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Does the (apparently) Value-Laden Nature of Science give us Reason to Doubt the Objectivity and Reliability of Science - Essay Example

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Does the (apparently) Value-Laden Nature of Science give us Reason to Doubt the Objectivity and Reliability of Science

In the paragraphs that follow I try to identify salient arguments put forward by leading scientists representative of the epistemology under review. Science may be defined as the human endeavour to explore, investigate and understand the physical universe. Scientific method used to gain knowledge of natural phenomena includes observation, forming hypotheses or theories, conducting experiments to test hypotheses, and drawing conclusions in accepting, modifying, or rejecting hypotheses. In antiquity, philosophy encompassed all knowledge. In modern times, science has become the repository of almost all knowledge, completely epistemic and objective. Physics, from Newton’s Laws, to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity led to many technological advances, and continues to be the paradigmatic science given exact mathematical expression. Until quite recently, scientists believed that they were engaging in a value-free, positivistic and Cartesian enterprise untainted by nonepistemic values. Gregory Mikkelson introduces the subject of ‘Values in Ecology’ by pointing to the historical link between modern science and colonialism, an unlikely outcome given the much vaunted scientific criterion of impartial objectivity. To enhance the objectives of cultural and biological diversity he advocates ‘value-frankness’ instead of the outdated ideal of ‘value- freedom’. He identifies the links between ethics and science and critiques the trend towards ascribing monetary value to ecosystems. He also argues for a ‘foundational concept in ecology – that of an ecological community’ echoing other contributors to the debate. He views ethics as a branch of science examining what is ‘good’ and what is ‘right’ and also the relation between the two concepts. Ethics is about objective properties like ‘richness, diversity and harmony’ and not merely our subjective opinions of them. Even the old ideal of a value-free science was founded on ethical-subjectivist notions promoting that ideal. By openly announcing the ethical foundations of scientific inquiry, it allows for better critical assessment of its conclusions. He shows how the attempt to free ecology from values has resulted in privileging the rich with adverse effects on conservation. Next, Mark Sagoff critiques the current trend to place an economic value on ecosystem services. He says that nature has no economic value. Wind, soil, water, and the pollination services of insects are provided free, but their economic ‘non-value’ has no bearing on their intrinsic value to human beings. He even places timber in this category. Biodiversity cannot be defended on economic grounds as some economists have done in putting the cost of future environmental pollution in monetary terms. Advances in technology have compensated ‘more than adequately’ for the depletion of natural stocks. Biotechnology continues to produce better products and helps lower prices. An example cited is transgenic trees with ‘fast growth, cold-hardness, uniform and predictable quality, disease resistance, etc.’ He asserts that ‘price does not correlate with value, benefit or utility.’ He wants us not to ‘regard nature as a resource to exploit’ but ‘a heritage and an endowment to maintain’. Sagoff makes a clear value statement in defence of new thinking in ecology. I now come to Elliott and McKaughan’ ...Show more


Philosophy of Science: Does the (apparently) value-laden nature of science give us reason to doubt the objectivity and reliability of science? In this essay I argue, presenting evidence from required reading, that science is indeed value-laden, which contrary to historically entrenched beliefs and expectations, serves to enhance the objectivity, reliability and validity of scientific enterprise…
Author : pasquale84
Does the (apparently) Value-Laden Nature of Science give us Reason to Doubt the Objectivity and Reliability of Science essay example
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