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Impossible by Nature

Objectivity in science is a fallacy. It is simply impossible both by definition and by

practice. In fact, objectivity as a whole is a relative farce when viewed as anything but
theoretical. Examine the definition of subjectivity:

(1) Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a
subjective decision.
(2) Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

Subjectivity describes what we, as humans or as a collective whole (i.e. the human race),
feel and believe. It describes things within us (in our world) rather than externally (i.e.
within the entire existence of…well…everything). Human objectivity, and necessarily,
objectivity within the human race, is impossible. Thus, it follows that because science is
a construct of humans – that is to say, it is created, practiced, and interpreted by us –
science is also subjective: it cannot be objective.

Science is a human construct. The only universal thing about it is its subject matter
(which actually seems to be consistently non-universal), which is only theoretically
universal at best. Science was created to give humans a sense of understanding, a feeling
of progress and even a goal to strive for (enlightenment, the attainment of truth, etc.), a
foundation to extract knowledge. Science was created to figure things out. This view of
the reason for science is my opinion and it could very well be wrong. The point that I
hope is clear and I think anyone would find hard to argue with is that science was created
by humanity. If humanity didn’t exist, science wouldn’t exist. That doesn’t mean that the
world would cease to operate the way it does, it simply means that there would be no
human understanding of it. No humans, no human understanding: relatively clear and
logical. Science describes the practices humans undertake to better understand the world,
to create “useful models of reality” (Wikipedia definition of the goal of science). Finally,
science is interpreted solely by humans. Herein lies the biggest problem for objectivity.
Interpreting science, both observations and the drawing of inferences, is a thought
process undertaken by humans.

Human conscious and subconscious is affected by everything we do: what we drink to the
path we walk through life. The human race is built on subjectivity. The experience,
knowledge, and attitudes of individuals, in addition to specific contexts, all affect their
perceptions and decisions; these things affect the basic thought processes of individuals.
When the individual is placed within a group (a culture, an organization, “society”), the
effects are magnified and others – peer pressure, norms, etc. – are created and added to
the sum. Subjectivity is essentially ingrained in human nature.

Hanson agrees with me on this (or better put, I agree with Hanson on his beliefs).
Arguments by Hanson state that observations themselves are formed dependant upon
experience and comprehension. To Hanson, no two observations by different people can
be exactly alike. In fact, because of the experience and understanding gained by an
observation, whether inferred or obvious, no two observations can ever be the same, even
if observed by the same person. The first observation will undoubtedly cause the
observer to expect the same thing the second time around. This (noticeably short)
explanation of Hanson can be extrapolated beyond science and onto humanity as a whole,
having the effect that barrier to objectivity exist almost everywhere and in almost

Obviously, such barriers affect all areas of human thought and action, not just science.
The barriers can be classified into three groups, or levels. The first level barriers are
ideals held by humans that actually caused them to create the “thing” in the first place.
The first level barriers are usually not that difficult to identify and there are usually only a
few of them. The first level barriers to science are exactly the reasons humans do
science. These first level barriers are things such as the need to understand one’s
environment, or the quest for truth; broad, general ideals that guide action and decision.
But therein lies the problem: the ideals that created science are also those that guide it.
First level barriers inherently “subjectify” science (and everything else). First level
barriers are impossible to nullify. Even if the only effect of such barriers is the “relentless
search for truth” or some similar cliché, there I still an effect. Even though the barrier
itself can be obvious, its effects are sometimes very difficult to notice since they seem
like they belong – who would even assume that searching for the truth compromises
one’s objectivity?

Second level barriers affect perceptions and decisions in an unconscious way, usually due
to a gained level of comprehension or knowledge. They are not specific to a thought like
first level barriers; they can universally – and even retroactively – affect all thoughts.
Second level barriers are usually in the form of education and understanding, but can
include anything that alters perceptions in an unnoticeable way (think social norms,
gender, etc.). For example, a watchmaker perceives watches very differently than I due
to the knowledge and understanding he has gained throughout his life. At the same time,
the watchmaker and I may share a very similar perception of, say, water. Now consider a
physicist: the way he perceives a watch will be somewhere between the watchmaker and
me, while his perception of water will (probably) be completely different from the both of
us. Obviously, unlike first level barriers, there are an infinite number of second level
barriers. Second level barriers are also much harder to identify as they stem from the vast
knowledge and understanding that each of us possesses. Although you cannot negate
second level barriers, they can be “adjusted” for in some cases, unlike first level barriers.
Humans have naturally done this by segregating the different types of science. By
placing biologists within the area of biology, it is assumed they are aware of their natural
second-level bias (although this is not always the case) and can partially adjust for this.
When scientists are not aware of this, however, such segregation can cause a form of
centrism that negatively influences the relative objectivity of their practice (more on
relative objectivity later).

The third level barriers are the only barriers that can be effectively nullified. This
nullification is possible because third level barriers are those that we realize affect our
perceptions and (more often) our decisions. The third level of barriers includes things
like emotion, attitudes (think racism or greed), and it is usually only the third level that
philosophers discuss when speaking about objectivity. Most emotions and attitudes can
be negated by simply adding more people to the mixture to “average them out” or by
implementing controls. Thus, it seems tedious that philosophers have spent so much time
contemplating the place of these third level barriers in science.

Not only is science a slave to subjectivity, everything we know is. Everything created and
controlled by humanity is subjective by its very definition. To be human is to be
subjective. In the very same way that a machine has the possibility of being infallible
and never will be as long as it is constructed by humans, things are capable of being only
theoretically objective.

Objective science as it is done today is really just a misnamed form of less-subjective

science. Scientists (and other legitimate authorities) take precautions to remove as many
of the third level barriers as possible, then claiming that their science is objective. I call
this “relative objectivity.” It is defined as simply as it is stated: it is simply less-
subjective subjectivism; more objective than the average. It is true that science can be
practiced with increased relative objectivity, but such objectivity is a bastardization of
true objectivity, which can never be obtained. True objectivity is a theoretical entity
created by the human race. Objectivity is simply the absence of subjectivity, something
that cannot exist within the scope of human existence.

Subjectivity is part of human nature. Anything that has anything to do with humanity
inherently contains some level of objectivity. Science has everything to do with
humanity. It defines the processes by which humans gain knowledge and comprehension.
Science is innately human. It follows then, that science is intrinsically subjective, for
something created by humans cannot be free from the properties naturally found in
humanity. If science is intrinsically subjective, objectivity within it is impossible; only a
bastardized form (defined here as relative objectivity) is possible. Science is completely