Exploring the Values Behind Science
Science is more than just our knowledge of the natural world; science reflects our values. These values determine what questions scientists choose to explore, and the standards they use to judge what qualifies as an appropriate scientific answer.
Dr. Ingo Brigandt, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Biology, wants to understand the scientific, social and environmental values that connect science with society, and to learn how biological research is shaped by these interdisciplinary forces.
Biological research involves drawing on several disciplines to co-ordinate different types of experimental data and mathematical models, capturing various scales and levels of organization. Brigandt investigates what promotes and hinders this interdisciplinary practice, and studies how researchers’ goals in explaining complex phenomena, as well as their other values, trigger new scientific approaches.
Research by Brigandt and his team will challenge our understanding of scientific practice by explaining how knowledge about, for example, the evolutionary origins of anatomical structures depend on input from many fields in biology. He also hopes to help settle disagreements over different frameworks of explanation—such as about whether a certain gene-centred approach is adequate or a broader framework is needed.
Brigandt’s insights into how scientists actually do science, and what role values play in science, can be used to improve science education. His work will promote collaboration between scientific disciplines, and will help biologists become more aware of the scientific values they sometimes use.