"Is science objective?"
to which I forthrightly (and self-righteously, as I recall) responded
"YES", and then spent the next 20 minutes backing myself deeper and
deeper into a corner in response to his probing questions.
The only thing that saved me was the unexpectedly animated
intervention of the other members of the examining committee, all of
whom were agronomy/botany professors who were not nearly ready to
hear that science was anything but objective. If memory serves, I
spent the next 20 minutes watching the slight and soft-spoken Van Iten
handily dispatch all arguments to the contrary, leaving a group of
significantly disgruntled faculty pondering the remote possibility
that Science may indeed be something other than objective.
As for "right and wrong" - I have another friend, also a philosopher -
Hugh Lehman, recently retired, who used to come and speak in my Crops
in Land Reclamation class about the ethics of reclamation. He would
agree with you that "right and wrong" are not just personal opinions
but can be argued and tested analytically just like anything else.
In the context of the present discussion, what is "right" or "wrong"
would depend intrinsically on the *values* as well as the science that
one brings to the discussion. The values of some (not all)
scientists allow *faith in science* to override, discount, and dismiss
other considerations - and even, to be blind to other considerations.
It is the difference between "acceptance" (a scientific term based on
risk assessment protocols) and "acceptability" (a values-based term
reflecting an holistic assessment of not simply the science but other
dimensions not contained in the accepted standard protocols). The
difference between acceptance and acceptability is what is
confounding Monsanto and the scientific community that provided them
with all the best and latest scientific supporting evidence. The
same conundrum featured prominently in dialogue on BeefToday and
GRAZE-L about BSE and mad cow disease. Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933