Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Objective scientists?

Terence Kealey, as part of a larger argument about university reform, argues that scientists are not objective. Historians should have seen that myth go by the wayside long ago, but this argument is interesting:
The popular myth is that scholars are disinterested seekers after truth but, although researchers are generally honest folk, they are not disinterested: in fact, they behave not as judges but as advocates. And advocates are not impartial.
. . . scientists cannot collect all the available facts dispassionately. There are so many facts out there that scientists are forced to select, by instinct and hunch, the facts they believe are germane. Their pre-selected facts pre-ordain the hypotheses they test.
Science therefore, like scholarship generally, is performed by biased, self-interested advocates. And the bias and the self-interest can be measured.  . . .
University professors and practicing clinicians, therefore, publish findings that support their sources of money. Equally, now that the state supports so much scholarship and research, academics are generally supportive of political parties that support the public funding of universities.