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Value Free Research a Possibility

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"Value Free Research a Possibility"
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It would be incredibly exciting to consider research that is free of the two disasters of value: assigning arbitrary values in order to quantify something that should not be quantified, and eliminating bias and cognitive error that originates in the researchers value system. But there are many new ways to reduce and eliminate such bias and corruption of observation, in spite of the fact that value laden bias is in our nature as human beings.

The assignment of values is one of the most intractable of philosophical paradoxes and is one of the most intractable of problems in quantitative analysis. The "Paradox of the Heap" illuminates the problems with assigning values to a continuum. Is one grain a heap? If you add a grain to a "heap" of a million carefully counted grains, do we cease to have a true "heap"?  The paradox of one single error point meaning the difference between a "pass" and a "fail" makes sense for a driving test that has few questions, but makes much less sense in a test that has a thousand questions, many of which have subjective decision making by humans going on.

Our own "value systems of values" is the worst flaw in the system of assigning values. We think of "large, medium and small" and will, divide the field into thirds every time, because there are three categories, not because having three categories makes any sense in determining whether something is actually "small" or "large".  Even our value system that has us thinking that "larger is better" will give us innate bias toward the large, even when the small holds more answers and interest.

One of the most fabulous breakthroughs in looking at different ways to assign values is in the cloud logic system of looking at tags and keywords, where we can see a "cloud" of words, with the most popular keywords simply having a superior position and size as they float within the word cloud.

Our value systems cause us to stubbornly and adamantly reorder reality in order to make it conform to our psychic need for order and to resolve mental, spiritual, and emotional conflict. There is no way to convince a racist scientist that his theories of intelligence and race are nonsense, even when he works and even socializes closely with geniuses of all "races" and ethnicities.

Our value systems are powerful forces that can cause us to actually shut down our senses, which are the major tools of our ability to make observations. We can virtually go blind, lose hearing, sense of smell, and sense of touch when our minds want us to.  In this sense, fifty people can witness the same event and never have the same memories of the important facts and observations of the event. In some cases, individuals will actually LOSE memory in response to value laden pressures.

As a result, we can end up either stubbornly resistant to fact, or we can lose our ability to get facts, depending on the power that our value systems hold in ordering our minds ability to take in reality and to process it.  Fortunately, video, photo, sound, and other recording forces us to look at reality, again and again, but still not with the ability to manage it in a truthful fashion, such recorded evidence only serves to allow others to observe the same thing.

Our value systems that make us inclined to accept bad science as the sole and unassailable source of truth is the final area of disaster in our use of science. There is now discussion of problems in fingerprinting and DNA evidence (the latest in scientific "proofs" that may not be so trustworthy) that are based in technician bias, corruption, incompetence, or bad handling. We only have to remember Phrenology, bloodletting, and other bad science that was accepted because we place far too much bias and value on scientific claims, actually believing the unbelievable long after the technician should have been investigated, or the lobotomies should have been criminalized.

These are exciting times, when new ways of thinking, new ways of challenging thinking, and new ways of presenting ideas, facts, and concepts are possible. While we will always and all be human, with our blind spots and stubborn adherence to bad thinking, we have great leaps to make in eliminating value based bias and error from our results.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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