Social values influence the adequacy conditions of scientific theories: beyond inductive risk
Canadian Journal of Philosophy
The 'death of evidence' issue in Canada raises the specter of politicized science, and thus the question of what role social values may have in science and how this meshes with objectivity and evidence. I first criticize philosophical accounts that have to separate different steps of research to restrict the influence of social and other non-epistemic values. A prominent account that social values may play a role even in the context of theory acceptance is the argument from inductive risk. It
... nductive risk. It maintains that the more severe the social consequences of erroneously accepting a theory would be, the more evidence is needed before the theory may be accepted. However, an implication of this position is that increasing evidence makes the impact of social values converge to zero; and I argue for a stronger role for social values. On this position, social values (together with epistemic values and other empirical considerations) may determine a theory's conditions of adequacy, which among other things can include considerations about what makes a scientific account unbiased and complete. I illustrate this based on recent theories of human evolution and the social behaviour of non-human primates, where some of the social values implicated are feminist values. While many philosophical accounts (both arguments from inductive risk and from underdetermination) conceptualize the relevance of social values in terms of making inferences from evidence, I argue for the need for a broader philosophical framework, which is also motivated by issues pertaining to scientific explanation.