A Critical Evaluation of Value-Free Science Based on the Induction Risk Argument

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Philosophy of Religion, Department of Kalam, Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Tehran, Iran


One of the most important issues in the philosophy of science in recent decades is to assess the permissibility of the involvement of background and non-scientific factors in science and to place them next to evidence or to involve them in the process of weighing evidence. Proponents of the value-free science ideal have considered any intervention of this kind as a blow to the objectivity of science and slipping in the process of science. One of the important arguments in criticizing this ideal is that of inductive risk, according to which any scientific statement or hypothesis and theory based on the common scientific method,is subject to possible shortcomings that are sometimes so detrimental that it is essential to prevent them and repair the process of hypothesis or scientific theorizing. Therefore, due to the possibility of errors in non-perceptual consequences, non-perceptual factors, including moral, social, and political values, should be involved in the process of science and these factors determine what assumptions or theories are accepted to avoid those consequences.
For the first, Hempel presents the argument as below:
Based on certain evidence as well as the scientific rules governing the research question, the probable results are:
(1) The hypothesis is accepted according to scientific rules and is, in fact, true.
(2) The hypothesis is rejected on the basis of scientific rules and is, in fact, false.
(3) The hypothesis is accepted according to scientific rules, but it should, in fact, be false.
(4) The hypothesis is rejected onthe basis of scientific rules, but it should, in fact, be true.
The first two hypotheses are the results of scientific processes, but the last two hypotheses are probabilities that induction will occur.So both epistemologically and practically, we may have unpleasant consequences that must be remedied by reconstructing the rules of accepting or rejecting scientific assumptions.Hempel's solution is to involve values in the process of science, so that, although values lack a logical connection with hypotheses (one in the epistemic dimension and the other in the non-epistemic dimension), their role in the rules of accepting hypotheses to avoid scientific errors and scientific consequences is justified.
The argument is expressed today in a new form as follows:
 (1) It is a common method in induction science.
(2) There is a possibility of error in induction.
(3) Scientific error leads to unfortunate individual and social consequences in the practical (moral, biological, economic) field.
(4) The possible consequences of this can be overcome with unscientific values.
(5) The hypothesis must be organized in such a way that it results in the least error.
(6) After the alternative assumptions, a case should be selected that has the least adverse consequences.
(7) So values can affect the process of science in a permissible and reasonable way.
Some of the most important drawbacks of this argument are:
(1) Interference of two scientific and practical fields: In this argument, the position of practice has been used for the field of science and the criterion of applying theory and hypothesis has been included in its epistemic justification level.
(2)  Lack of guarantee of objectivity of theories: If the criterion of objectivity is determined outside the position of opinion, there will be no guarantee that the theories will reveal reality. Basically, the meaning of objectivity is that it should not rely on any personal desires or uses.


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