Next time, we shall begin to consider the particular role that values play in science. A bit more background is in order. As I indicated at the end of our last class, the scientist-turned-historian/philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn was deeply influential in this regard. He noted on the first page of his epochal book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that "History, if viewed as a repository for more than anecdote or chronology, could produce a decisive transformation in the image of science by which we are now possessed": and indeed it did. Rather that viewing science as a pristinely rational and disinterested pursuit (after something like the, perhaps charicatured, manner of Francis Bacon or Galileo), Kuhn offered a picture of "Normal Science" in which investigators simply took for granted much of the framework within which their investigations were carried out. Not everything was up for test. Good thing too, for if it were, chaos would probably result (you see this kind of chaos in the very early stages of scientific investigations where investigators are divided on the basic foundations of their field). Scientific revolutions are sudden changes in these "paradigms" of doing science which are not fully rational affairs. There's much more to say about this — at least a book's worth, it turns out —, but the crucial point for our purposes is that Kuhn turned the light of critical analysis on previously ignored social and value-laden aspects of scientific theorizing. Kuhn's investigations into the structure of scientific revolutions thus paralleled more general work conducted by some sociologists of science, in particular Merton (discussed in the Godfrey-Smith reading), who inquired into the norms of science and its reward structure in particular.
Much of this work is very interesting and enlightening. It's of course plainly true that science is conducted by people and people have all manner of normative, social, and political commitments. It's then natural to ask what influence these commitments might have on not just the general structure of scientific progress, but on the products of science. Here, the "Strong Program" in the sociology of science suggests that the image of science as a privileged form of inquiry is misguided. Science is instead "just another way of knowing" and perhaps relative to cultural values and norms. This salvo initiated what has been referred to as "The Science Wars", rumblings of which still echo. We won't be reading any sexy post-modern relativism, however (hilarious reading though it often is). Here's what's on tap for 3/3:
- Peter Godfrey-Smith, "The Challenge from Sociology of Science" (Chapter 8 of his Theory and Reality)
- Thomas Kuhn, "Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice" (Chapter 13 of his The Essential Tension)
- Helen Longino, "Values and Objectivity" (Chapter 2 of her Science as Social Knowledge)