"Knowledge - even scientific knowledge - is that which is subjectively acceptable." ~Carl Rogers
I am reading On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers at the moment, which the above quote comes from. The quote internally rang true for me and, by doing so, actually confirms what Carl Rogers says in writing it. I have been wrestling with the idea of knowledge as subjective for a while now, but couldn't put it into words the way I desired. This particular line summed up everything I was already thinking and did so in a concise and eloquent way.
After the quote, he goes on to describe how two conflicting viewpoints he holds about knowledge. As a scientist, he tries to prove that knowledge is objective and predictable. As an experientialist in therapy, he is open to subjective reality as much as possible. His attempt to reconcile these two viewpoints are summed up below.
The creative phase
In the creative phase, the scientist is forming his hypothesis. This is, in fact, an entirely subjective process. The scientists chooses what to investigate based on his own interests and personal meanings. This is tentatively believed as a possible explanation of reality, but needs further inquiry to avoid self-deception.
Checking with reality
The next step after forming a hypothesis is where the scientist begins to see if he is deceiving himself. This is where the many different scientific methodologies come into the picture. He must choose the best tools available to himself, so that he can be more sure that he is not falling into self-deception. This is where operationalization, control groups, correlation, and statistical significance are used.
Rogers stresses that even this process is very subjective. The scientists personally chooses what to spend his time on and devotes his attention to seeing if his subjective hypothesis is tentatively valid.
After going through the entire process of checking with reality, the scientist is ready to decide if the findings are useful in forming a satisfactory belief, truth, or hypothesis for his subjective self.
Rogers points out that even after the "rigorous" use of the scientific method, many scientists reject their findings because they do not coincide with their previous beliefs about reality. Therefore, the acceptance or rejection of the findings are still extremely subjective, even after the supposedly objective methodologies employed in obtaining them.
Communication of scientific findings
If the scientist does decide to believe the findings for now, he will share them. This creates what Rogers calls "intersubjective verification". If you show your findings to another person and they cannot find any reason to reject them and also believe in their validity, then you become more sure of them yourself. It is basically the idea that there is strength in numbers. If more people people there is no self-deception occurring, it more safe probabilistically speaking.
Communication to whom?
Obviously, who you share your findings with to gain the intersubjective verification is an important matter. If you discover a subjective truth about reality that someone else is not prepared to accept, then they will reject it before even going through the process of "checking with reality" as detailed above. Rogers gives the example of telling an Australian bushman about bacterial infection. The bushman believe that all sickness is caused by evil spirits, and therefore, do not follow the same ground rules that allow you to put faith in "science" as more true. Their truth and yours are mutually exclusive and no amount of arguing with them will help win them over.
The use of science
Finally, Rogers points out that science is just a tool. How a person goes about using any of their findings is an entirely subjective matter. Individuals that are closed off and defensive may utilize their findings in a decidedly negative way and those more open to experience are likely to use their findings in a personally and socially constructive way.