European Journal for Philosophy of Science

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

The example of the IPCC does not vindicate the Value Free Ideal: a reply to Gregor Betz

  • Stephen JohnEmail author


In a recent paper, Gregor Betz has defended the value-free ideal: “the justification of scientific findings should not be based on non-epistemic (e.g. moral or political) values”against the methodological critique, by reference to the work of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This paper argues that Betz’s defence is unsuccessful. First, Betz’s argument is sketched, and it is shown that the IPCC does not avoid the need to “translate” claims. In Section 2, it is argued that Betz mischaracterises the force of the methodological critique. Section 3 shows why the methodological critique still applies to the work of the IPCC even on a refined version of Betz’s argument. Section 4 then considers an alternative way of defending the work of the IPCC which is in-line with, but does not clearly vindicate, the value-free ideal.


Inductive risk Value free ideal for science International Panel on Climate Change Climate science Epistemic values Knowledge 


  1. Betz, G. (2013). In defence of the value free ideal”. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 3, 207–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Biddle, J. (2013). State of the Field: Transient Underdetermination and Values in Science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 44, 124–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Coady, D and Corry (2013)R The climate change debate: an epistemic and ethical inquiry (London: Palgrave Macmillan)Google Scholar
  4. Cranor, C. (1993). Regulating Toxic Substances. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Douglas, H. (2000). Inductive risk and values in science”. Philosophy of Science, 67(4), 559–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Douglas, H. (2009). Science, policy and the value free ideal. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  7. Elliott, K. (2011). Is a little pollution good for you? London: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hansen, J (2007) “Scientific reticence and sea level rise” Environmental Research Letters 2 (2) (April-June 2007)Google Scholar
  9. IPCC (2013a) “Activities” web-page at (accessed 13 August, 2013)
  10. IPCC (2013b) “Principles and procedures” web-page at (accessed 13 August, 2013)
  11. Jeffrey, R. (1956). Valuation and acceptance of scientific hypotheses. Philosophy of Science, 23(3), 237–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. O’Reilly, J., Oreskes, N., & Oppenheimer, M. (2012). “The rapid disintegration of consensus: the West Antarctic Ice Sheets and the International Panel on Climate Change”. Social Studies of Science, 42, 709–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pearce, F (2010) “Debate heats up over IPCC melting glaciers claim” New Scientist 2743; 16th January 2010Google Scholar
  14. Pritchard, D. (2005). Epistemic Luck. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Steele, K. (2012). The scientist qua policy advisor makes value judgments”. Philosophy of Science, 79(05), 893–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Wilholt, T. (2013). Epistemic trust in science”. British Journal for Philosophy of Science, 64, 233–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of Cambridge, Free School LaneCambridgeEngland

Personalised recommendations