(1) Introduction and rules
Thank you for participating in this debate. I will be arguing in favor of the debate resolution, "Science is not objective."
Civil Debate - Rule One: You cannot redefine truth.
Civil Debate - Rule Two: Do not disqualify your opponent.
Civil Debate - Rule Three: Only your opponent can award points.
Each participant will award and/or deduct up to 6 points to their opponent per round with the stipulation that points can never go below zero. The judge will award "arguments" (3 points) to the participant with the highest points tally at the end of the debate. In the event of a tie, no vote will be registered by the judge.
First round will be PRO's opening argument and definitions and CON's opportunity to challenge definitions and present counter-arguments and CON optionally awarding points to PRO for opening arguments and definitions.
Second round will be PRO optionally awarding points to CON for round one and modifying arguments to address concerns identified by CON and CON optionally awarding points to PRO for their response and modifying arguments to address PRO's points.
Third round will be the same as the second round with the addition of closing arguments.
Fourth round will be for points assignment/deduction and tally only.
If points are awarded or deducted (including a note for "no points"), CON will note points in the same round and PRO will note points at the beginning of the round following the arguments/comments that are being judged.
Please feel free to paraphrase opposing arguments in order to seek further clarification if needed.
(2) Proposed definition: "science"
(s.1) "Science is systematic knowledge acquired by the application of logic to observation."
Please let me know if you provisionally agree to allow common google.com definitions of words contained within these definitions.
(3) Proposed definition: "objective"
Objective: (o.1) (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts. (AND/OR) not dependent on the mind for existence; actual.
(o.1a) antonyms: biased, partial, prejudiced
(o.1b) antonyms: subjective
For contrast, I would like to present a common definition of "subjective":
(IFF) (sj.1) Subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. (AND/OR) dependent on the mind or on an individual's perception for its existence.
(sj.1a) antonyms: objective
And (IFF) "subjective" is an antonym of "objective" (THEN) "objective" can not be "based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. (AND/OR) dependent on the mind or on an individual's perception for its existence."
(4) Key support for resolution
Let's analyze the resolution "Science is not objective."
(k.1) Science as defined in (s.1) implies that "science" is the "knowledge" (data) acquired by "observation" (ostensibly by a human or possibly by more than one human).
(k.2) I believe it is fair to say that human observation is impossible without a human mind and an individual's (definitively subjective) perception and this fact would logically place "objectivity" beyond the scope of the human mind and an individual's perception according to the definitions presented previously as (o.1) and (o.1b).
The resolution could be restated as (s.1) is not (o.1).
(k.3) Another way to say this would be perhaps, "knowledge acquired by (human) observation is not (and cannot be) independent of the human mind and/or beyond human perception".
As far as I can tell, Karl Popper's Philosophy of Science is generally considered authoritative. Please let me know if you dispute this and we can attempt another approach.
"According to Popper, basic statements are "statements asserting that an observable event is occurring in a certain individual region of space and time" (1959, p. 85). More specifically, basic statements must be both singular and existential (the formal requirement) and be testable by [*]intersubjective[*] observation (the material requirement)."
Therefore "science" is not "objective" and does not require "objectivity". This seems to be a common misconception about the fundamental nature of "science" and by extension, just about everything else, including "law" and "ethics", some people even think they have "objective opinions".
"Science" seems to function perfectly well under Popper's model. I am unable to detect any benefit to imagining that any particular thing has some sort of (detectable?) "objective" quality or existence.
In fact, Immanuel Kant points out pretty explicitly that "objective" noumenon is fundamentally undetectable and its "existence" cannot be inferred from observable phenomena.
"Even if noumenon are unknowable, they are still needed as a limiting concept, Kant tells us. Without them, there would be only phenomena, and since potentially we have complete knowledge of our phenomena, we would in a sense know everything. In his own words: "Further, the concept of a noumenon is necessary, to prevent sensible intuition from being extended to things in themselves, and thus to limit the objective validity of sensible knowledge."
"...to prevent sensible intuition from being extended..."
The quote makes it sound as if Kant is trying to "put a box around the concept of objectivity" in order to keep people from making the mistake of thinking they can know it, or in-fact even speculate about it intuitively.
(6) Common counter arguments
I would like to bring your attention to the following quotes,
"We have shown that it is hard to define scientific objectivity in terms of a view from nowhere and freedom from values and from personal bias. It is a lot harder to say anything positive about the matter."
"For instance, our discussion of the value-free ideal (VFI) revealed that alternatives to the VFI are as least as problematic as the VFI itself, and that the VFI may, with all its inadequacies, still be a useful heuristic for fostering scientific integrity and objectivity. Similarly, although an "unbiased" science may be impossible, there are many mechanisms scientists can adopt for protecting their reasoning against undesirable forms of bias, e.g., choosing an appropriate method of statistical inference."
The above quotes are from the conclusions (section 7) of an extremely well sourced page from the Stanford.edu website that purports to be a thorough analysis of the concept of scientific objectivity.
One key problem with this essay, is that it never clearly defines the critical terms (i.e. "science" and "objectivity"), but instead merely reports various (definitively subjective) opinions about what "science" and "objectivity" might mean and how they may or may not relate to one another.
But setting that aside, in their conclusions they admit that although they can make some tentative statements about what "scientific objectivity" is not, they are at a complete loss to say exactly what it is (with any positive assertions). This reminds me of the "god in the gaps" argument and would seem to be an example of the "appeal to ignorance" logical fallacy.
They go on to argue that even if "objectivity" is perhaps (probably) an unattainable goal, it is still better than the (presumably shocking or frightening, yet undefined) alternative (clearly an "affirming the consequent" fallacy). I would imagine that scientists, of all categories of people in the world would understand the dangers of pursuing an amorphous concept that presumably lends unquestionable authority to their conclusions.
(7) Round 1 closing statement
Feel free to expand upon and/or challenge any of the arguments described above or add your own. I look forward to having a civil conversation regarding the topic at hand.