Values of Science
Science is often described as the pursuit of objective truth. As the standard story goes, by conducting experiments, collecting data, performing calculations, and developing mathematical models, scientists obtain reliable knowledge of the world as it is. In the twentieth century, however, it has become increasingly obvious that human values, goals, and subjective interests affect the types of scientific questions that we ask and how scientists answer them. In medical research and climate science, for example, the questions that scientists address are motivated by the desire to cure disease, improve the environment, and more. How large of a role do values play in the sciences? Can science remain objective in spite of our own values? This course will address these questions among others. We will study two recent and important books by Heather Douglas and Phillip Kitcher that explore how values affect scientific research and try to articulate the proper roles that values can play in research. Because enrollment is limited to ten, students will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the instructor and to receive detailed feedback on their writing.
TEXT: Online materials will be available on Canvas.