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Philosophy

“Science—For Better or Worse, a Source of Ignorance as well as Knowledge” by Janet A. Kourany (University of Notre Dame)

Date: 9:00am - 10:25am PDT April 4 Location: Gregg Pavilion

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Gregg Pavilion

Science is gendered in a variety of ways. One is the way science has produced knowledge of men at the same time that it has produced ignorance of women. Until the end of the twentieth century, for example, archaeology investigated men’s contributions to the great turning points of human evolution while it ignored the contributions of women, and this left the impression that still persists today that men are the great innovators and controllers of human destiny, not women. A second way in which science is gendered also concerns the balance of knowledge and ignorance produced by science, but this time it concerns the way science sometimes persists in producing knowledge when it might more usefully refrain—that is, when it might more usefully maintain ignorance. For example, for centuries it was claimed that women are intellectually inferior to men, and for centuries the basis for such inferiority was sought in biology and later also in psychology. And now, even after centuries of such research, scientists are still seeking to determine whether women are the intellectual equals of men. Meanwhile, studies have documented the harm done to women and girls by the publication of much of this research. So, the question arises whether such cognitive differences research should still continue, or whether ignorance would be preferable.

I shall argue that an acceptable balance of scientifically produced knowledge and ignorance regarding women and men should reflect societal needs for gender equality as well as the need for freedom of research and the intrinsic value of knowledge. And I shall argue that this will also best meet the demands of objectivity.

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