25
   

Must Scientific Knowledge Be Considered Relative?

 
 
The Pentacle Queen
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 06:14 am
@fresco,
Can you explain 'bodily metaphors'?
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 08:36 am
Science has even been accused of sexism. UCLA professor Sandra Harding writes:
Quote:
A consistent analysis would lead to the conclusion that understanding nature as a woman indifferent to or even welcoming rape was equally fundamental to the interpretations of these new conceptions of nature and inquiry. Presumably these metaphors, too, had fruitful pragmatic, methodological, and metaphysical consequences for science. In that case, why is it not as illuminating and honest to refer to Newton's laws as "Newton's rape manual" as it is to call them "Newton's mechanics"?


0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 09:31 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

I guess I am referring to both. One factor in the questioning of scientific objectivity is that scientific research driven by financial interests is resulting in conclusions that are biased toward whoever is putting up the money.

You're confusing the practice of science, which is certainly subject to bias, with the results of science, which are objective to the extent that they should be the same regardless of someone's motives and background.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:13 am
@Chumly,
Chumly, good points. I should have said that science is USUALLY motivated by social and cultural considerations.Even the happiness of a "happy accident" is shaped by value (cultural) considerations.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:27 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

wandeljw wrote:

I guess I am referring to both. One factor in the questioning of scientific objectivity is that scientific research driven by financial interests is resulting in conclusions that are biased toward whoever is putting up the money.

You're confusing the practice of science, which is certainly subject to bias, with the results of science, which are objective to the extent that they should be the same regardless of someone's motives and background.


There may be a confusion of practice and results. Some have claimed the results are being skewed.

Of course, edgar's point was not to confuse pure science with business-oriented science. It probably is unfair of me to lump the two together.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:27 am
@Chumly,
Yes, math may be as objective (or, as they say, culture free or transcultural) as we can get, it cannot be completely objective in the sense that it is a human rather than God's tool. It reflects our very (physical) nature. Other species--including "intelligent" creatures of other galaxies, should they exist--will perceive as "self evident" a different array of axioms.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:40 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:
There may be a confusion of practice and results.

On your part, yes.

wandeljw wrote:
Some have claimed the results are being skewed.

Well, that, of course, is an argument in favor of the objectivity of science. After all, if no one was in a position to say that the results are skewed, that would suggest that there was no objective standard by which one could judge those results.
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:52 am
@wandeljw,
My bias is slightly different: I prefer the view that scientists TRY to eliminate bias from their work. But I wonder if their efforts are as vigorous as they should be. For example, it is my perception that working scientists are not particularly keen to keep up with the writings of the philosophers of science. I suspect they take for granted, as "God's truth", matters considered problematical by the philosophers of science.
It might be that the philosophers of science are expected (even paid) to look for problems while the technical experts are expected to use the conventions of their "normal science" in order to solve its puzzles (cf. Kuhn).

Thanks for the fascinating account by de Waal.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:52 am
@wandeljw,
My bias is slightly different: I prefer the view that scientists TRY to eliminate bias from their work. But I wonder if their efforts are as vigorous as they should be. For example, it is my perception that working scientists are not particularly keen to keep up with the writings of the philosophers of science. I suspect they take for granted, as "God's truth", matters considered problematical by the philosophers of science.
It might be that the philosophers of science are expected (even paid) to look for problems while the technical experts are expected to use the conventions of their "normal science" in order to solve its puzzles (cf. Kuhn).

Thanks for the fascinating account by de Waal.
wandeljw
 
  2  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 11:11 am
@JLNobody,
There is an old joke: "Philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as orinthology is to birds."
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 11:13 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

wandeljw wrote:
There may be a confusion of practice and results.

On your part, yes.

wandeljw wrote:
Some have claimed the results are being skewed.

Well, that, of course, is an argument in favor of the objectivity of science. After all, if no one was in a position to say that the results are skewed, that would suggest that there was no objective standard by which one could judge those results.


I am happy to consider that an argument in favor of the objectivity of science.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 05:45 pm
@wandeljw,
Yes, I remember that joke. Of course birds need not recognize problems; scientists do.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  2  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 06:29 pm
@wandeljw,
Not sure why there needs to be a distinction between "pure" and "for profit" science, and what that distinction might be.

There's a lot more than money that can influence objectivity: status, recognition, ego-gratification etc ( all of which by the way can be linked with money)

From what I can tell, scientists are quite aware of the dangers of bias and take pains to avoid it. Are they all equally concerned and equally successful? I doubt it.

As for practice and results. The results of a biased process are very likely to be skewed. If not why guard against bias?

0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 06:33 pm
@Chumly,
Maybe, math itself is objective, but how it is used can be subjective.
0 Replies
 
arash010
 
  1  
Reply Mon 24 Oct, 2011 10:48 pm
@wandeljw,
nice post wandeljw
0 Replies
 
bigstew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2011 03:00 am
Quote:
there is a school of thought that scientific research is driven by cultural, social, political, and even financial profit frameworks. Thus, the view that scientific facts are objective is being attacked.


It is a weak attack. The practice of science can be driven by whomever, but that only determines future research models. Scientific knowledge, when generated by the scientific method proper, is independent of such. Facts are facts. Galileo's work speaks to this.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2011 05:05 am
@bigstew,
bigstew wrote:

Quote:
there is a school of thought that scientific research is driven by cultural, social, political, and even financial profit frameworks. Thus, the view that scientific facts are objective is being attacked.


It is a weak attack. The practice of science can be driven by whomever, but that only determines future research models. Scientific knowledge, when generated by the scientific method proper, is independent of such. Facts are facts. Galileo's work speaks to this.



I think the attack comes from the fact that scientists do make choices. However, only one solution fits the puzzle they are trying to solve.

Einstein explained it in this way:
Quote:
The liberty of choice, however, is of a special
kind; it is not in any way similar to the liberty of a writer of fiction.
Rather it is similar to that of a man engaged in solving a well designed
word puzzle. He may, it is true, propose any word as the solution; but,
there is only one word which really solves the puzzle in all its forms. It
is an outcome of faith that nature--as she is perceptible to our five
senses--takes the character of such a well formulated puzzle. The
successes reaped up to now by science do, it is true, give a certain
encouragement for this faith. . . .
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2011 03:45 pm
I came across another type of relativity accusation: "litigation-driven" science. The opinion in Burleson v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice (5th Circuit, 2004) includes this comment: "Dr. Carlson's 'radiation hot-spot' theory is nothing more than litigation-driven speculation...."
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2011 04:20 pm
@wandeljw,
When I think about Science I have in mind the ideals of a normative system, of the rules that define it. When I talk about the system's corruptions I am talking about scientists, about occasions when individuals violate its norms. I guess the Church could say the same when discussing corrupt popes and priests (forget its nuns, they're always pure--at least none ever tried to abuse me when I was a child in catholic school).
Actually Thomas Kuhn's famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, was a picture of contrasting rules, the ideals of "normal science" vs. the strategies of actual competitive processes. Normative rules vs. pragmatic rules.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2011 05:44 pm
@JLNobody,
Kuhn's book is one of the best that I have ever read. I am afraid that the book created a group of followers who see all science as paradigm-driven. I do not believe that Kuhn himself intended this and was probably surprised at his following.
 

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