22 August 2014

Science's value-freedom bogus

Value-freedom (Wertfreiheit, cf. inter alia David Hume, Max Weber) is one of modern science's core self-deceptions. You have to be value-free in your statements and judgements in order to be 'objective', right? When you strip off the values, science says, you are left with 'objective facts' that serve to describe the world when worked up into value-free theories. The value-free scientific theory and practice then has to be supplemented with an ethics which brings in the values, thus evaluating the bare facts with an eye to how we should act in practice. Hence there are urgent calls today to teach ethics, say, to medical doctors and practising economists such as bankers. What's wrong with this approach?, you ask. It's obvious, isn't it? To judge by its unquestioning, ubiquitous acceptance in popular opinion and the media, the objective value-freedom of science seems incontrovertible.

What the self-deluding dogma of value-freedom overlooks is that, at its essential core, modern science is borne and driven by a covert will to effective power over movement/change of all kinds. This hidden value is at the heart of modern science in all its variants from physics through to sociology and psychology. Without this will, science would be completely useless. But uselessness is itself a value-judgement, isn't it?

Further reading: Section 3.5 Digital Cast of Being.

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