The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997

By Wes Williams | Go to book overview

2
The Values of Science and the Science of Values

Richard Dawkins

The values of science, what does this mean? In a weak sense I shall mean--and shall take a sympathetic view of--the values that scientists might be expected to hold, insofar as these are influenced by their profession. There is also a strong meaning, in which scientific knowledge is used directly to derive values as if from a holy book. Values in this sense I shall strongly repudiate. The book of nature may be no worse than a traditional holy book as a source of values to live by, but that isn't saying much.

The science of values--the other half of my title--means the scientific study of where our values come from. This in itself should be value-free, an academic question, not obviously more contentious than the question of where our bones come from. The conclusion might be that our values owe nothing to our evolutionary history, but that is not the conclusion I shall reach.


The Values of Science in the Weak Sense

I doubt if scientists in private are less (or more) likely to cheat their husbands or their tax inspectors than anybody else. But in their professional lives scientists do have special reasons for valuing simple truth. The profession is founded on a belief that there is such a thing as objective truth which transcends cultural variety and that if two scientists ask the same question, they should converge upon the same truth regardless of their prior beliefs or cultural background or even, within limits, ability. This is not contradicted by the widely rehearsed philosophic belief that scientists don't prove truths but advance hypotheses which they fail to dis prove. The philosopher may persuade us that our facts are only undis-

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The Values of Science: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 1997
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Oxford Amnesty Lectures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction: Nature, Values, And the Future of Science 1
  • Notes 10
  • 2 - The Values of Science And The Science of Values 11
  • Notes 37
  • 3 - Science with Scruples 42
  • Notes 55
  • 4 - What Shall We Tell The Children? 58
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Is the World Simple Or Complex? 80
  • 6 - Faith in the Truth 95
  • Notes 108
  • 7 - The Myths We Live By 110
  • Notes 131
  • About the Editor And Contributors 133
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