Reply To: April 28th Science, Society, and Power

Author Replies # Posted on April 30, 2014 at 21:08

In response to Sanna Karlsson’s reflection:

I also found Fairhead’s talk interesting on how his research progressed from the very beginnings. Furthermore, I really noticed how Fairhead was critical of himself and his research and lets this criticism guide him to future revelations. Fairhead was definitely aware of his motives (as you say in your reflection that we should be aware), but only after he finished his research and had time to look back. Personally, I think there is an advantage in that, deciphering your motives after the finished research. If you are trying to be critical of your motives beforehand, it can happen that you start doubting your motives if they are right/appropriate, which hinders your research.

For the rest of your reflection, I agree that goodness and the truth should guide our research. But I don’t think that scientists, academia, or anybody for that matter (excluding people who really do want to harm and do bad) would make their research harmful to anybody, in the short or long term. What a person believes is good, and what they think is worth researching is dependent on the time they lived in, the experiences they had throughout their lives, and what they think is interesting. As you already know, the discussion you have opened up in your reflection is a huge one, and can go on for years (literally, not only figuratively).

There is also the problem of there not being only one truth, as any post-modernist would say. I believe that. There are multiple truths, and truths, again, like goodness, are time dependent. The truth depends on the morals of the time, the experiences a person has, and what that person wants to achieve. There is a great talk on TED called “The long reach of reason”, which (among other things) talks about how people have changed their thinking and way of seeing the world and the truth through time, becoming less violent and more sympathetic, and how long it takes for a single thought to spread well enough within the community to be considered a general accepted truth.

I think to some extent certain powerholders will guide research, but I agree we have to be fully open of what we are doing in our research and how we are trying to or did achieve it.