The Myths We Live By
People answer questions about the values of science in two quite distinct ways today. On the one hand, science is often praised for being value- free--objective, unbiased, neutral, a pure source of facts. Just as often, however, science is spoken of as being itself a source of values, perhaps indeed the only true source of them. For example, the great evolutionist Conrad Waddington wrote in 1941: "Science by itself is able to provide mankind with a way of life which is . . . self-consistent and harmonious. . . . So far as I can see, the scientific attitude of mind is the only one which is, at the present day, adequate to do this" (emphases mine).1 As we shall see, too, many serious theorists have claimed that science is "omnicompetent"--that is, able to answer every kind of question.
Where we meet such clashes, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle and more complicated than it looks. The word science is surely being used with a different meaning in these two claims. We do indeed sometimes think of science as simply an immense store of objective facts, unquestionable facts about such things as measurements, temperatures, and chemical composition. But a store cupboard is, in itself, not very exciting. What makes science into something much grander and more interesting than this is the huge, ever-changing imaginative structure of ideas by which scientists contrive to connect and understand the facts. The general concepts, metaphors, and images which make up this structure cannot possibly be objective and antiseptic in this same way. They grow out of images drawn from everyday life because that's the only place to get them. They relate theory to that everyday life and are meant to influence it. As history shows, these concepts and images change as the way of life around them changes. And after they have been used in