions of pluralism in contemporary philosophy of science, which also concern epistemic validity. Thus, Horace Freeland Judson, in his book, The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science, asserts that "the scrutiny of the nature of fraud and other misconduct will reach to the heartbeat and pulse of what the sciences are and what scientists can do at this, the start of the millennium" (Judson 4). In addition to the questioning of science because of scientific fraud, science is under attack in a second way. Susan Haack, in her book, Defending Science—within Reason, discusses extensively [End Page 87] the new "anti-scientism," a position she calls the "new cynicism," namely, that "[s]cience is largely or wholly a matter of interests, social negotiation or myth-making, the production of inscriptions or narratives; not only does it have no peculiar epistemic authority and no uniquely rational method, but it is really, like all purported 'inquiry,' just politics" (Haack 21).

"Science" has, at least in Western culture, "usually been associated with 'seeking the truth' in a controlled honest way" (Ben-Yehuda 1). Science is viewed as the pursuit of "certified" knowledge (Merton 604-05). Or again, "Because science, in particular, is grounded in abstract and systematic theory and rationality, it has been regarded as the prototype for a professional claim to authoritative knowledge" (Fox and Braxton 374). In terms of the pluralist debate today and the arguments against the "Unity of Sciences" movement promoted by the logical empiricists, Alan W. Richardson suggests that the concern among the logical empiricists about the demarcation problem was a concern about proper and improper epistemic authority—a concern about ideological obfuscation in support of authority and power (20). Likewise, Richardson views Rudolph Carnap's promotion of a "unity of scientific language" as a concern for transparency and intersubjective control, a control that he believed metaphysics and ideology lacked (Richardson 14). Even more revealing for our discussion of Peirce and Royce, Richardson argues that if scientific language worked as Carnap envisioned, it not only connected the sciences internally one to another, but "also to the lifeworld and sphere of activity of the ordinary person" (Richardson 14). Otto Neurath and Carnap were convinced that the unity of science showed how "science and scientific philosophy do, in fact, 'serve life'" (Richardson 14).

Finally, traditionally in Western culture and philosophy, science is viewed as a norm-driven and self-regulating enterprise. Thus, in 1973, Robert K. Merton described a set of four norms or institutional imperatives: (1) universalism—evaluating claims by pre-established impersonal criteria; (2) communality or common ownership—substantial findings of science are a product of social collaboration, and rewards to individuals are conferred by the community; (3) disinterestedness—research should be guided not by personal motives but by the wish to extend scientific knowledge...