Science, Truth, and Democracy

Oxford University Press
Free sample

Striving to boldly redirect the philosophy of science, this book by renowned philosopher Philip Kitcher examines the heated debate surrounding the role of science in shaping our lives. Kitcher explores the sharp divide between those who believe that the pursuit of scientific knowledge is always valuable and necessary--the purists--and those who believe that it invariably serves the interests of people in positions of power. In a daring turn, he rejects both perspectives, working out a more realistic image of the sciences--one that allows for the possibility of scientific truth, but nonetheless permits social consensus to determine which avenues to investigate. He then proposes a democratic and deliberative framework for responsible scientists to follow. Controversial, powerful, yet engaging, this volume will appeal to a wide range of readers. Kitcher's nuanced analysis and authorititative conclusion will interest countless scientists as well as all readers of science--scholars and laypersons alike.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Nov 8, 2001
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780198033356
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Why the prejudice against adopting a scientific attitude in the social sciences is creating a new 'Dark Ages' and preventing us from solving the perennial problems of crime, war, and poverty.

During the Dark Ages, the progress of Western civilization virtually stopped. The knowledge gained by the scholars of the classical age was lost; for nearly 600 years, life was governed by superstitions and fears fueled by ignorance. In this outspoken and forthright book, Lee McIntyre argues that today we are in a new Dark Age—that we are as ignorant of the causes of human behavior as people centuries ago were of the causes of such natural phenomena as disease, famine, and eclipses. We are no further along in our understanding of what causes war, crime, and poverty—and how to end them—than our ancestors. We need, McIntyre says, another scientific revolution; we need the courage to apply a more rigorous methodology to human behavior, to go where the empirical evidence leads us—even if it threatens our cherished religious or political beliefs about human autonomy, race, class, and gender. Resistance to knowledge has always arisen against scientific advance. Today's academics—economists, psychologists, philosophers, and others in the social sciences—stand in the way of a science of human behavior just as clerics attempted to block the Copernican revolution in the 1600s.

A scientific approach to social science would test hypotheses against the evidence rather than find and use evidence only to affirm a particular theory, as is often the practice in today's social sciences. Drawing lessons from Galileo's conflict with the Catholic church and current debates over the teaching of "creation science," McIntyre argues that what we need most to establish a science of human behavior is the scientific attitude—the willingness to hear what the evidence tells us even if it clashes with religious or political pieties—and the resolve to apply our findings to the creation of a better society.

For the last forty years, two claims have been at the core of disputes about scientific change: that scientists reason rationally and that science is progressive. For most of this time discussions were polarized between philosophers, who defended traditional Enlightenment ideas about rationality and progress, and sociologists, who espoused relativism and constructivism. Recently, creative new ideas going beyond the polarized positions have come from the history of science, feminist criticism of science, psychology of science, and anthropology of science. Addressing the traditional arguments as well as building on these new ideas, Miriam Solomon constructs a new epistemology of science. After discussions of the nature of empirical success and its relation to truth, Solomon offers a new, social account of scientific rationality. She shows that the pursuit of empirical success and truth can be consistent with both dissent and consensus, and that the distinction between dissent and consensus is of little epistemic significance. In building this social epistemology of science, she shows that scientific communities are not merely the locus of distributed expert knowledge and a resource for criticism but also the site of distributed decision making. Throughout, she illustrates her ideas with case studies from late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century physical and life sciences. Replacing the traditional focus on methods and heuristics to be applied by individual scientists, Solomon emphasizes science funding, administration, and policy. One of her goals is to have a positive influence on scientific decision making through practical social recommendations.
The unknown history of surveillance in relation to changing systems of representation and visual arts practice.

The separateness and connection of individuals is perhaps the central question of human life: What, exactly, is my individuality? To what degree is it unique? To what degree can it be shared, and how? To the many philosophical and literary speculations about these topics over time, modern science has added the curious twist of quantum theory, which requires that the elementary particles of which everything consists have no individuality at all. All aspects of chemistry depend on this lack of individuality, as do many branches of physics. From where, then, does our individuality come? In Seeing Double, Peter Pesic invites readers to explore this intriguing set of questions. He draws on literary and historical examples that open the mind (from Homer to Martin Guerre to Kafka), philosophical analyses that have helped to make our thinking and speech more precise, and scientific work that has enabled us to characterize the phenomena of nature. Though he does not try to be all-inclusive, Pesic presents a broad range of ideas, building toward a specific point of view: that the crux of modern quantum theory is its clash with our ordinary concept of individuality. This represents a departure from the usual understanding of quantum theory. Pesic argues that what is bizarre about quantum theory becomes more intelligible as we reconsider what we mean by individuality and identity in ordinary experience. In turn, quantum identity opens a new perspective on us.

A pithy work of philosophical anthropology that explores why humans find moral orders in natural orders.

Why have human beings, in many different cultures and epochs, looked to nature as a source of norms for human behavior? From ancient India and ancient Greece, medieval France and Enlightenment America, up to the latest controversies over gay marriage and cloning, natural orders have been enlisted to illustrate and buttress moral orders. Revolutionaries and reactionaries alike have appealed to nature to shore up their causes. No amount of philosophical argument or political critique deters the persistent and pervasive temptation to conflate the “is” of natural orders with the “ought” of moral orders.

In this short, pithy work of philosophical anthropology, Lorraine Daston asks why we continually seek moral orders in natural orders, despite so much good counsel to the contrary. She outlines three specific forms of natural order in the Western philosophical tradition—specific natures, local natures, and universal natural laws—and describes how each of these three natural orders has been used to define and oppose a distinctive form of the unnatural. She argues that each of these forms of the unnatural triggers equally distinctive emotions: horror, terror, and wonder.

Daston proposes that human reason practiced in human bodies should command the attention of philosophers, who have traditionally yearned for a transcendent reason, valid for all species, all epochs, even all planets.

The role of science in policymaking has gained unprecedented stature in the United States, raising questions about the place of science and scientific expertise in the democratic process. Some scientists have been given considerable epistemic authority in shaping policy on issues of great moral and cultural significance, and the politicizing of these issues has become highly contentious.

Since World War II, most philosophers of science have purported the concept that science should be “value-free.” In Science, Policy and the Value-Free Ideal, Heather E. Douglas argues that such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science. She contends that the moral responsibilities of scientists require the consideration of values even at the heart of science. She lobbies for a new ideal in which values serve an essential function throughout scientific inquiry, but where the role values play is constrained at key points, thus protecting the integrity and objectivity of science. In this vein, Douglas outlines a system for the application of values to guide scientists through points of uncertainty fraught with moral valence.

Following a philosophical analysis of the historical background of science advising and the value-free ideal, Douglas defines how values should-and should not-function in science. She discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning, and outlines seven senses of objectivity, showing how each can be employed to determine the reliability of scientific claims. Douglas then uses these philosophical insights to clarify the distinction between junk science and sound science to be used in policymaking. In conclusion, she calls for greater openness on the values utilized in policymaking, and more public participation in the policymaking process, by suggesting various models for effective use of both the public and experts in key risk assessments.

Helen Longino seeks to break the current deadlock in the ongoing wars between philosophers of science and sociologists of science--academic battles founded on disagreement about the role of social forces in constructing scientific knowledge. While many philosophers of science downplay social forces, claiming that scientific knowledge is best considered as a product of cognitive processes, sociologists tend to argue that numerous noncognitive factors influence what scientists learn, how they package it, and how readily it is accepted. Underlying this disagreement, however, is a common assumption that social forces are a source of bias and irrationality. Longino challenges this assumption, arguing that social interaction actually assists us in securing firm, rationally based knowledge. This important insight allows her to develop a durable and novel account of scientific knowledge that integrates the social and cognitive.

Longino begins with a detailed discussion of a wide range of contemporary thinkers who write on scientific knowledge, clarifying the philosophical points at issue. She then critically analyzes the dichotomous understanding of the rational and the social that characterizes both sides of the science studies stalemate and the social account that she sees as necessary for an epistemology of science that includes the full spectrum of cognitive processes. Throughout, her account is responsive both to the normative uses of the term knowledge and to the social conditions in which scientific knowledge is produced.


Building on ideas first advanced in her influential book Science as Social Knowledge, Longino brings her account into dialogue with current work in social epistemology and science studies and shows how her critical social approach can help solve a variety of stubborn problems. While the book focuses on epistemological concerns related to the sociality of inquiry, Longino also takes up its implications for scientific pluralism. The social approach, she concludes, best allows us to retain a meaningful concept of knowledge in the face of theoretical plurality and uncertainty.

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were—and still are. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. Fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach.

With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it. Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age.

This new edition of Kuhn’s essential work in the history of science includes an insightful introduction by Ian Hacking, which clarifies terms popularized by Kuhn, including paradigm and incommensurability, and applies Kuhn’s ideas to the science of today. Usefully keyed to the separate sections of the book, Hacking’s introduction provides important background information as well as a contemporary context. Newly designed, with an expanded index, this edition will be eagerly welcomed by the next generation of readers seeking to understand the history of our perspectives on science.
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