Tag Archives: Science

Weird Science: Testing Moral Claims

Lee Peck, Ohio University

Are there facts about how we should act? Can we test moral claims just as scientists test whether there is truth to a theory? Gilbert Harman believes there is “a real problem of testability in ethics, a problem that can be formulated without making mistakes about testability in science” (1986). Moral facts have no explanatory role, he says, and therefore ethics is immune from observational testing.

The Cornell realists have another view, however. The Cornell realist, Blackburn (1998) explains, “thinks we can identify the ‘truth-makers’ for our ethical thoughts, identifying what properties of things make them true, rather as the scientist identifies the property of stuff that identifies water or gold” (pp. 88-89).

In this paper, Harman’s and Sturgeon’s conflicting views will be presented. I argue Harman’s argument is the more feasible, but that Harman can make his argument stronger by presenting additional differences between the methodologies of ethical decision-making and scientific research.

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Is 'Forbidden Knowledge' Possible in Modern Science?

Deborah Johnson, Georgia Institute of Technology

In this paper I use the concept of forbidden knowledge to explore questions about putting limits on science. Science has generally been understood to seek and produce objective truth, and this understanding of science has grounded its claim to freedom of inquiry. What happens to decision making about science when this claim to objective, disinterested truth is rejected? There are two changes that must be made to update the idea of forbidden knowledge for modern science. The first is to shift from presuming that decisions to constrain or even forbid knowledge can be made from a position of omniscience (perfect knowledge) to recognizing that such decisions made by human beings are made from a position of limited or partial knowledge. The second is to reject the idea that knowledge is objective and disinterested and accept that knowledge (even scientific knowledge) is interested. In particular, choices about what knowledge gets created are normative, value choices. When these two changes are made to the idea of forbidden knowledge, questions about limiting or forbidding lines of inquiry are shown to distract attention from the more important matters of who makes and how decisions are made about what knowledge is produced. Much more attention should be focused on choosing directions in science, and as this is done, the matter of whether constraints should be placed on science will fall into place.

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Science, Women, and Feminist Theory: Public Interest Implications

Cassandra Pinnick
Western Kentucky University
October 15th, 2004, 4:00 to 5:30 pm
Ellis 113

pinnick2Science needs money. And, significant sums of public monies are spent to support science. As a matter of course, we expect that public expenditures are made based on reasoned and well-supported policy. Anything less would be an outrage. Feminist theories about science, and a feminist project to reform science, would shape policy about, and affect funding for, science. Yet decisions, based on feminist theory about science, are decisions based on a house of cards. This is because the feminist rationale remains unsubstantiated. In particular, we have no data that would test the strength of the hypothesis as asserting a causal relationship between women and cognitive ends. Thus, we must remain agnostic about the evidentiary merits or demerits of this feminist project. And, by extension, any funding or policy decisions taken in the name of this project rest on no more than dogma.

Cassandra Pinnick, a California native born in Watts, completed her undergraduate degree in 1973, at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics. She practised law as a private practitioner from 1976 through 1987, in California and Hawaii. In 1993, under the supervision of Larry Laudan, she completed the Ph.D. in Philosophy, at the University of Hawaii – Manoa. She joined the faculty at Western Kentucky University in 1992, and has primary responsibility for courses in logic and philosophy of science.

She is a Fellow at the Center for the Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, and was a Resident Fellow at the Center for the academic year 2000-2001. Since 2001, she has been Visiting Faculty in Philosophy and Logic, at the Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico. In 2004, she became the first Executive Secretary for the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS). In 2003, Pinnick was an invited speaker at the GAP.5 meetings, the Fifth International Congress for Analytic Philosophy, in Bielefeld, Germany. In 2004, she was a speaker at the 5th Quadrennial International Fellows conference, Krakow (Rytro), Poland, and at the Fifth Biennial Congress for the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS), San Francisco.

Pinnick’s research concerns the epistemology of evidence, justification, and belief, and she is interested to link these philosophical topics to important public policy debate.

She is co-editor, with Noretta Koertge and Robert F. Almeder, of Scrutinizing Feminist Epistemology: an Examination of Gender in Science (Rutgers University Press 2003). Her work is published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Metascience, Science & Education, Social Epistemology, Social Studies of Science, and the International Journal for Philosophy of Science.

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