Chapter 3 “Trouble Maintaining the Fact/Value Dichotomy” pp. 39-46.
Sommerville identifies the dichotomy expected in academia between facts and values. This arose by the 1920s in much philosophy. “It held that we are not supposed to be able to derive a value from a fact, or an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’” (Sommerville 2006, 39). The dichotomy, normally seen as an essential exaltation of scientism, is now being eroded by some philosophers. Sommerville notes that theology and philosophy have historically been in dialog with the sciences to identify core values (Sommerville 2006, 40). The dichotomy arose in the United States as professors in the early 20th century saw that avoiding statements of moral values would also avoid some social pressures (Sommerville 2006, 40). By the time of postmodernism the dichotomy also became of use to the religious community. They would be protected in the ability to assert values which had no relationship to facts.
Nearer the end of the 20th century, religious and philosophical scholars began again to observe that facts are loaded with theoretical and thus value-based concepts (Sommerville 2006, 41). All, or at least almost all, scientific research and interpretation is ultimately based on a value judgment.
In a similar way, values are subject to facts. “Objective value comes from the criticism of our valuations, just as science comes from criticism of observations” (Sommerville 2006, 42). This implies that values are not sobuective, as they are considered in relationship to other values. In fact, the concept of knowledge itself is a value, built on evaluation of various alternatives. There’s a sense in which scientists choose what stream of data to pursue based on a stated or unstated value assessment (Sommerville 2006, 43).
Sommerville does not, considering the similarity of science and religion as disciplines which evaluate different data streams to consider their validity, either science or religion can be invalidated due to a wrong focus in our research. They can also enter into discussions which appear utterly useless to those outside of their disciplies (Sommerville 2006, 44).
The dichotomy between facts and values has limited what a university can do. It strips academia of the ability to address the truly difficult questions which are common to all humanity. If something is merely subjective it has been dismissed from serious discussion. This is harmful to all of society (Sommerville 2006, 45).