Science and Value

Some think that good science is, or should be, free from the influence of values. Drawing from contemporary philosophy of science, in this seminar we will explore questions like: what does it mean for science to be free from values? Can science be free from values? If science can’t be free from values, is it still objective, reliable, trustworthy, etc.? What roles should science have in society if it is not value free? We will discuss and evaluate arguments for the claim that scientific practices cannot be insulated from the influence of values, as well as examples from various scientific disciplines. Then, we will draw implications from the claim that science is not value free. We will consider what properties such a science might have (e.g., is it objective? Is it reliable?), and how the general public and policy makers should interact with it.

Dates: Tuesday evenings on 3.6, 3.13, 3.20 and 4.3.

Time: 6:30-8:00pm

Reading Schedule:

3.6: The Value Free Idea

  • Hugh Lace, “Introduction” in Is Science Value-Free?, pp. 1-19

3.13: Values in Engaging with Evidence

  • Heather Dougals, “Bullshit at the interface of science and policy”, pp. 219-225 (“Bullshit of universal standards”)
  • Kathleen Okruhlik, “Gender and the biological sciences”, pp. 21-31

3.20: Values in Theoretical Virtues

  • Helen Longino, “Cognitive and non-cognitive values in science: rethinking the dichotomy”

4.3: What if Values are Inherent to Science? 

  • Helen Longino, Science as Social Knowledge, pp. 66-80
  • Philip Kitcher, Science in a Democratic Society, pp. 110-125

Berkeley Institute, 2134 Allston Way

For copies of the readings, please contact

This seminar is free and open to all Cal, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.

Karl van Bibber
Professor of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley

Jonathan Kohler
Doctoral candidate in Physics at UC Berkeley

Ravit Dotan
Doctoral candidate in Philosophy at UC Berkeley