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L 44 W hile 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 epistemological issues in science, such as the relationship between evidence and theory, the status of scientific theories, and the nature of scientific explanation . Issues of how to understand science in society, the role of social values in science, and the responsibilities of scientists have been excluded from the field.1 Most of this exclusion has been maintained on the basis that science is (or should be) a value-free enterprise, and that scientists should not consider the broader implications of their work when conducting research . Under this view, there is nothing philosophically interesting about the relationship between science and society. Science is our best source for reliable knowledge about the world, and what society sees fit to do with that knowledge is its own affair, outside the purview of both scientists and philosophers of science. Such a simple-minded understanding of science is not illuminating for Chapter 3 Origins of the Value-Free Ideal for Science Douglas text.indd 44 4/16/09 2:47:05 PM origins of the value-free ideal for science • 45 the issues raised by science in policymaking. Nor have other discussions of science in society helped much. For example, while the Science Wars were precipitated by an attempt to directly challenge the epistemic authority of science, this debate was of little interest outside of academia and failed to provide insight on the complex role of science in society. That science should help answer certain questions and guide policy is not at issue. More central are the controversies concerning on which science (or scientists) we should rely, particularly given the protracted disagreements among scientific experts that exist in many cases. Society needs a more nuanced understanding of science in public policy, one that will account for how scientific experts can have lasting and intractable disagreements yet still be honest participants in a debate.2 And both citizens and policymakers in a democracy must have a way to decide how to interpret scientific findings that are not settled science. A more careful appreciation of the role of values in science is essential to such an understanding. This approach, however, rejects the value-free ideal for science, going against the dominant position of the past forty years in philosophy of science. In order to understand the value-free ideal in its current form, we need to examine in greater detail the origins of the value-free ideal for science. There are several surprises here. The first is that in its present form, the value-free ideal is fairly recent, dating predominantly from the cold war period .3 In fact, it does not get its stranglehold on philosophy of science until around 1960. The ideal that has held sway since 1960 is a complex one. It does not hold that science is a completely value-free enterprise, acknowledging that social and ethical values help to direct the particular projects scientists undertake, and that scientists as humans cannot completely eliminate other value judgments. However, the value judgments internal to science, involving the evaluation and acceptance of scientific results at the heart of the research process, are to be as free as humanly possible of all social and ethical values. Those scientific judgments are to be driven by values wholly internal to the scientific community. Thus, the value-free ideal is more accurately the “internal scientific values only when performing scientific reasoning ” ideal. How this ideal developed and became the dominant view in philosophy of science is chronicled in this chapter. I will also indicate how the philosophers’ value-free ideal influenced the scientific community proper, and thus how it has hindered a useful and illuminating understanding of science in the broader scientific and policymaking communities. The second surprise is that the ideal rests on a problematic presumption , one that is central to this inquiry. What philosophers of science needed Douglas text.indd 45 4/16/09...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822973577
Related ISBN
9780822960263
MARC Record
OCLC
794702159
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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