"Values" are supposed to make science "socially responsible"

Free Speech—so Yesteryear—now it’s “Values”

By —— Bio and Archives--November 23, 2017

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Free Speech--so Yesteryear--now it's Values
Are your still adhering to 16th century thinking? That was the Renaissance Period, a time when the arts (with the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo) and sciences (for example, think Galileo and Paracelsus) blossomed and critical thinking sprouted from the (then) new communication mechanism or device of the time, namely the printing press.

Parts of the ruling establishment of that time were “not impressed.” In fact, they tried their best to suppress and root out the cause(s), printing press, open discussion and free speech.  How could it be allowed for common folks to even read the Bible—without the required “divine” interpretation and guidance?

Pardon my question, should such behavior be pardoned now, even if a few centuries late? At least Galileo was pardoned four centuries later by Pope John Paul II.

Pardons & Apologies

If you haven’t noticed yet, times have changed. We now pardon the Drumstick and Wishbone turkeys (”Trump goes lean for Thanksgiving, laying off Drumstick”)—even without their remorse for having become happy turkeys—but condemn open discussion and free speech, at least in some places on the continent.

Not so lucky has been a teaching assistant (TA) at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), at least initially. The TA had showed a previously aired public television video clip in a class on the (for some viewers controversial) viewpoint on pronoun use in relation to trans people. For that, she had been reprimanded by three university officials in a closed-door meeting. Only after having secretly sound-recorded and published the in-camera “re-formation attempt” by three WLU staff members and the following public outcry did the university rescind with an apology by the university president and the involved “reformers.” I hope (and think) that this TA will have an illustrious career! However, the larger question remains:

What do these Events teach us?

For one, don’t underestimate modern technologies. Almost anything can be recorded, with or without your knowledge. If you think of attempting to browbeat or coerce anyone and maintain that “it’s all hearsay” in a court of justice, think again. A good number of people have already learned that fact. From sound- to video-recordings, often unknown to the folks involved, the modern technologies are quite powerful and can be revealing. 

More important though, the idea of free speech and freedom of expression, as enshrined in some constitutions or charters, appear to be on the way out. Instead, the mainstream media pushes society into a false understanding of indulgence and tolerance that looks more and more like group-think and indoctrination.  How else could you explain a TA having been sanctioned for using in her class a video clip of a public discussion (at another university) that was aired on public TV?  If the above doesn’t make you cringe, what will?

Universities and professional organisations used to be breeding grounds for novel ideas, theories and experiments. Initially, such research was focused on physical phenomena where social aspects were secondary, at best. In recent years, social sciences have become dominant at many universities, outnumbering both faculty and students in the physical sciences.

Physical vs. Social Sciences

Furthermore, some of the physical science research institutes have become highly influenced by social science advocates, political economists, animal rights activists and similar groups. Such developments blur the traditional separation of church and state and differentiation between scientific facts and belief. One undeniable example of that “convergence” can be seen in Pope Francis’ message to the recent COP-23 conference (Nov. 6-17, at Bonn, Germany). In that, the Pope states (emphases added):


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“The historic Paris Agreement [at COP-21] saw the achievement of consensus on the need to launch a shared strategy to counteract one of the most worrying phenomena our humanity is experiencing: climate change.” Further on, it says:

“We should avoid falling into the trap of these four perverse attitudes, which certainly do not help honest research or sincere and productive dialogue on building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.”

Scientific exploration has nothing in common with “consensus” or “perverse attitudes.” That much was already recognized in 1936 by Pope Pius XI when he established the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Its forerunner, the Ac(c)ademia dei Lincei dates back to 1603 that, by the way, had Galileo as its president.


In that context, also of interest is the recent article by Kevin Elliott, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, on “Rather than being free of values, good science is transparent about them.” Of course, those “values” also have a social label; Elliott states:

“There is a common perception that science is a matter of hard facts and that it can and should remain insulated from the social and political interests that permeate the rest of society. Nevertheless, many historians, philosophers and sociologists who study the practice of science have come to the conclusion that trying to kick values out of science risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” And he concludes with:

“Rather than dismissing scientists who discuss their values, we ought to encourage scientists and other stakeholders to engage in open, thoughtful reflection about how values influence research. Far from threatening the integrity of science, this is the path to promoting science that is trustworthy and socially responsible.”

Ah, now “values” are supposed to make science “socially responsible.”

I’d like to ask “whose values?” The ones pronounced by Pope Francis (as above) or those of Galileo, indoctrination or free speech?

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Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts Convenient Myths

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