Matthew J. Brown at UT Arlington, Values in Science: Beyond Underdetermination and Inductive Risk

Feb 7, 2012 by Matthew J. Brown

The Department of Philosophy at UT Arlington Presents:

Values in Science:
Beyond Underdetermination and Inductive Risk

Matthew J. Brown, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Director, Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology
School of Arts & Humanities, The University of Texas at Dallas

Friday, February 10 at 5:00PM in 303 CPB, The Physics Executive Conference Room above the Planetarium

ABSTRACT: Philosophers of science have increasingly come to accept the thesis that the practice and evaluation of science requires value-judgments, that good science is not value-free or value-neutral but value-laden, indeed, that good science is morally and socially responsible. The main proponents of the value-ladenness of science rely on either arguments from the underdetermination of theory by evidence or arguments from inductive risk (i.e., the statistical risk of error). Both arguments share the assumption that we should only consider values once the evidence runs out, or where it leaves uncertainty; they adopt a criterion of lexical priority of evidence over values. The motivation behind this assumption is to avoid reaching conclusions on the basis of wishful thinking rather than good evidence. The problem of wishful thinking is indeed real—it would be an egregious error to adopt beliefs about the world because they comport with how one would prefer the world to be. I will argue, however, that giving lexical priority to epistemic considerations over values is a mistake and unnecessary for adequately avoiding the problem of wishful thinking. Values have a deeper role to play in science than proponents of the underdetermination and inductive risk arguments have suggested.