Thursday, December 4, 2014

556: Is there value-neutral science?

Almost everybody would agree that scientific knowledge has sometimes been used for unethical ends in the manufacture of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, for example.
But cases such as these do not show that there is something ethically objectionable about scientific knowledge itself. 
It is the use to which that knowledge is put that is unethical. Indeed, many philosophers  would say that it makes no sense to talk about science or scientific knowledge being ethical or unethical per se. 
For science is concerned with facts, and facts in themselves have no ethical significance. It is what we do with those facts  that is right or wrong, moral or immoral. 
According to this view science is essentially a value-free activity.Its job is just to provide information about world. What society chooses to do with that information  is another matter.
Not all philosophers accept this picture of science as neutral with respect to matters of value, nor the underlying fact - value dichotomy on which it rests.
Some argue that the ideal of value-neutrality is unattainable. Scientific enquiry is invariably laden with value judgements. 
One argument against the possibility of value-free science stems from the obvious fact that scientists have to choose what to study. Not everything can be examined at once. 
So judgements about the relative importance of different possible objects of study will have to be made, and these are value judgements, in a weak sense. 
Another argument stems from the fact, that any set of data can in principle be explained in more than one way.  A scientist's choice of theory will thus never be uniquely determined by his data. 
Some philosophers take this to show that values are inevitably involved in theory choice, and thus that science cannot possibly be value-free. 
A third argument is that scientific knowledge cannot be divorced from its intended applications in the way that value-neutrality would require. 
On this view, it is naive to picture scientists as disinterestedly doing research for its own sake, without a thought for its practical applications. 
The fact that much scientific research today is funded by private enterprises, who obviously have vested commercial interests, lends some credence to this view.
To conclude, it is inevitable that an enterprise such as science, which occupies so pivotal a role in modern society and commands so much public money, should find itself subject to criticism from a variety of sources. 
It is also a good thing, for uncritical acceptance of everything that scientists say and do would be both unhealthy and dogmatic. 
It is safe to predict that science in the 21st century, through its technological applications, will impact on everyday life to an even greater extent than it has already. 
So the question “Is science a good thing?” or “Is science right?” will become yet more pressing. 
Philosophical reflection may not produce a final, unequivocal answer to this question, as we have seen several times,
but so far we have tried to isolate key issues and evaluate them in a rational, balanced discussion of them.
With this lecture I conclude this project on the Philosophy of Science. Next Thursday I’ll introduce to you the new project: “A Philosopher looks at Atheism”.
Thank you…the floor is yours ^_^

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, John Losee (2001)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, T. Kuhn (1962)

Philosophy of Science - A contemporary introduction, Alex Rosenberg (2005)

Philosophy of Science - A Very Short Introduction, Samir Okasha 

The Discussion

[13:17] ZANICIA Chau: thank you Harman
[13:17] Gemma Cleanslate: well
[13:17] Fitch Woodrunner: Thank you Herman!
[13:17] ZANICIA Chau: Herman, sorry
[13:17] Gemma Cleanslate: back where we were i think
[13:17] Corona Anatine: Well a lot of the negative uses come from application during warfare
[13:18] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma...the art of philosophy is finding the right questions....not the ultimate answers :-)
[13:18] Corona Anatine: so that in some ways there are those who argue that a use which shortens a war is a good usage
[13:18] Gemma Cleanslate: as usual
[13:18] Corona Anatine: even if the immediate effects are negative for the 'enemy'
[13:19] Corona Anatine: especially if such an 'enemy' is considerd as socially or ideologically negative
[13:19] herman Bergson: I think the most important thing is that we ar conscious of the fact that science is a thing we create.....not some monolithic thing which exists independent of our actions
[13:19] ZANICIA Chau: There was another report from Nasa today refuting rumours that the world will shut down next week for 6 days. They had to make a statement to quell all the Q's from ppl. That tells me ppl are still taking scientific things as gospel
[13:19] Corona Anatine: indeed withouth humans there would be no scinece
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate GIGGLES!!
[13:20] Gemma Cleanslate: ...LOL...
[13:20] Fitch Woodrunner: In my expierience, Science has been about Discovery. What they discover can be used by others, but science should make no judgments about what is discovered... my apologies if this breaks into the current chat stream :P
[13:21] Gemma Cleanslate: that makes a lot of sense
[13:21] herman Bergson: Well you point at the meanig of scoience Fitch....
[13:21] Corona Anatine: np I was just pointing forward an idea /arguemtn for discussion further
[13:21] Vigos Lyric: Though as Mr. Bergson mention, scientists must choose their work. Which is sometimes led by wherever they can get funding
[13:21] ZANICIA Chau: I quite agree Jakey
[13:21] herman Bergson: And indeed some people take science as gospel...which is a problem in my opinion...
[13:22] herman Bergson: Indeed Vogos...
[13:22] herman Bergson: Vigos...
[13:22] herman Bergson: Good example is the pharmaceutical industry.....
[13:23] Fitch Woodrunner: Vigos, some scientists have an agenda, or others work for a company with an agenda. Yet
[13:23] Corona Anatine: well the rigorous peer review is a sort of gospel standard but a good one as it ensures credibility of research
[13:23] Fitch Woodrunner: oops
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: if there is peer review
[13:23] herman Bergson: Doesn’t work all the time Corona....
[13:23] ZANICIA Chau: I am completely No. ! sucker if they mention new peptides or something in a new face cream!!!!
[13:23] Fitch Woodrunner: hehe indeed
[13:23] Vigos Lyric: Yes indeed. It seems to be clear that commercial profit is a heavy driving force in scientific pursuit. And I would also say the military invests heavily with focused interest as well
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: or add a bit of zyx miracle oil
[13:24] ZANICIA Chau: exactly
[13:24] herman Bergson: It even happened on apolitical level here in my country....
[13:24] Corona Anatine: ok then platinum standard which should be aspired to
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: the science behind cosmetics and diet pills have no basis in real science
[13:24] herman Bergson: There the Secretary of Education stated that scientific research..funded with tax money should have social relevance....
[13:25] Corona Anatine: nor much of the beauty market
[13:25] Corona Anatine: but is that the science or the advertisers claims?
[13:25] herman Bergson: which for instance could mean....close the study of Sanskrit....
[13:25] ZANICIA Chau: good point Corona
[13:25] Corona Anatine: you dont feel that sanscrit might have social relevance ?
[13:26] ZANICIA Chau: heheh
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: ha
[13:26] herman Bergson: Cosmetics in advertizment is a bunch of pseudo scientific babble :-)
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: well it might in some way
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: like latin
[13:26] Corona Anatine: there is a lot of pseudo science babble about but such is not science by definition
[13:27] ZANICIA Chau: well ppl fell for the 'babble' of the world going into darkness for 6 days!
[13:27] Vigos Lyric: Ideally, I think science should be an internationally cumulative effort which has practical applications but also pursues knowledge in areas we are lacking, such as studying the brain. But it's clear scientific work takes investment
[13:27] Fitch Woodrunner: Going back to the lecture, where you offer the idea that a Scientist's theory can alter the data, and that there may be more than one interpretation... I see several examples of that in Evolution, Physics, Chemistry, I wonder how much of what we "know" today is based on a theory which may be based on someone's clouded judgement?
[13:27] herman Bergson: At least , I could assume, that we all see that there does not exist something like SCIENCE.....
[13:27] Corona Anatine: also in relation to 'social relevance -' a lot of the discoveries form the appolo programm were found to have social relevance - but not till after the discoveries were made
[13:28] herman Bergson: Ahh Fitch....Thomas Kuhn is pretty clear about that issue...
[13:28] Gemma Cleanslate: true corona
[13:28] Fitch Woodrunner: Cornoa, exactly, many Scientific discoveries had no practical applications until much later
[13:29] Fitch Woodrunner: like Silly Putty or the Slinky
[13:29] Corona Anatine: But it's clear scientific work takes investment
 -not true - expensive scientific work takes investement but even today some aspects can be done by amateurs
[13:29] ZANICIA Chau: hahaha
[13:29] herman Bergson: Always a difficult argument, Corona, pointing at spin offs from things like that
[13:29] Corona Anatine: for example the work done by amateur astronomers
[13:30] Corona Anatine: yeh the spin offs can never be predicted
[13:30] herman Bergson: To add some more to Fitch's remark...
[13:30] Vigos Lyric: To comment on a scientist having clouded judgment Fitch, that is why I think science should be taken seriously, involve critical analysis, peer review, and educated participants
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: very good idea
[13:31] Vigos Lyric: Sorry for stepping on your toe there, Herman
[13:31] herman Bergson: Kuhn shows that theories are kind of defended against anomalies....most of the time by ad hoc solutions...
[13:31] herman Bergson: Just because there are interests of groups involved...
[13:32] herman Bergson: are right Vigos...I agree....but also science has shown to be all too human :-)
[13:32] Fitch Woodrunner: I just looked up Kuhn, thank you btw, and yes I agree... " Competing paradigms are frequently incommensurable; that is, they are competing accounts of reality which cannot be coherently reconciled."
[13:32] Corona Anatine: of course some with very different views concerning the causality of the universe
[13:33] herman Bergson: There is that famous story about that phony scientific article ...submitted to a magazine and "peer reviewed" and published...
[13:33] herman Bergson: I forgot the names involved....
[13:34] herman Bergson: Was a very embarressing case ...
[13:34] Vigos Lyric: To comment on what Corona said about science not necessarily needing funding, I agree that scientific work does not always need expensive funding. An amateur can make discoveries too and that data, if significant, should not be discounted. But some work really does need expensive instruments or experts to further research, such as biochemical analysis into proteins
[13:34] Corona Anatine: indeed so - it does depend on what is being studied
[13:34] Fitch Woodrunner: Herman, have you heard of the experiments where scientists actually affected the outcome with their thoughts?
[13:35] herman Bergson: No...
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: hopes not
[13:35] ZANICIA Chau: anyone remember War of the Worlds on the old radio? ppl were frightened to death it was all real back then! Have we really advanced?
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: but there are those who think they can
[13:35] Corona Anatine: in saome ways all experiments are affected by thoughts
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes indeed Zan....they believed it!
[13:35] Fitch Woodrunner: the 3 dots leads me to believe you're calling the men in white coats? lol
[13:36] ZANICIA Chau: lol
[13:36] Vigos Lyric: I think ?I heard of one of those phony articles, Herman. Though I heard it was published by a vanity press, which will publish mostly anything. It certainly wouldn't need any actual scientific basis. Which is unfortunately as no scientific work should be published through a vanity press
[13:37] Fitch Woodrunner: my point was, the peer review wanted to believe in the results in those articles, so they created the evidence to support it, just from beliefe
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmm
[13:37] ZANICIA Chau: created?
[13:37] herman Bergson: I don’t recall the details, Vigos, but we also had a prof here who manipulated data on the use of beta-blockers for heart patients during surgery......
[13:37] Corona Anatine: and there in lies one of the problems -in that too many of the general populs scientists are almost like preistly keepers of the mysteries and science aquires a level of mythic
[13:37] ZANICIA Chau: You mean fabricated?
[13:38] herman Bergson: He may even be responsible because of his publications for the death of people
[13:38] Corona Anatine: msytic which other try to acquire by emulation
[13:38] Fitch Woodrunner: not fabricated, I mean they wanted it to be real so badly, that it was
[13:38] Corona Anatine: [like with 'clever hans']
[13:38] Vigos Lyric: But that does bring up a good point. How the public reacts to what is deemed "scientific" (truely or not) is just as important as the scientific work itself. A work or factoid that is accepted, which is unscientific, could undermine science by muddying the public's scientific knowledge with pseudo-science
[13:39] ZANICIA Chau: Exactly so!
[13:39] Corona Anatine: or by attempting to scientifically verify religious claims
[13:40] ZANICIA Chau: that will be brought up next week!
[13:40] herman Bergson: :-) my next project..:-)
[13:40] Corona Anatine: a whole minefield in itself
[13:40] Fitch Woodrunner: Someone hacks into the news media, all the papers, magazines, major news channels, for one day fills it with The President Has Been Shot. America would go crazy... then the next day Prez Obama would be like "Chill out, I'm ok, wtf is wrong with all of you?"
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: oh boy
[13:40] herman Bergson: Or the omnipotent fMRI scanners of brains....
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well...a lot of iteresting thoughts fly around here again....
[13:41] Fitch Woodrunner: people, and I'm one of them, freak out so easily,
[13:42] herman Bergson: Maybe a good idea to cool down our brains again ^_^
[13:42] herman Bergson: Thank you all for you participation....
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:42] ZANICIA Chau: I think we reached em passe
[13:42] Fitch Woodrunner: science is important, we should be spending more on science and medicine than we do on the military and football player salaries :P
[13:42] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...^_^
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: thank you
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: don’t miss the christmas expo that opens dec 4
[13:42] ZANICIA Chau: thank you Herman, illuminating as ever
[13:43] Corona Anatine: i second jakey
[13:43] Vigos Lyric: An interesting thing about this whole topic is that scientific knowledge, once public, is free to be re-interpreted. I think the public has a powerful influence on how scientific works and tools are viewed. If the masses decide the LHC is a danger to humanity, it is threatened, which could block our work into particle physics
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: for the benefit of the relay
[13:43] herman Bergson: And yes Thursday we'll enter a minefield ^_^
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate GIGGLES!!
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: ...LOL...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: okk
[13:43] Vigos Lyric: Awww
[13:43] Fitch Woodrunner: ah well, my apologies again, this appears to be another portuguese incident :P
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: good day or night folks .)
[13:43] Corona Anatine: or relocate it to nations which are less bothered
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Vigos, I agree...
[13:43] Corona Anatine: thus letting go of bein gin the forefront of reseacrh
[13:43] ZANICIA Chau: Night night everyone
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye, Bye   
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: for now
[13:44] herman Bergson: Bye Zan :-)
[13:44] Vigos Lyric: Class is over so soon? I felt like it was just getting good :(
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye all and ty herman&class:-)
[13:44] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ***** APPPPPPPLLLLAAAUUUSSSSEEEEEEE***********
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes I know, Vigos....
[13:44] Corona Anatine: it was getting good - but if no one adds to it....
[13:44] Fitch Woodrunner: oh the big particle smashing donut, yes we need that, there are no reasons for it, but we need it
[13:45] Vigos Lyric: Yes that big donut around France and Switzerland
[13:45] herman Bergson: Ahhh CERN.....yes....
[13:46] herman Bergson: I guess it is mainly about prestige...
[13:46] Corona Anatine: lol yeh and the fears that were expressed that it might destroy the earth
[13:46] Fitch Woodrunner: I want a Mr. Fusion on my car, dammit, so we need to get going
[13:46] Vigos Lyric: Well I do think particle physics is important to understand. We don't know enough about the quantum realm
[13:46] Corona Anatine: well we are half way to using water as fuel - few years off before its universal tho
[13:47] herman Bergson: True Vigos....
[13:47] Fitch Woodrunner: and using really big magnets to smash stuff is fun
[13:47] Corona Anatine: lol yeh
[13:47] Fitch Woodrunner: film it, turn it into a spectator sport
[13:47] herman Bergson: but you might wonder....if people begin to asks for social relevance.....
[13:47] herman Bergson: what does it bring us?
[13:47] Corona Anatine: i5t has been done - some really big projects have utilised small PC users to help
[13:47] Vigos Lyric: I honestly think that will be a political and corporate battle, Corona... I'm a pessimist there but I think established money has a lot of sway. Perhaps if we could socially move towards cleaner energy...
[13:47] herman Bergson: Where is the profit in knowing there are higgs particles....
[13:48] Vigos Lyric: more efficient energy..
[13:48] Fitch Woodrunner: there was a water engine built in 1900, but the inventor died in a mysterious car crash and his lab burnt to the ground
[13:48] Corona Anatine: it bringas us knowledge herman which can be a reward in itself
[13:49] Vigos Lyric: There is social relevance in cheaper energy I think
[13:49] Vigos Lyric: cheaper utilities!
[13:49] Vigos Lyric: maybe
[13:49] herman Bergson: I agree...from a philosophical point of view I support this search for knwledge....
[13:49] herman Bergson: But I think it is not a neo-liberalist interest...
[13:50] Corona Anatine: not so sure Vigos- if the population keeps match with the energy usage then the price will remain the same
[13:50] Vigos Lyric: But.. clean, efficient energy is about long-term thinking. It seems the public at large thinks in the short term much of the time and demands goods and services now, not considering consequences enough
[13:50] Corona Anatine: no surprises there Vigos
[13:50] herman Bergson: The money makers are also short term thinkers Vigos...
[13:51] Corona Anatine: plus a lot of thought in society is geared to a 4 year timescale
[13:51] Corona Anatine: in the democracies anyway
[13:51] Vigos Lyric: That starts getting into general philosophy because I think it's everyone's duty to consider long-term effects of what they buy, support, believe
[13:51] Vigos LyricVigos Lyric begins showing his bias
[13:52] herman Bergson: I agree, Vigos, but the banks, stockholders, hedgefunds and others who control this planet do not think like that, I fear
[13:52] Corona Anatine: while in those nations ruled by 'god' or dictators - social usages of science is not priority
[13:52] Vigos Lyric: Perhaps more social and political pressure is neded. I just read NYC is experiencing a lot of protests
[13:53] Vigos Lyric: unrelated to energy but it's pressure at work
[13:54] Fitch Woodrunner: To make it right, we'd need to tear down the whole system, and begin using a better system a minute later. The world as a whole would need to be involved. We are so very far from that ever happening, so instead we clean up the messes as best we can and try to make the lives of a few people a lil better
[13:55] herman Bergson: Not as long as the other name for god is profit and greed Fitch
[13:55] Corona Anatine: ther eis a way that could be done - but it would involve a massive amount of death
[13:55] Beertje Beaumont: sorry I have to go, it's late
[13:55] Beertje Beaumont: have a goodnight
[13:55] herman Bergson: Bye Beertje :-)
[13:55] Beertje Beaumont: bye Herman
[13:55] Corona Anatine: because after WW" both Germany and Japan had societies rebuilt from stracth which are fairly succesful
[13:55] Vigos Lyric: I agree that it'll take a lot of shifting things around.. For example, to adjust to a totally different energy system, we'd need to rebuild the grid (which in the US I've read is starting to get seriously dated), create new energy plants, and somehow deal with the gas giants
[13:56] Corona Anatine: i asume you mean the corporations not jupiter and saturn
[13:56] Vigos Lyric: lol
[13:56] Vigos Lyric: yes
[13:57] Vigos Lyric: corporate gas giants
[13:57] Vigos LyricVigos Lyric imagines Jupiter with a corporate logo
[13:57] Fitch Woodrunner: Killing off all the stupid people isn't an option, because that intelligence is a sliding scale and everyone has their idea of what stupid is, I would be on someone's list :P
[13:57] Vigos Lyric: That would be pseudo-science put to dangerous work..
[13:57] Corona Anatine: ah IS is in silico nothign to do with role playing a jihadist psychotic
[13:57] herman Bergson: Yes, not a good idea Fitch.....
[13:57] Vigos Lyric: we don't fully understand what intelligence is and how it works
[13:58] Vigos Lyric: Haha, yes Corona. Insilico
[13:58] herman Bergson: I told you Vigos....!
[13:58] Corona Anatine: oh i wasnt suggesting we kill of the 'stupid' but i do feel that if we dont put controls on our own excesses then soem natural force wil do it for us eventually
[13:59] Vigos Lyric: WWII is a great example of pseudo-social science and genetics put to work to undermine ourselves..
[13:59] Vigos Lyric: lol, Herman. you were the first to mention that
[13:59] herman Bergson: and within the hour you got a second one Vigos :-))
[14:00] herman Bergson: But that is because you came to my class..the rest of SL wont notice :-))
[14:00] Vigos Lyric: Which is why I think people should consider long-term effects, environmentally, Corona
[14:00] Vigos Lyric: haha
[14:00] Corona Anatine: : )
[14:00] Fitch Woodrunner: teachers pet!
[14:00] Vigos Lyric: I need to read up more about the Islamic State...
[14:00] Vigos Lyric: lol
[14:01] herman Bergson: Be careful...don't loose your head....:-)
[14:01] Fitch Woodrunner: ha
[14:01] Corona Anatine: i wouldnt bother - just read the koran
[14:01] Vigos Lyric: For science and philosophy!
[14:01] Corona Anatine: as that is what they say they want to impose
[14:01] Fitch Woodrunner: hmm... not all followers of Islam are extremists :)

[14:01] Corona Anatine: nice one Herman

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