The Bias of Science

by Brian Martin

(Canberra: Society for Social Responsibility in Science (ACT), 1979), 100 pages, ISBN 0 909509 13 1

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From the back cover:
How do values enter into science? And what values are they? In The bias of science, applied mathematician Brian Martin traces the issues involved in these questions from the details of scientific research work to the structure of the scientific community and of scientific knowledge. The bias of science starts out as a case study of two scientific research papers, which are about the pollution of the upper atmosphere by Concorde-type aircraft. The writers of these papers are shown to 'push their arguments' in various ways, such as through their technical assumptions. Dr Martin argues that the particular orientations of the authors of the papers can best be explained in terms of 'presuppositions' about what the scientists are trying to prove. Evidence that the existence of such presuppositions is a common and expected feature of science leads to analyses of other scientific papers, to surveys of the sociology and epistemology of science and the psychology of scientists, and to a comparison of communication of scientific ideas in scientific papers and newspapers.

The idea of presuppositions is then used in a more general sense to look at the structural biases underlying science in general - scientific research, the scientific community, and scientific knowledge. Martin looks critically at political and economic influences on scientific research, at the selective usefulness of scientific work to different groups in society, at the use of science to justify political decisions, and at the fundamental biases in scientific knowledge itself.

Finally, to highlight both the presuppositions underlying current science and the values of the author, the case for self-managed science - a science participated in by all the community in a self-managed, non-hierarchical society - is argued.

The bias of science is unique in basing a critique of science on a detailed analysis of a particular research area in the physical sciences. Its aim is to show how an analysis of science can be followed through, rather than authoritatively preach. The bias of science is also one of the very few comprehensive critiques of science by a young practising research scientist.


Contents html files pdf files
Front cover
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Title page, acknowledgments, contents
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Part I: Two scientific research papers [introduction]

"Reduction of stratospheric ozone by nitrogen oxide catalysts from supersonic transport exhaust" by Harold Johnston
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"Nitrogen oxides, nuclear weapon testing, Concorde and stratospheric ozone" P. Goldsmith, A. F. Tuck, J. S. Foot, E. L. Simmons & R. L. Newson
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Glossary of some terms used by Johnston and by Goldsmith et al.
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Part II: Pushing of arguments in the work of Johnston and Goldsmith et al.
Chapter 1: Technical assumptions
Chapter 2: Selective use of evidence
Chapter 3: Selective use of results
Chapter 4: Method of referring to alternative arguments

Part III: Pushing and presuppositions
Chapter 5: Presuppositions about what it is necessary to prove
Chapter 6: Detecting presuppositions from the way evidence is used
Chapter 7: The psychological and sociological context of pushing
Chapter 8: How widespread are presuppositions?

Part IV: Presuppositions underlying science
Chapter 9: Why is scientific research done?
Chapter 10: Who can use scientific research?
Chapter 11: What is science used to justify?
Chapter 12: What is scientific knowledge?
Chapter 13: Who does scientific research?

Part V: Towards self-managed science
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Note: html versions were produced by scanning. Some errors were fixed along the way, but others were introduced. Please let me know about mistakes that you detect. Subscripting and accents are omitted in the html versions.


The following authors and publishers kindly have granted permission to reprint material from their publications:

Richard Beattie, 1971. "Watch on the skylight", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 September, page 7. Reprinted by courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald (John Fairfax & Sons Limited, Sydney).

British Aircraft Corporation, 1972. "Concorde and the environment" (brochure), excerpt. Reprinted by permission of British Aircraft Corporation (Australia) Pty Ltd.

P. Goldsmith, A. F. Tuck, J. S. Foot, E. L. Simmons & R. L. Newson, 1973. "Nitrogen oxides, nuclear weapon testing, Concorde and stratospheric ozone", Nature, 244 (31 August), 545-551. Reprinted by permission of the authors and Macmillan Journals Ltd, London.

Harold Johnston, 1971. "Reduction of stratospheric ozone by nitrogen oxide catalysts from supersonic transport exhaust", Science, 173 (6 August), 517-522. Reprinted by permission of the author and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Copyright 1971 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Project to Stop the Concorde, 1972. "The Concorde crisis" (brochure), excerpt. Reprinted by permission of Ecology Action, Sydney.

Bryan Silcock, 1973. "Concorde - OK for ozone", Sunday Times, 6 May, page 20. Reprinted by permission of Times Newspapers Limited, London.

Study of Critical Environmental Problems, 1970. Man's impact on the global environment (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press), appendix to section 1.2.4 of Part II. Reprinted by permission of the MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I sincerely thank the following people who have helped me in a direct way with the preparation of the manuscript: Ian Allan, Roger Bartell, Ian Bassett, David Bennett, Val Brown, David Campbell, Carlie Casey, Alan Chalmers, Mark Diesendorf, Clarrie Handreck, Dave Hayward, Tony Jakeman, Bob James, Dougal Jeffries, Harold Johnston, Brian Lederer, Robyn McClelland, Ian Morgan, Ken Newcombe, A. Barrie Pittock, Peter Risby, Richard Routley, Val Routley, John Skaller, Carol van Beurden, John Volaric, George Vorlicek, and several anonymous referees. Conversations with these and other people have also been valuable. I will not try to specify the contributions further, except where appropriate in the reference notes. I thank these individuals and many others for their contributions, intended or otherwise.

I would be most pleased to receive comments, criticism or suggestions from any reader, and to further discuss the material here.

Brian Martin