Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Scientific Method and Social Values

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Kathleen Okuhrlick claims that even if we accept the traditional distinction between the context of discovery vs. the context of justification, non-cognitive values (e.g. values unrelated to truth) can affect scientific theory choice. She writes,

My point, however, is that even if we grant for the sake of argument that scientific method is itself free of contamination by non-cognitive factors and the decision procedure operates perfectly at the nodes, nothing in this procedure will insulate the content of science from sociological influences once we grant that these influences do affect theory generation. If our choice among rivals is irreducibly comparative, as it is on this model, then scientific methodology cannot guarantee (even on the most optimistic scenario) that the preferred theory is true only that it is epistemically superior to the other actually available contenders. (201)

Question: How can non-cognitive values affect theory choice according to Okuhrlick? According to Okuhrlick, can we avoid having those values affecting scientific theory choice?