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Values in science

April 12, 2015

Alvin Weinberg in the Axiology of Science:

Several very broad attitudes toward different styles of science as so deeply a part of the scientist’s prejudices as hardly to be recognized as implying an axiology [aka value system-PK]. These I call implicit axiological attitudes toward science. I would include in this category such homilies as: Pure is better than applied; General is better than particular; Search is better than codification; and Paradigm breaking is better than spectroscopy…

To every modern scientist, science that deals with disparate, unconnected facts is “poorer” science than science that deals with powerful generalizations. And yet one can overdo this love of the general as opposed to the particular. For every general law implies particular instances only in principle. And to know in principle is not the same as knowing in fact and in detail. From quantum chemistry we can predict, in principle, the properties of a nucleic acid; yet to do so in practice would be very difficult. As we go to more powerful general principles we gain in breadth of outlook, but we lose in resolution…

Obviously our love for the general as opposed to the particular would not be so ardent if we were less taken by the law of scientific parsimony and more taken, say with the applicability of science to the problem of pollution.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Victor permalink
    April 26, 2015 10:09 am

    Interesting. The love of search over codification applies to Google.

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