The Objectivity of Science

After reading Rare Bird, I admit I was somewhat disillusioned.  The story was outstanding and really illustrated how there is a dominant narrative of science, that is, for centuries all but rich, white males were excluded or cast aside from the scientific process.

My initial thought reflected what I believed to be a tremendous waste.  How much sooner would great discoveries have been made if more than half the population not been excluded?  But, moreover, it revealed to me that science may not be as objective as I had originally thought.  Indeed, rather than an unbiased field, science (like everything) is tainted by the prejudices of the day.

Of course, that doesn’t make science invalid, as some scholars might suggest. Discoveries over the last several centuries have been important and added to the rich body of human knowledge.  However, it is absurd that these discoveries came from just one group of the whole human population.  Rare Bird was interesting because it took the perspective of an 18th century woman, but I can’t imagine that science is much different today.  Of course, we’ve come far and eliminated many of our prejudices, but even though I’m hard pressed to identify them, I can’t help but feel some still taint the dominant narrative of science.

What I mean to suggest is that science is not perfect; it is less rich than it could be.  I think the way forward, much like at the end of Rare Bird, is to have the courage to go outside the norms of our day.  As much as science is a process of discovering new ideas, it is also in the process of perfecting itself.



~ by nickmbrown on February 15, 2010.

3 Responses to “The Objectivity of Science”

  1. You bring up a really interesting point. It’s easy to think about the way history books and English novels are biased, but one rarely thinks about the prejudices that lie behind the biology and chemistry textbooks.

  2. Nick,

    I’m curious to know if you’ve heard of Rosalind Franklin? I personally consider her story an example of the injustice that women in science faced as late as the mid 20th century. She was absolutely instrumental in the identification of the structure of DNA. James Watson admits in interviews that he snooped around her office and stole her x-ray defraction data, from which he determined DNA was in fact a helix – and yet, she is never mentioned in high school biology. Anyway, it’s a rather interesting story.

  3. You are right; we have eliminated some of our prejudices but we still have a way to go. However, in your comment about great discoveries being made sooner if half the population had not been excluded, I think the less privileged (women, minorities, etc) made discoveries, they just weren’t given the credit for them.

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