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L 115 T he 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 that reflects its important role in our language, the complexity of our use of the term, and the moral responsibilities of scientists. The complexity of usage arises because we call many different kinds of things “objective”—objective knowledge, objective methods, objective people, objective observations, and objective criteria, to name a few. As Lorraine Daston, a historian of the concept of objectivity notes, “We slide effortlessly from statements about the ‘objective truth’ of a scientific claim, to those about ‘objective procedures’ that guarantee a finding, to those about the ‘objective manner’ that qualifies a researcher” (Daston 1992, 597). Somehow, we know generally what we mean when applying the adjective “objective” in all these cases, but we do not mean precisely the same thing in each case (see also Daston and Gallison 1992, 82). What holds all these aspects of objectivity together is the strong sense Chapter 6 Objectivity in Science Douglas text.indd 115 4/16/09 2:47:14 PM 116 • objectivity in science of trust in what is called objective. To say a researcher, a procedure, or a finding is objective is to say that each of these things is trustworthy in a most potent form (see Fine 1998, 17–19). The trust is not just for oneself; one also thinks others should trust the objective entity too. Thus, when I call something objective, I am endorsing it for myself, and endorsing it for others. For example, when I call an observation “objective,” I am saying that I trust the observation, and so should everyone else. Or if I state that a scientist is objective, I am saying I trust the scientist and so should everyone else (although what I am trusting the scientist for may be different than what I am trusting the observation for). Common to all the uses of objectivity is this sense of strong trust and persuasive endorsement, this claim of “I trust this, and you should too.” It is this commonality that underlies the usage of objectivity in its various guises. While this sense of trust and endorsement provides a common meaning for objectivity, the bases for trust vary with the different applications of the term. With objectivity applied to so many kinds of things, there are several bases for trust, several kinds of good reasons to believe something is reliable enough that others should trust it too. In this chapter, I will lay out seven bases for such a trust, to make clear how to understand the concept of objectivity in practice, and to elucidate the concept’s fundamental complexity . I make no claims that the seven bases for objectivity I describe here are a complete account of the concept. Arguments could be made that there are additional bases for objectivity not discussed here. But the richness of the concept, and of its uses in practice, requires an account at least as complex as the one presented here. My analysis of objectivity will focus on the objectivity of knowledge claims, and the processes that produce these claims, rather than the objectivity of persons, panels, or procedures per se. For my purposes, whether a claim can be considered objective, and thus trustworthy, is what we want to gauge. An objective person who makes no claims or an objective method that produces no claims is of little interest for the policy process. It is the trustworthiness of knowledge claims that is a central aspect of objectivity— often, objective people, methods, and measures are valued to the extent that they make knowledge claims that we care about, and on which we need to rely. In approaching objectivity in this way, we can focus on those aspects of the processes leading to knowledge claims that give us confidence in the trustworthiness of the claims. In short, for my discussion here, objective processes produce trustworthy knowledge claims. I will take the ascription of objectivity...

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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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