2.3 The Nature of the Present Contraband Values in Applied Sciences


Our explorations of the methods of human knowing have led to the conclusion that in principle science can bring moral knowledge. If so, this branch of science will be the most valuable of all, defining the finest ways to spend our lives. Meanwhile, the interactions of science and religio-moral systems are actually far less happy than this ideal form, as just seen, and it is a necessary preparation for the newer outlook to look more closely at what has happened under the old, in order that the two approaches may be more clearly separated. Let us in fact take cognizance of the ways in which social scientists have been smuggling values from all manner of revealed religious and arbitrary political beliefs into their recommendations, as if these were a part of their science.

Since every social scientist has values, and only the best have the austerity to keep them separately stated from their scientific findings, an attack on this contraband, like the zeal of any revenue officer, is likely to be interpreted by each as an attack on his own views. It is perhaps necessary to be explicit that the reference here is to any arbitrary values. If we give a little weight (or should we say emphasis) to Marx's discovery on the economic determination of historical movements (with a little help from Freud on the origins of "reason"), we see that it is natural that academics, considering themselves less well paid than businessmen of comparable ability, should on an average, tend to write more frequently with implicit "left wing" than "right wing" values. When business issues a report on social problems it is likely to be equally "right" in its emphasis.

The example of "right" and "left" also brings out the effect of emotional oversimplification, for it is hard by any objective analysis to find any necessary, inherent logical coherence in what is now called "left" or "right." Research described later shows that it is in fact impossible to accept on factor analytic evidence that just one dimension or even two or three can account for the real diversity of choices in political action. The distortions through people identifying themselves with the right-left stereotype are simpler and easier to detect than those more serious permeations of "logical" conclusions that come from the complex philosophy of a revealed religion say Buddhism or Catholic Christianity or from the inbred "rationalist" tradition handed down from the French Encyclopedists into the modern Humanist position, or even from the vague and transient philosophy of Hippiedom. By "rationalist" in the specific sense just touched on, we shall mean the belief that the application of reason and logic, without empirical investigation, is a sufficient basis for revising social and ethical values. It shows itself in the bulk of social reform writings from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, from Voltaire through Bradlaugh and Ingersoll to Popper and Russell. Methodologically it certainly appeals to the serious student, as being one step in advance of revealed religion, but as far as science is concerned, it lacks the second step and therefore offers only a very erratic basis for ensuring progress.

Humanism (not to be confused with Humanitarianism!) must be left for the moment largely to define itself by the dictionary though it will be studied much more closely in Chapter 7. It is a consensus of refined values in human affairs as expressed in classical, Renaissance, and modern literature. Unconsciously, it undoubtedly leans heavily upon (though presenting only a diluted version of) Platonism, Christianity and various revealed religions. A modern writer such as Julian Huxley takes these values for granted, indeed, he is explicit that he is doing so. But when he and the many followers in this line write on the social applications of science, they are in fact importing in their parcel many of the values of revealed, dogmatic religion. To no lesser degree than the theologians, from whom they feel themselves emancipated, they are actually attempting to amalgamate the findings and the temper of science with dogmatic, intuited moral values, partly distilled out of traditional revealed religion. Such a combination of "liberal scholarship," i.e., Humanism with science, its neighbor in the same academic groves, actually makes the contraband all the harder to detect. The presence of the hidden intuitive ingredient in what claims to be rational, comes to the surface when, as not infrequently happens, writers like Huxley and Russell disagree. Similarly, the different submerged emotional premises from which pure rationalists start their impressively logical journeys are suddenly exposed, when logic applied to different conceptions of "fact" does not bring them to the same conclusion.

At this point we are venturing no immediate criticism of the soundness of either the revealed religious or the rational Humanistic ingredient, still less are we saying one is any better than the other. The criticism is directed against putting the new wine of scientific social study into the old bottles of the purely intuitive value system and of doing so without a qualm. And since few social scientists are more than amateurs in theology or ethics, one sees a technically well-trained scientist of mature years blithely salting his conclusions with moral values uncritically taken from his high school years, from the folklore of the time, or, most commonly, from what have been fashionably called avant garde, intellectual views in his academic circle.

The matter can perhaps be illustrated on a relatively trivial and therefore hopefully more detached level by what happened recently when a group of British and American social scientists got together on an economic issue. In reaching plans on welfare, housing subsidies, tax rates, etc., they both alike (a) began by failing to make any statement on, and therefore to draw any clear line between, their scientific and their moral value premises; (b) assumed such Christian values as that town planning would not include a brothel, and (c) assumed predominantly democratic rather than, say, Communist or Fascist ethical and political values, though without being able to define what they understood by these. This last became evident in the Americans' avoiding of segregation according to class tastes, revealing that the British meaning of democracy is more a political one (as is, incidentally, the French), whereas the American is more broadly religious. The former suppose that when the doctor and the truck driver meet in the village pub each will recognize the other as a worthy fellow, but that class segregation is natural and that each will tend to seek the congenial conversation of his own group. In dire situations, as when invasion of the British Isles was threatened, the British democrat readily drops the more superficial segregation by social convenience and taste, and embraces the larger democracy of men, each with his immortal soul, and with his fundamental man-to-man humanity. With the foundation thus laid, he blossoms in more expansive times to what the American is surprised to find is a democracy believing in social classes[2]. Thus the Englishman, even in his pub, is likely to segregate in differently labelled bars in which conversations are carried on with some differences of interest and flavors of vocabulary. A similar subtle difference of democratic values even in cultures so near akin shows up in the reports of French, British and American educational psychologists as to whether separate "streaming" according to general ability level is or is not in the best interests of the school child[3].

Recent instances in America of attempts by social scientists to settle issues "by experiment" include investigation of the effect of lack of censorship of pornographic literature and of unrestricted availability of marihuana. Substantially different conclusions were reached by different groups, differences which could in approximate and superficial ways be associated with political affiliation, church membership, and, finally, temperament. (Morris, 1956, Eysenck, 1954, and the present writer, 1957, have shown the variance contribution of temperament to political, religious and artistic convictions is substantial.) A pervasive defect in our present attempt to apply the social sciences thus shows in (a) inability to segregate scientific conclusions from values, and (b) lack of any adequate, reality-based analysis of value systems (beyond "right and left"!) that would permit the biases to be precisely described, extracted and "pilloried. " Difficult though this extraction may be its achievement is as necessary for the peace of mind of the scientist in the temple of science as it is for the political safety of the man in the street.















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