Is there any room for facts in a world of values? How is objectivity to be saved if science is as value-laden as most commentators now seem to agree? The well-chosen selection of essays in this anthology nicely illustrates the diverse ways in which an affirmative answer may be reached to these currently much debated questions.
Few people, if any, still argue that science in all its aspects is a value-free endeavor. At the very least, values affect decisions about the choice of research problems to investigate and the uses to which the results of research are applied. But what about the actual doing of science?As Science, Values, and Objectivity reveals, the connections and interactions between values and science are quite complex. The essays in this volume identify the crucial values that play a role in science, distinguish some of the criteria that can be used for value identification, and elaborate the conditions for warranting certain values as necessary or central to the very activity of scientific research.Recently, social constructivists have taken the presence of values within the scientific model to question the basis of objectivity. However, the contributors to Science, Values, and Objectivity recognize that such acknowledgment of the role of values does not negate the fact that objects exist in the world. Objects have the power to constrain our actions and thoughts, though the norms for these thoughts lie in the public, social world.Values may be decried or defended, praised or blamed, but in a world that strives for a modicum of reason, values, too, must be reasoned. Critical assessment of the values that play a role in scientific research is as much a part of doing good science as interpreting data.
Gone are the days when science could be seen as value-free. Now the central questions include: What are the different kinds of values and how do they affect science? Are they subjective or are they somehow rationally justified? Is science better or worse for having them? This remarkably diverse yet rigorous volume goes far in clarifying the crucial questions and providing significant answers.
Peter Machamer is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is coeditor, with Gereon Wolters, of Thinking about Causes: From Greek Philosophy to Modern Physics and Science, Values, and Objectivity, among other books.
Gereon Wolters is professor emeritus of philosophy and history of science at the University of Konstanz and director of the philosophical archive. He is coeditor of Concepts, Theories, and Rationality in the Biological Sciences and Logic, Language, and the Structure of Scientific Theories, among other books.