Unit 2.5 The nature of scientific objectivity and the question of progress

Unit 2.5 The nature of scientific objectivity and the question of progress

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The nature of scientific objectivity and the question of progress
Scientific research and development
Scientists are human beings rather than boffins hidden away in a laboratory and, as human beings, they
are subject to the same influences as nonscientists. They will have their own beliefs and values, perhaps
believing in a particular set of religious teachings, or supporting a political party, or following the fortunes of
their favourite sports team. Scientists will also experience emotions in the same way that nonscientists
do, and all these factors may play some part in what they choose to research.
To avoid the dangers of a subjective approach or interpretation, scientists may seek to use
standardised measuring tools or instruments, expressing the results in an agreed, scientific way.
The testing becomes independent from the scientist and the aim is to seek results
that are both verifiable and have reproducibility in ways that can be recognised
and understood by other scientists.
Scientists like to move from a tentative and untested explanation (hypothesis) to an experiment,
perhaps repeated several times under specified conditions, and then to a theory that makes reliable
predictions based on their observations.
Theories are the best explanations available and will need to be demonstrated to fellow scientists for
close scrutiny.
Theories might be overturned by further critical experiments so that new theories are advanced. In
this way, scientific progress takes place as better and more reliable theories emerge and, in some
way, the lives of people maybe improved.
In experiments, scientists may observe and measure different variables and then seek to establish
the extent to which there might be correlations between them. In that way, the number of cigarettes
smoked and the time period over which smoking had taken place was used to show a correlation
between smoking and lung cancer (or the extent to which the lungs can recover if an individual
stops smoking).
In other experiments, a scientist might change one variable (the independent variable) so that the
effect of that change can be measured.
Scientific enquiry depends on reasoning. Most people distinguish between two
types of reasoning, deductive and inductive:
o Deductive reasoning is often summed up as moving from general principles to
specific conclusions: the process of reasoning logically from given premises to
a conclusion.
o Inductive reasoning is usually summed up as moving from the specific to the
general, often based on experience or observation.

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Observation and recording are always important in scientific method but scientists have to make
initial decisions about the parameters of their study and the most appropriate form of methodology.
Scientists may be called upon to make assumptions or interpretations, and scientists pursuing the
same objective may end up with different sets of data. In this way, scientists debate their findings
with their peers and legitimate controversy may arise.…read more

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It is probably impossible that anybody can fail to be influenced by some part of their life or upbringing, but
scientists strive for objectivity in their research methods and are aware that, if they do make what appears
to be a significant breakthrough (say, in the treatment of a disease), their work and research methods will
be scrutinised rigorously by their peers.
Developments in computer technology
Put at its simplest, a computer is a programmable electronic device that can store, retrieve and
process data.…read more

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The CDROM emerged in 1982, allowing computers to use digital sound and video images.
Increasingly it took on a wider multimedia purpose as desktop computers with builtin stereo
speakers became more common. Microsoft's Windows 3.0 operating system appeared in 1990, to
be superseded by Windows 95 5 years later.
By the end of the twentieth century more personal computers included USB (Universal Serial Bus)
ports for easy connection to digital and video cameras, printers and scanners and, soon afterwards,
DVD players.…read more

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There might be savings on office space, equipment and other facilities.
It is relatively easy to arrange video conferencing.
Employers can allow employees to maintain social contacts via sites such as Facebook.
If may be more difficult to manage and monitor the performance of employees.
Employers do not always trust ho me workers.
Health and safety responsibilities may be more difficult to exercise.
Home computers may be less secure than an officebased system, especially if sensitive
information is not encrypted.
Communication is more difficult.…read more

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Those stiil working in an office environment may be envious, sceptical or even hostile
to colleagues who have an 'easy life' working from home.
Fewer opportunities to meet people may reinforce the sense of isolation.
Homeworking requires considerable selfdiscipline and personal motivation. Not
everyone can work to their own timetable and homeworkers can end up doing too
much or too little work. Independence also involves responsibility.
There may be different sorts of distractions at home -- perhaps from young children or an elderly
relative.…read more

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In 2004 the Commissioner warned of the dangers of sleepwalking into a surveillance society'. By 2006, in
launching the highly detailed and informative Report on the Surveillance Society from the Surveillance
Studies Network, he felt we might be waking up to one. The report raises important questions about the
balance between security and essential information on the one hand and personal freedom and privacy on
the other.…read more

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In addition it collects vehicle excise duty (road tax). In 2007 the Transport
Secretary, Ruth Kelly, disclosed that a computer disk containing the names, addresses and phone
numbers of 3 million driving test applicants had gone missing. It was lost by the Iowabased Pearson
Driving Assessments, a contractor to the Driving Standards Agency.…read more

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Biometrics and ID cards
Biometric identifiers (iris scans, digital fingerprinting, facial scans, voice biometrics and hand scans) have
all been identified with more secure systems of passports or identity cards to meet concerns about credit
card fraud, illegal immigrant labour, border controls and, particularly, terrorism. Certainly biometrics are
central to government plans, announced by Tony Blair in 2005, to reintroduce identity cards, used during
the Second World War as protection against German spies but abandoned by the Conservatives in 1952.…read more

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Both production costs and the cost of the cards to individuals are likely to be higher than the original
estimates. The money might be better spent on alternative policies.
Biometric techniques are not always totally reliable.
There is a lack of political consensus-- both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are opposed
to ID cards.
Public opinion is divided.…read more


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