Thursday, July 20, 2006

Scientific Relativism

Scientific relativism is moral relativism in a white lab coat. Moral relativism takes the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute and universal moral truths; moral relativism also suggests that no single standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.

Finally, moral relativism contends that opposing moral positions have no truth-value, and that no preferred standard of reference exists by which to judge them.
So how does a field that is based on logical empirical fact finding give itself over to vacillating situational relativism?

Science like everything else in our society is affected by our society’s over arching belief that no single standard exists. If all paths lead to God in religion and if my religion is as good as yours, then in our relativistic society for those who believe in God, it would naturally follow that all paths lead to scientific conclusion and scientifically it is possible to have different scientific conclusion regarding the same subject or study depending to your scientific point of view.

If that sounds ridiculous to you think of what our legal system does each and every time that a scientific expert is called to state hers or his findings then the opposing side calls their scientific expert who states different findings. Findings which are the exact oppose of the first findings even though both scientist used science to come to their respective conclusions.

Need an example? Do you remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill?
In March 1989, the sea at Prince William Sound in Alaska turned black. When a captain who had been drinking allowed his crew to pilot the Exxon Valdez onto Bligh Reef, the ship spilled 11 million gallons of oil. The accident remains the largest oil spill in American waters.

Civil court action lasted well into 1991 when a settlement between Exxon and the federal and Alaskan governments was reached. The oil company agreed to pay $900-million for the spill and promised an additional $100-million if unanticipated damages became evident by 2006. Here’s my point, government-financed researchers said they've uncovered such damages. But scientists financed by Exxon, many of them academics, said unexpected long-term damages don't exist.

How could scientist reach such contradictory conclusion given the same data?
When each side’s scientist’s objectivity was questioned, each side accused the other of conducting biased studies. What’s more, each charged the other with violating the usual rules of scientific discourse. In this case it became clear that we are now in the age of corporate-government scientific relativity an age of science for sell or science for political gain.
"An ecosystem never recovers when there's money to be made off of it," says Robert J. Huggett, a toxicologist who is a consultant for the company now known as Exxon Mobil and who this summer retired as vice president for research at Michigan State University.

"It's a little bit of a discouraging comment on science, really," says Daniel Esler, a research associate at Simon Fraser University who has worked on the spill's effects with government financing. "It's unfortunate that one can predict the results of studies based on who's doing it."

In 2001 government scientists conducted a $500,000 project to evaluate how much oil lingered on the sound's beaches. Led by Jeffrey W. Short, a research chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Auke Bay, Alaska, the work began in May and continued until September.

In August Mr. Short was surprised to see he had company. "Exxon shows up and starts following us around," he recalls. "After we left a beach, they'd go and look at what we did. It's a free ocean, so that's fine."

The Anchorage Daily News solicited essays from Mr. Short and from Mr. Page, of Bowdoin College, who was the scientist tracking Mr. Short's progress that summer.

In a January 2002 column in that newspaper, Mr. Short reported that the persistence and toxicity of the oil were "substantially greater than previously recognized." Mr. Page, in a counterargument, undercut the research, charging that Mr. Short's study was biased. He also said that the government researchers had not performed all the work they reported.

Is this not Scientific Relativism? Findings or conclusion which results are based on who’s doing the study.

Or consider this the Union of Concerned Scientists released two reports detailing multiple examples of the Bush administration's unprecedented manipulation, distortion, and suppression of government science. However a check of the UCS website finds no report detailing the examples of corporate misuse of science.

What, there is none? Nor do they show any other administrations alleged distortion of government science.

Are we to conclude that the Bush administration is the only administration that has used science for political goals or is this a blatant show of anti-Bush bias by the 9,000 scientist that lent their names to this apparent partisan organization.

Finally, the Conservation Science Institute says in their Ethics Initiative, “Credibility in science has become an enormous problem. Some observers point to the 'believability gap' as a main reason for ecosystem degradation. Much of this credibility gap is the result of individuals and institutions that have strong interests in finding answers that suit their own immediate profitability. Industry-sponsored science, for example, is often suspect.”

Science has been modernized, corporatized and politicized, that being the case, every time one hears a scientific opinion or read a scientific study one must ask, from who’s scientific perspective does this come? Because I guarantee you that even if we are speaking about a scientific fact you will be able to find scientific opinion, research or a study that would completely contradict it in this age of scientific relativism.

No comments:

Post a Comment