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1. Feminist Critiques of Science

In the Introduction to their 1996 anthology, Feminism & Science,Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino, Editors, Feminism & Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). Prior major works on feminism and science include Sandra Harding, The Science Question in...Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino pose a watershed question: are the sciences neutral to social issues and values, their harm coming from their misuse, or is there a more intimate relation with social and cultural values? According to their analysis, the roots of this question lie in the 1960s revolution in the philosophy of science with Thomas Kuhn, et. al.. The advent of feminist theory in the 1970s, however, was to have a much more profound effect on our view of science, particularly through its novel concept of ‘gender’ as the social constitution of masculine and feminine applied independently of the biological categories of male and female to both individuals and institutions. Sandra HardingSandra Harding, "Why Has the Sex/Gender System Become Visible Only Now?" in Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, ed....sees the sex/gender system as a new object for scientific analysis. It is a “fundamental variable organizing social life throughout most recorded history and in every culture today..., a system of male-dominance made possible by men’s control of women’s productive and reproductive labor...” Though such analysis is incomplete, it does show how the question cannot even be formulated, let alone answered, using the three existing epistemologies: empiricist, functionalist/relativist (e.g., David Bloor, “strong programme”), and Marxist.

Early feminists, according to Keller and Longino, sought a ‘gender-free’ science by urging greater access for women in science education and research and by retrieving the stories of women whose outstanding scientific accomplishments had been forgotten or repressed. But others have used the concept of gender to analyze the content and practice of science, and many seek an alternative philosophy of “embodied and socially, temporally, and spatially situated knowledge,” stressing “pluralism, community, and reflexivity...”Keller and Longino, Feminism & Science, p. 9.According to Harding and Hintikka, “we must root out sexist distortions and perversions in epistemology, metaphysics, methodology and the philosophy of science.” Scientific knowledge, founded on masculine experience as understood by men, is thus only “only partial human experience only partially understood” and distorted when claimed to be gender-free.Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka, Editors, Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing...

In 1991, Donna Haraway proposed a feminist rendering of ‘objectivity’ which brings together two poles of the argument: the admission that all knowledge and knowing subjects are radically and historically contingent along with a “no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a ‘real’ world.”Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 187.But Kathryn Pyne Addelson claims that contemporary philosophy overlooked how class and gender produce distorting metaphysical commitments which scientists incorporate in their views of nature.Kathryn Pyne Addelson, "The Man of Professional Wisdom," in Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, ed. Sandra Harding...Carolyn MerchantCarolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1980). See also Mary Midgley, The Ethical Primate: Humans, Freedom, and Morality (New York:...has focused attention on the sexual metaphors for nature which permeated the origins of science, interpreting nature as an inert machine and allowing us to dominate and control it. Michael Gross and Mary Beth AverillMichael Gross and Mary Beth Averill, "Evolution and Patriarchal Myths of Scarcity and Competition," in Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and...suggest that language about scarcity, competition, and the survival of fittest served the interests of 19th century capitalist societies, but produced an incomplete and distorted understanding of nature. Instead they urge the use of such concepts as plenitude and cooperation. Helen Longino and Ruth DoellHelen E. Longino and Ruth Doell, "Body, Bias, and Behaviour: A Comparative Analysis of Reasoning in Two Areas of Biological Science," in Feminism & Science, ed. Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen...have shown how biological research on sex differences allows ideology to affect its content. KellerEvelyn Fox Keller, "Feminism and Science," in Feminism & Science, ed. Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).has also criticized the androcentric bias in contemporary biology and social science, though her goal is not to produce a ‘different science,’ but a ‘liberated one.’ Mary TilesMary Tiles, "A Science of Mars or of Venus?" in Feminism & Science, ed. Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).rejects our overemphasis on prediction and control in science. Although they do provide one criterion for success, when used unilaterally, they actually limit science. Instead we should seek alternative values for science. Sandra Harding,Sandra Harding, "Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is 'Strong Objectivity?'," in Feminism & Science, ed. Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)....too, urges we pursue a multiple values, but she adds a crucial stricture: only those who have been hitherto excluded from doing science should be allowed to examine the values and assumptions that are carried into science.See also: Sarah Blaffer Hardy, "Raising Darwin's Consciousness: Females and Evolutionary Theory," Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 25.2(June 1990); Alice B. Kehoe, "Gender Is an Organon,"...Together, these scholars, and many others, make the feminist critique of science a vital part of our increasingly complex understanding of science and society.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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