306 Research Portfolio Post 5: Grappling with the Division of the Sciences

Bacon and Weber insist on a separation between science and values in response to previous philosophies that emphasized positivist scientific knowledge that points to universal moral understanding.  With the development of the sciences over the centuries it is not surprising that Bacon calls for an invigorating inquiry into the natural sciences.  In his view there should be a hard distinction between the natural and moral sciences in which the moral should remain untouched.  Bacon associates theology with the moral sciences.  Bacon suggests that ethics might come into play only at a much later time to inform policy and perhaps morals.  For now, science can be used to understand the practical functions of our world since we are far from realizing an end to scientific innovation with a universal set of morals.[1]

Weber models science and religion as contending spheres.  These spheres including science, religion, politics, Christianity, and other religions are incompatible.  Eventually we must choose.  While Weber chooses science he notes that any single sphere is not inherently “better”.  Science cannot give definitive answers to which sphere holds the universal truths.[2]

The continuing progress of science creates truths anchored in interpretivism’s “situated knowledge”.  In other words, in modern thought it is difficult to find universal certainty in any kind of science whether it be natural or social.  Bacon and Weber create these distinctions in order to give more room for practical scientific inquiry.  Distinctions between sciences arguably allow for greater innovation and “flourishing” apart from direct moralistic questions.  For example, scientists working on new technologies might be able to focus on the nuts and bolts of their work without allowing moralistic goals to shape or interfere with their work.  Further, separating science and morals allows for the change in values over time as society develops.  It seems to offer some middle ground in a world hesitant to give up its religious and dogmatic origins.  In a way this separation makes a lot of since because the natural sciences share characteristics with religions in how they create rituals with dedicated followers.

Without the distinction between science and ethics, my project would be difficult to develop.  Though my research about “how She’s the First constructs female empowerment and to what extent that understanding is shared with its members” might touch on value dimensions, it considers issues of power structures in international female development in a genealogical context.  I aim to understand constructions of empowerment by looking to how the current meanings came to be.  I might criticize the grounds on which these understandings are based.  However, I do not take on directly whether these meanings are in themselves right or wrong.  While such debate might be interesting in conversation, a research project that rests on universal values would be difficult to defend and might fall victim evidence based in moral relativism.

[1] Bacon, Francis, Lisa Jardine, and Michael Silverthorne. The New Organon. Cambridge [U.K.]: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

[2] Lassman, Peter, Irving Velody, Herminio Martins, and Max Weber. Max Weber’s “Science As a Vocation”. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *