Science and Values: The Eugenics Movement in Germany and Russia in the 1920s

TitleScience and Values: The Eugenics Movement in Germany and Russia in the 1920s
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1977
AuthorsGraham, Loren R.
JournalThe American Historical Review
Pagination1133 - 1164
Date Published12/1977

Theoretical discussions of the relationship between science and values usually lead to the conclusion that, in a strict sense, science is value-free. If both the impact of technology on values and the influence of scientists as a political and social group are excluded from consideration, a persuasive case can be made that science is, indeed, neutral. There is no logical bridge between "is" and "ought." But this form of exclusivist analysis of science overlooks some of the most important aspects of the relationship between science and modern culture. Explicitly, these examinations exclude links between science and technology as well as connections between societal values and conditions for scientific research. Implicitly, these discussions exclude those arguments linking science to social value that are the most common in our imperfect world: the incomplete, semiscientific, possibly fallacious claims that are often advanced in the name of science and the evaluations of these claims that every citizen has to make in order to decide about the relevance of science for social and political life. Two separate but chronologically simulta- neous episodes in the history of human genetics involve all of these "second- order" links between science and values: the development in the 1920s of eugenic movements in Germany and Soviet Russia. Comparing them pro- duces unusual insights into the connections between science and political values. [Author]

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