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the feminist critique of science

Pearse Ward wardp at herald.usask.ca
Mon Sep 11 17:32:51 EST 1995

In article <1B04A522941 at bio.tamu.edu>, jfrugoli at bio.tamu.edu wrote:

> In response to Paul's comments to Joy:
> >      In the eyes of the feminist critic of science (as well as in my 
> >own eyes), the example represents the application of standard 
> >scientific methods, and not a "drastic" change in the way science is 
> >done. 
> >
> > Paul 
> >
> But you're missing the point, which is that exclusion of women WAS 
> CONSIDERED STANDARD SCIENTIFIC METHOD.  Unless women protested, the 
> study guidelines for funding would still require exclusion of women from 
> study groups. 

Can you give a specific example of this. I have yet to come across funding
guidelines that suggest that inclusion of women in a study group was not

I think there is some confusoin here about what is being studied. In some
work in lab animals, only one sex is used. This has been primarily work
done in inbred strains of mice (inbred to remove genetic variablilty) in
which one sex (usually male) was used to remove confounding variables (sex
differences). The results from such a study can hardly be broadly applied
to an outbred human population (which is not to say that they aren't). To
the best of my knowledge, women are not excluded from studies done in
human populations unless the research is sex specific.

 While the above may not be a "drastic" change, the idea 
> that accepted scientific method is a truth onto itself is silly in my 
> opinion. 

No one is arguing that it is a truth. It is a method. The question is
whether or not there is (or should be) one scientific method for women and
another for men, and whether the two are equal, complementary, or of
different merit.

>Accepted methods change, and that change is dependent upon the 
> people, male and female, who practice science-they are the one who make 
> it "accepted" and who must raise a voice if they see an error. We as 
> scientists beleive that examination by our peers will reveal our biases 
> and errors-that's why science is so heavily dependent on peer review. So 
> what's wrong with critique from any angle?  

The critique isn't the problem. The problem is a perceived
misunderstanding as to what exactly is being critiqued. The underfunding
of women's health issues is a political issue. The extrapolation of the
results from an all-male sample population to the overall female
population is shoddy science. Whether or not there is a "male" scientific
method and a "female" scientific method (or for that matter a European vs
Asian vs African method or a Hindu/Bhuddist/Christian method) is a
completely separate issue.

So far, I haven't seen any good evidence presented here that there is a
female or feminist method (nor have I seen good evidence for it in several
feminist "critiques" of perceived male-dominated science). what I have
seen here is that women may have different priorities in what they would
like to see studied, or where they would like to see funds allocated, but
that is a poitical issue, not a scientific one.

>If we really are good 
> scientists, we examine our presuppositions all the time.

Which is one of the reasons, those of us who are not women in biology read
this group regularly.


Pearse Ward
Dep't Veterinary Microbiology
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, SK

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