Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Is Science Necessarily Neutral from a Moral Viewpoint?
James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory and the Fact/Value Dichotomy
Visiting Fellow (CPS)
University of Pisa, Philosophy
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: For James Lovelock the Earth is an organism, a living planet. This idea has been seen by the vast majority of scientists as too laden with moral values, which are foreign to scientific research. This is why they have urged Lovelock to purge his theory from undue moral considerations. In this paper I shall defend a different view. Sometimes in science we have theories which are intrinsically both descriptive and evaluative. This is the case of Lovelock’s Gaia. In the Gaia theory facts and values are logically interwoven in a way that has often been misunderstood. Indeed, in a sense to be carefully clarified, when recognising an entity as an organism we make a statement which is at the same time both descriptive and evaluative. Thus, if Lovelock had dropped the evaluative considerations characterising his theory we would not have had the same theory cleared of those evaluative considerations. We would rather have had a different theory. Following this line of reasoning I shall also argue that many advocates of the Gaia theory have unjustifiably dropped the notion of teleology from their explanations. They have been intimidated by neo-Darwinian orthodoxy, but I shall argue that teleological explanations play a role in their theory which is independent of evolutionary biology. In fact, without teleology their explanatory models become unintelligible.