Sociologist on the three social pillars of science

Science has its own social context and goals:

Fuller has also written a lot about science and technology studies, or STS. Flipping through his 2006 book The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies, I came upon a passage–adapted from a 1998 essay—that defends the critical stance that STS scholars often take toward science. The passage reads like a comment on my recent column:

“There appears to be nothing uniquely ‘rational,’ objective,’ or ‘truth-oriented’ about the activities that our society calls ‘scientific.’ Make no mistake: it is not that scientists are less rational than the rest of humanity; rather, they are not more rational. STS researchers generally credit ordinary people with a good deal of intelligence.

“The power of science seems to rest on three pillars. One is science’s distinctive social organization, which enables concentrated periods of both teamwork and criticism, nowadays done on a global scale with considerable material resources. Another is concerted political effort to apply the results of scientific research to all aspects of society. Finally is the control that scientists continue to exert over how their history is told. Past diversions and failures remain largely hidden, resulting in an airbrushed picture of ‘progress’ otherwise absent from human affairs.

Especially in today’s world, we could use more sociology of science. Without some questioning, science tends to get a free ride in American society as one of the key promoters or carriers of progress. Yet, science is still a social enterprise and works with its own set of assumptions.

One question: where can you have reasonable discussions about science (natural and social) and its assumptions and findings?

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