One of the most important results in philosophy of science is that every observation is "theory-laden", i.e. that the outcome of any scientific experiment is affected by the theoretical presuppositions held by the investigator. Because of this, it is very difficult - maybe impossible - to draw the boundary between science and metaphysics. W.V Quine best described it at the conclusion of his 1951 paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism":
Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.
If we are to agree with this result, that any observation is theory laden, doesn't it follow that any observation is also value-laden as well?
One would assume that no matter how neutral an investigator tried to be, her theoretical presuppositions are informed by her values and the ethical system she operates within. It would become impossible not just to draw the boundary between science and metaphysics, but between science and axiology (the study of values and ethics) as well. The is/ought problem is turned on its head because no matter how hard one tries, they are always influenced by their "oughts".
- If all observations are theory laden, is it possible to still isolate these observations from the investigator's values and ethics?
- Does the reverse hold? Since we can't separate science from values, does this mean that science does indeed inform our values and ethics? Does this make any ethical statement "science-laden", and it is legitimate to claim that our current best scientific theories predetermine which ethics systems we can subscribe to?
- Do Quine's (and similar) results challenge Hume's is/ought distinction?