The Value-ladenness of Science and Argument from Underdetermination

Document Type : Research Paper


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


The conflict between the impact of unscientific factors on science and its process, or in other words, “oriented science”, has a long history. But in recent decades, the issue has been reborn in more detail and with a focus on unscientific values as well as a focus on the natural sciences at the heart of the philosophy of science, with numerous proponents and opponents arguing for their claims. Opponents of influence, often influenced by the positivist discourse that governs science, considered the involvement of any unscientific factors, including contextual values, in conflict with the ideal of science (objectivity and accurate reporting of natural fact), and spoke of neutral or value-free science. Accordingly, to justify any hypothesis, theory or scientific explanation, only scientific criteria should be sufficient, including scientific values, scientific and logical rules and evidences.
On the contrary, some introduced such an ideal as unattainable, undesirable, or based on incorrect principles, and considering the scientific and practical consequences of scientific theories and hypotheses, they argued in defense of the impact of unscientific values on the process of science, which is the most important; they are: “inaccuracy of distinction between scientific and non-scientific values”, “necessity of underdetermination of hypothesis or theory through empirical evidence”, and “avoidance of inductive risk”. Underdetermination is a common term in experimental science books as well as philosophy of science.
From a descriptive view, since the predominant method in the processes of experimental sciences is induction, it often happens that the collection and analysis of certain data by induction does not lead to a single and unique result, and if we consider all scientific and epistemological factors and criteria, however, no definitive conclusion can be drawn, and although numerous cases have been excluded from the results and are not supported by evidence, there are still several hypotheses, theories, or explanations that are supported by scientific criteria in much the same way. So, often more than one theory, explanation, or law is consistent with a particular set of evidence. The question is what happens when researchers eventually choose one of these alternatives and reject the others? If, according to the assumption, all scientific and epistemic factors have not been able to present a definite final result, then a complete determination is born of the involvement of non-scientific factors.
The most important challenge in advancing this argument is to defend the objectivity of science despite being influenced by non-scientific factors. This problem can be solved only by knowing the values objectively and believing that they are based on real things, and that such attitudes about the metaphysics of value is common and can be defended. Other problems such as confusion between scientific and practical fields and complete elimination of underdetermination through purely scientific components are not very serious and it seems that the elimination of transient underdetermination can be achieved only by the influence of non-scientific factors. Of course, unscientific factors include unscientific values, and in practice, this gap can be filled with non-valuable factors. In this case, the underdetermination is not a response to the ideal of "value-free science", but a trace of the ideal of "epistemic purity" in general (including purity of non-epistemic values and non-epistemic non-valuable factors).


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