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Friday, February 3, 2012

Is modern science truly evidence based and unbiased?

In the field of modern science, there is a philosophical conundrum called the Positive theory and Normative theory.

A positive theory is about what is and contains no judgment value. The data is not interpreted through the lens of approval or disapproval. It simply states what is. Scientists analyze data without approving or disapproving and simply state what they see or collect as evidence. For example, there are 100 abortions taking place every month in the US. This is simply a statement of what exists (does not imply value).

Now normative theory on the other hand is the opposite. It puts a value to the data. It says what ought to be seen. The normative people would say abortions are not acceptable or abortions are acceptable. In other words approving or disapproving the abortion scenario.

So in science this philosophical tug-of-war constantly exists between what is and what ought to be. However, I am convinced that all scientists are normative and none are positive. So this tug-of-war in my opinion is an illusion.  Every single scientist who collects data interprets the data based on his or her value system and hence inherently biases the data. A human being by nature is born and raised in a particular environment. So a human being reacts to the external world based on this external conditioning. In fact the conditioning is so strong that human beings cannot see it any other way.

This environmental conditioning coupled with individual human desires transpires into value systems and these values express itself through scientific phenomenon. This is true for Darwin as much as it is for Newton and many others like them. Darwin was against religion in some ways and Newton for it. Both considered giants in their own rights. But the difference is Darwin wanted to see what he wanted to see in nature and used that as evidence to push his value system. Newton on the other hand also wanted to collect evidence to back his religious beliefs. The bottom line is although both scientists used unbiased research methodology to arrive at certain conclusions; still it is their value systems that were projected and put at the helm of scientific breakthroughs.

Research, data, and scientific knowledge are boon to society. It is a manifestation of higher intelligence to help us transcend the gross necessities of life. Technically, research should elevate our quality of life to higher strata, not degrade it. So in one sense research and knowledge is simply a tool or medium with which man can transcend from a lower consciousness to a much higher pristine consciousness. Therefore science and research (tool) is only as good as the person handling it. If the value system of the scientists’ is grossly embedded in simply extending physical & mental pleasures, then the tool of science and research will be misused or in fact abused. This is what is happening in today’s world in the name of science. Scientists who claim to be unbiased and valueless actually have a value and want to push that value onto others.

For example, Richard Dawkins who is famous for his atheistic stand in society cannot claim to be scientific because he has a value that “belief in God is nonsense” and he uses scientific data to push his value onto the world. Otherwise, what need is there to revolt against the existence of God in such a public & bombastic fashion, the same need as much a religionist would do to push his value of surrender to God in a public way. Yet Richard Dawkins rebukes religionists for having a value (rather sentimentally) towards God. His primary distinction is I have evidence and you (religionists) have no evidence. By focusing the conversation on evidence, Dawkins removes the concept of sentimental value. But Dawkins is no better a sentimentalist than anybody else. He uses the “lack of evidence” as the evidence to prove his rather rational value that God does not exist. But lack of evidence does not imply “no” or “absence of” evidence. If I lost something and cannot find it does not mean the thing does not exist. If I cannot find evidence to prove God and the whole world cannot find evidence to prove God, does not mean He does not exist, it simply means we have no evidence. A true and unbiased researcher should conclude this –we the scientific community does not know if God exists or does not exist because there is no evidence to show neither. It is as simple as that. But a scientist such as Dawkins and many more like him (unfortunately the majority) are convinced that lack of evidence of God means God does not exist and hence have the right to push this biased sentimental value upon others (all in the name of unbiased research).

To conclude my point, there is simply no such thing as unbiased researcher where data leads to unbiased conclusions. This sort of research is few and far between. The reality, however, is science and research (tool) is created and pushed by scientists to push their values (be it personal or institutional). It is this value that is being pushed in the name of science. There is no problem to hold values as it is natural, however, the problem arises when these values degrade society into mindless robots who are told that economic development and social well being is the ultimate goal of life (no need for a spiritual God centric life). It is these mundane values (and not evidence and data) that is being pushed in the name of unbiased knowledge and is considered superior to any other form of knowledge in today's world.

Hare Krishna

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