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Friday, February 20, 2015

The Virtue of Scientific Thinking

By Steven Shapin
The Boston Review
Originally published January 20, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

So natural science without the capacity of moral uplift, and grown-up scientists, so to speak, without moral authority, are—in historical terms—recent creations. Both the disenchantment of the world and the supposed invalidity of inferring ought from is derive from the historical development of a conception of nature stripped of the moral powers it once possessed. That development reached its culmination in the science and metaphysics of Darwin and the scientific naturalists of the late nineteenth century. Their modern conception of nature could not make those who studied it more moral than anyone else because no sermons in stones were to be discerned. Nature, said the great nineteenth-century biologist T. H. Huxley, “is no school of virtue.”

The insistence that science cannot make you good, or make the scientist into a moral authority, flowed from a natural philosophical position: there are no spiritual forces operating in nature and there is no divine meaning to be discerned in nature. That is to say, Weber was making a sociological statement about what belongs to certain social roles, but he was doing so by way of historical changes in science and metaphysics.

The entire article is here.