Scientific freedom

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Scientific freedom is the idea of freedom (in the sense of Freedom of thought and Freedom of the press) applied to natural science, in particular the practices of scientific research and discourse, mainly by publication. Scientific freedom is promoted by many organizations of scientists, and is the subject of article 15 ¶ 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Defence of scientific freedom[edit]

One classic defence of scientific freedom is in Michael Polanyi's book, Personal Knowledge (1958). Polanyi criticized the common view that the scientific method is purely objective and generates objective knowledge. Polanyi cast this view as a misunderstanding of the scientific method and of the nature of scientific inquiry, generally.

Polanyi argued that scientists do and must follow personal passions in appraising facts and in determining which scientific questions to investigate. He concluded that a structure of liberty is essential for the advancement of science - that the freedom to pursue science for its own sake is a prerequisite for the production of knowledge through peer review and the scientific method.[1] Polanyi subsequently co-founded the Society for Freedom in Science.[2] The Society was formed to promote a liberal conception of science as free enquiry against the instrumental view that science should exist primarily to serve the needs of society.[3] The Society was formed to combat what they called Bernalism, which was a reference to the views of the physicist John Desmond Bernal as found in his 1939 book The Social Function of Science.[4]

See also[edit]

Awards and associations:


  1. ^ Michael Polanyi (1958). Personal Knowledge. ISBN 0-7734-9150-3. 
  2. ^ William McGucken (1978). "On Freedom and Planning in Science: The Society for Freedom in Science 1940–1946". Minerva 16 (1): 42–72. doi:10.1007/BF01102181. 
  3. ^ William McGucken, 1978. 'On Freedom and Planning in Science: The Society for Freedom in Science 1940--1946', Minerva, 16, pp. 42--72.
  4. ^ Science, technology, and society: an introduction. Martin Bridgstock, David Burch, John Forge, John Laurent, Ian Lowe. Cambridge University Press, 1998. page 9.

Further reading[edit]

  • David B. Resnik (1998). The Ethics of Science. Routledge. pp. 54–55. ISBN 9780415166980. 
  • Kenneth F. Schaffner (1982). "Biomedical Knowledge: Progress and Priorities". In William B. Bondeson. New Knowledge in the Biomedical Sciences. Springer. pp. 133–134. ISBN 978-90-277-1319-3. 
  • J. T. Edsall (1975). "Scientific Freedom and Responsibility: Report of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility". Science 188 (4189): 687–93 [689]. doi:10.1126/science.11643270. 
  • W. P. Metzger (Spring 1978). "Academic Freedom and Scientific Freedom". Daedalus 107 (2): 93–114. 
  • Kristin Sharon Shrader-Frechette (1994). Ethics of Scientific Research. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780847679409.