By David Pan · Monday, October 3, 2022
The place of truth at the university has always been elsewhere. Scientific conclusions are after all hypotheses, subject to continuing examination and critique in a process that forever defers the arrival at a final truth. In addition to this unbridgeable temporal distance from truth, there is a spatial distance to the extent that the university is subject to a larger purposive context that stands outside of scientific activity itself. A researcher can be objective by being non-prejudicial in collecting facts and weighing arguments but can never be neutral in terms of the goals of the research, which must always be established before the research begins and from outside of the research project itself. Research cannot begin until an interest in some question has been expressed, and such an interest has generally not been up to the researcher to decide. Whether the goal of medical research will be to protect humans from a virus or attack humans with a virus will be determined by the sponsor of the research rather than the researcher, who at best may decline to take part in some forms of research. If the determiners of the goals of the university are not the professors themselves but the society that sponsors their work, it is within this external values framework that the truth of the university must be found.