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LS2's picture

post for week of 1/26

        A line from an article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this week reminded me of our class discussions and raised some interesting questions for me. In a piece about female desire that largely focused around a disconnect between “objective,” biological responses and “subjective,” verbal responses, the author wrote of the sexologist he was interviewing that, “[u]ltimately, though, Chivers spoke — always with a scientist’s caution, a scientist’s uncertainty and acknowledgment of conjecture — about female sexuality as divided between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective” (Bergner, 1/22/2009).

Though the question of any possible separation between cultural “subjective” influences and biological “objective” responses is an interesting one, what stood out to me most in this quote is the author’s presumptuous characterization of a scientist as cautious, uncertain, and full of conjecture. Described in this manner, this researcher definitely seems come from Dr Grobstein’s loopy school of science. But, when did this did this become the norm for scientists? As someone who has struggled with math and science my whole life, I have always thought of the empirical fields as hugely opaque and authoritative, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this.

 While I am in full agreement with the notion of the “crack” of subjectivity, that each person’s “way of seeing” informs their research and finding, what was troubling to me about this assertion was that I did not think it was the general public’s “way of seeing” scientific research. But if the line from the NY Times article reflects a popular perception of science(which, we can maybe assume, as it is obviously not a scientific journal but rather a popular magazine) as cautious and uncertain, maybe everyone is well-aware of the “crack.” Certainly we see caution and uncertainty in Darwin, given his lengthy disclaimers regarding how much work is left to be done, but has this uncertainty always been a hallmark of science? And if so, why didn’t anybody tell me??  

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