Is science unbiased?

As a young student, I thought that science was unbiased. I believed that scientific methods were objective ways to uncover universal truths. I thought the history of science shared in my textbooks was a universal history of science. Even through undergraduate and graduate work in science, professors never discussed how culture affected science. It was not until I was in graduate classes in education leadership that professors engaged us in thinking critically about privilege, education, and science. Then I learned that my previous thinking was naive.

Why do White students grow up thinking science is unbiased? White students have the privilege of living in a world where nearly everything reflects their own worldview. Science textbooks described science as predominantly the domain of White men. We were told “the scientific method” was an unbiased, pure way to learn about the world. White students grew accustomed to this version of the world and did not see it as a culture. When we read the Eurocentric history of science, we believe (wrongly) that it represents a universal history of science. Nothing presented in my K-12 education communicated any other worldview.

When we are immersed in a culture we may not recognize it as culture. We often do not recognize our own biases. Dr. Melanie Joy presents an interesting case of not recognizing our own biases when she discusses why Americans think it is okay to eat cows, but not dogs. She also explains why people think eating meat is perfectly fine, but think a diet that excludes animal products is extreme.

She proposes a culture that she named carnism to explain this worldview. People that are immersed in carnism do not see it as a culture or bias. People who hold the carnism worldview may believe other worldviews are invalid or extreme.

Photo by Aditya Aiyar on

So what about science? In the Eurocentric (or Western science) worldview, science is a set of objective practices. Practices such as controlled experiments are highly valued and labeled as scientific. What about approaches to science in other cultures? In Indigenous science, carefully observing nature and prioritizing human relationships to the parts of the system they live in are practices that are highly valued. Someone who holds the Western science worldview might have a biased view about the value of Indigenous science practices. We need to recognize this bias when we teach about science. We work need to include the world views of students who come from diverse backgrounds in teaching and learning. We need to increase our knowledge of how Indigenous science and Western science approaches complement each other.

My current work explores Indigenous and Western world views through the lens of systems and system models in fifth-grade science curriculum.

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