The previous post tackled a difficult passage on the role of values in science. What follows here is a continuation of that paragraph with a longer paragraph and two further questions.
Since we already have a good grasp of the structure of the first paragraph, the entire passage should now be more manageable and digestible. Let’s give it a go!
It is often claimed that scientific decisions should not be influenced by scientists’ value-judgments. This claim is motivated by the fear that a substantial role for values in science would threaten the objectivity of scientific outcomes. Very simply put, the idea is that scientific representations should be based on evidence, and not on subjective judgments of what one wants the world to be like. Doing the latter would amount to wishful thinking and be incompatible with the empirical rigor that characterizes science. Historical cases such as the ideology-driven biological research of soviet scientist Lysenko seem to justify this position. His state-backed attempt to align scientific theories with communist ideology led to ill-supported scientific theories that are now widely rejected.
Despite the popularity and plausibility of this value-free ideal, philosophers of science have convincingly shown that it is not a suitable guide for scientific decision-making. More precisely, they argue that this ideal is both naïve and undesirable. It is naïve, they argue, because value-judgments play a substantial role in all science, both good and bad. For example, it is widely acknowledged that Darwin’s work – perhaps the prime example of good science – was heavily influenced by his socio-economic views. The ideal of value-free science is also undesirable, these philosophers claim, because scientific work that is not appropriately influenced by value-judgments could lead to unwanted outcomes. For example, even the most ardent opponents of a role for values in science will agree that there are important moral restrictions to the experiments that scientists should conduct with human test subjects. Similarly, it seems hard to deny that value-judgments should play a role in deciding what topics to study; when a scientist is in doubt between investigating the appropriate number of holes in a belt and finding a cure for cancer, surely value-judgments can legitimately push her to choose the latter over the former.
1. Which of the following statement(s) is/are claimed by the passage?
B) While some value-laden scientific work is bad because it is not objective, we cannot assume that all value-laden scientific work constitutes bad science.
C) While Darwin’s work lacks objectivity, it is an example of good science. Therefore, values should play a role in science.
D) Scientists should rely on value-judgments when deciding what to study, but only if it does not make the scientific outcomes subjective.
E) Because science is de facto value-laden, we should give up the ideal of objective scientific outcomes.
F) Moral obligations do not threaten the objectivity of scientific outcomes.
B) Correct. The first paragraph shows an example of bad value-laden scientific work, but the second shows that not all value-laden work is bad science.
C) It is not said that it lacks objectivity; moreover, this example illustrates that values de facto play a role and says nothing about whether they should play a role.
D) No, subjectivity is not mentioned here. The point is that scientists should rely on values to choose topics.
E) No, while it is argued that science is de facto value-laden, the claim represented in paragraph one (that this means giving up objective science) is not endorsed.
F) No, it is claimed that moral obligations should influence science. Their impact on objectivity is not discussed.
2. Which of these statements apply to the second paragraph?
B) Studying the appropriate number of holes in a belt is an example of an unwanted outcome.
C) Moral restrictions on scientific experiments constitute an unwanted outcome.
D) The goal of this passage is to argue that science is inevitably value-laden.
E) There are various examples that show that values should influence science.
F) None of the above.
A) FALSE. In fact, this paragraph argues that not all value-laden science leads to unwanted outcomes.
B) TRUE. The author states “scientific work that is not appropriately influenced by value-judgments could lead to unwanted outcomes”. Studying insignificant topics is one such potential outcome, and definitely unwanted.
C) FALSE. Not having these restrictions would be an unwanted outcome
D) FALSE. The goal is to argue that it should be value-laden.
E) TRUE. Two, to be more precise: the belt case (choice of topics) and the human test subjects (moral restrictions).
Answer: B and E.
For more challenging RC questions in this series, click here.