Douglas and Integrity

Nov 4, 2011 by eaa073000

On page 153 of Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal, Heather Douglas claims that “with the values used by scientists to assess the sufficiency of the evidence made explicit, both policy-makers and the public could assess those judgments, helping to ensure that values acceptable to the public are utilized in the judgments.” My question is how does Douglas know what values are “acceptable” to the public? Is she referring to values that are generally acceptable to the public? Could she have provided examples of these values or simply list them from social and ethical perspectives? When she speaks of the “public” is she talking about one homogeneous mass? Will every single member of this “public’ share the same exact values. Prior to this statement, Douglas also states that in order to maintain the integrity of science, scientists should “be explicit about the values used in reasoning.” She assures that the “advising process would become more readily accountable” and democratic. I understand that scientists being explicit about their values could make the advising process less democratic. If scientists were to be transparent about their values in their reasoning process it would make it way too easy for politicians to determine what scientific advisors are in line with their conservative, moderate, or liberal ideals. It would completely politicize the process of designating scientific advisors. In that same paragraph, Douglas continues to state that by scientists being transparent with their values, those with “extreme values” will be prevented from having any influence over policy. Who is qualified to determine what “extreme” values are? Once again, I feel it would be the politicians, those who are in power, who will have the last word in determining if scientists’ values are too extreme or not extreme enough.  “ Extreme values” would not be looked down upon as long as they work towards pushing forward specific agendas.