Princeton 'Science After Feminism' course explores whether subject is 'gendered'

Princeton University will be offering a course on “Science After Feminism” during the spring 2019 semester.

Postdoctoral research associate Catherine Clune-Taylor will teach the course, whose description notes that “science is commonly held to be the objective, empirical pursuit of natural facts about the world” and explains that students will “consider an array of theoretical, methodological, and substantive challenges that feminism has posed for this account of science.”

This includes exploring questions such as whether science is “gendered, racialized, ableist or classist” and whether “the presence or absence of women (and another [sic] marginalized individuals) lead[s] to the production of different kinds of scientific knowledge.”

[RELATED: Princeton course will teach students to ‘read queerly’]

The sample reading list includes two works: Science and Feminism, edited by Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen Longino and Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal by Heather Douglas.

Science and Feminism “challenge[s] readers to take a fresh look at the limitations--and possibilities--of scientific knowledge,” analyzing such topics as “the stereotype of the ‘Man of Reason’” and “the ‘romantic’ language of reproductive biology.”

Keller and Longino ask “can science be gender-neutral?” The jacket description of their book asserts that “feminist critics have raised troubling questions about the practice and goals of traditional science, demonstrating the existence of a pervasive bias in the ways in which scientists conduct and discuss their work.”

Meanwhile, Douglas challenges the claim that science ought to remain neutral, or “value-free,” arguing that “such an ideal is neither adequate nor desirable for science.”

[RELATED: Princeton students can choose any—or every—gender identity]

She instead argues for a scientific paradigm in which “values serve an essential function,” but play a role “constrained at key points” to maintain scientific “integrity and objectivity.”

Furthermore, Douglas “discusses the distinctive direct and indirect roles for values in reasoning,” outlined in “seven senses of objectivity” that can each help to “determine the reliability of scientific claims.”

Princeton has offered “Science After Feminism” once before, in the fall of 2017.