Science is never 100 % objective – but this does not mean that science could become obsolete!

Many students still until today are taught that science has to be objective and that the scientist ought not to judge his findings, this is one of the most common myths because human-beings are subjective per se, i.e. every human-being is subjective. As such, it is no surprise that Peter Kliemann states that though the desire for intellectual freedom and impartiality is understandable, it has “to be countered as a result of the recent scientific-theoretical discussion that objective and neutral science does not exist at all. Scientists, especially humanities scholars, describe their object of study from a specific perspective and a specific interest in knowledge. Scientific knowledge and subjective interest belong inseparably together” [Peter Kliemann: Glauben ist menschlich – Argumente für die Torheit vom gekreuzigten Gott. Stuttgart: Calwer Taschenbuchverlag, 2019, p. 58 (translation mine)]. Though he explains it in the context of theology and humanities in a broader sense, this also goes to social and natural sciences.

Thus, Atteslander is right when he states “The social reality as a whole is neither imaginable nor totally comprehensible” [Peter Atteslander: Methoden der empirischen Sozialforschung. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2010, p. 14 (translation mine)]. But he believes that the subjectivity of experience is opposed to the objectification of what is experienced. Of course, the latter to him is the core of social science, as far as I understand him. Nonetheless, I believe that such an objectification is completely impossible! It is nothing more than ideological wish-thinking that science can depict an exact reality. The reason for this is the fact that at the moment when something subjectively grasped is put into language, the grasped thing vanishes behind a word which is an artificial selection of letters creating the word in that language to describe a term. So the subjective thing at no point becomes objective! And of course, this is the very dilemma which science had to face in its whole history: the will that we will be able to explain everything is constrained by our own limitedness which we have as human-beings.

“We see that each one lives in one’s own world as no one has access to the ultimate reality. […] So what we perceive is only perceived by instruments and we have no direct connection to the outside through our mind, so we imagine our reality, we can call it an ‘imaginative experience’, since we naturally tend to order and conceptualize what we perceived” [Timo Schmitz: Education is always subjective – An essay on reason, feelings and our biased reality (11 March 2021). In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 2. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022(a)]. But this conceptualization is not reality as such, but only a help to survive: we put everything in boxes to be able to get along in this world! Just for completeness’ sake, so that the reader knows my subjective standpoint: I believe in the existence of a reality (though we have no direct access to it) and everything out there shares part with an ideal form in a Platonic sense, which makes a thing ontologically what it is, but which also makes it epistemologically possible to recognize things and see the world well ordered, but despite that, we tend to add information to it: for instance, some people are afraid of spiders or snakes, but the feeling comes from within the person and is not objective, so “fear” is not a general attribute of a spider or snake. So our experience is filtered, it is imaginative, as it is constructed [ibid.].

Therefore, science is always faith-based, since we can never get fully rid of our convictions and there is no absolute objectiveness in human-beings. Therefore, we can say that “Science gives us evidences, faith helps us to answer the questions on which we cannot gain empirical knowledge. So the evidences must be interpreted and we always interprete results within our worldview, our frame. Because the interpreter of nature is always subjective and caught in a cage” [Timo Schmitz: The role of revelation and reason in finding εὐδαιμονία. In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 2. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022(b)].

Anyways, this does not make science obsolete. Of course we need science. But it is important for students that they know what they can achieve with science and what they cannot. As such, they can make great contributions to this world, but one ought not to forget that this contributions are only possible due to the belief of the scientist, the faith and conviction in his efforts. If students develop no sense for advocating convictions anymore, or realizing their convictions, then progress will be very thin, because one is not able to have visions anymore, and if we look into the history of science visions were always a drive for scientific discoveries. On the other hand, if one wants to present selected data in social sciences, one has to be aware that they are not 100 % objective, but they always reflect the interest of the scientist to a certain degree, even if it is just to a very small degree. So one also has to be aware of the limits of one’s research and students have to question critically, whether certain studies might reflect particular interests to which the scientist devoted more attention, so one has to ask to which things should he have paid more attention and what could he do better next time? Such a critical reading of studies is extremely important!

As such, convictions can be very positive in some cases, while in others they are not. Convictions can be a motivation to dig deeper into a research, but they can also taint studies due to their subjectivity. But we have to get rid of the myth of a purely objective science!

Timo Schmitz, 27 March 2023


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