Why have scientists shied away from politics, or defended their work as value free? How has the ideal of neutrality come to dominate the world of science? These are some of the questions that Robert Proctor addresses in his study of the politics of modern science. "Value-free Science?" emphasizes the importance of understanding the political origins and impact of scientific ideas. Proctor demonstrates how value-neutrality is a reaction to larger political developments, including the use of science by government and industry, the specialization of professional disciplines, and efforts to stifle intellectual freedoms or to politicize the world of the academy. The first part of the book traces the origins of value-neutrality prior to the 18th century. Plato and Aristotle saw contemplative though as superior to practical action, and this separation theory and practice is still invoked in defense of "neutral science". In the 17th century the Baconian search for useful knowledge allowed a new and closer tie between theory and practice, but it also isolated moral knowledge from natural philosophy.
Another version of neutrality was introduced by the mechanical conception of the universe, in which the idea of a benevolent, human-ventered cosmos was replaced by a "devalorized" view f nature. The central part of the book explores the exclusion of politics and morals with the emergence of the social sciences. Proctor highlights the case of Germany, where the ideal of value-neutrality was first articulate in modern form by social scientists seeking to attack or defend Marxism, feminism, and other social movements. He traces the rise and fall of positivist ethical and economic theory, showing that arguments for value-free science often mask concrete political manoeuvers. Finally, he reviews critiques of science that have been voiced in debates over crucial issues in agricultural science, military research, health and medicine and biological determinism. This book should be of interest to anyone seeking ways to reconcile the ideals of scientific freedom and social responsibility.
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(235mm x 155mm x 24mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Author Biography - Robert Proctor
Robert N. Proctor, author of Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis, is Professor of History of Science at Stanford University.