How Special Is Science?

Philip Ball at Marginalia Review:

Just how experimentally constrained scientific theories are is a matter that has long been debated (and still is) by philosophers of science. And it’s surely no coincidence that they, like historians, are another scholarly group regularly dismissed and belittled by some practicing scientists as being irrelevant to the daily business of science. But in any event, many scientists seem determined to regard science and the knowledge it produces in Platonic terms: as rising rapidly above the histories, personalities, and social milieu that generate it.

Sure, they might say, Darwinism was misused in its early days, when it was still poorly understood, to support racism, eugenics and a host of other prejudices of the times. But now we really know what it means! And this notwithstanding the fact that still today leading scientists will argue about whether natural selection makes eugenics meaningfully possible in principle (while new biomedical technologies resurrect its spectre), or whether there are genetic distinctions that give rise to different characteristics between racial groups. The idea that all dubious sociopolitical considerations have long since been sifted out of such scientific theories is ludicrous and ahistorical special pleading.

more here.