Social construction & the real
Merton wrote The normative structure of science early in his career in 1942 (during World War II) and included it in a collection of his work on the sociology of science in 1973 (during the Cold War). How might the political climate of this time span in America have influenced his work? Do his theories cast science in a particular light? How does this work look through the lens of Wolfe's (2018) depiction of science during the Cold War?
I was thinking about the age of Merton’s piece, (published more than 80 years ago!) in the context of the course theme “history of science is a social history.” Rather than just understanding the reading as an example of the sociology of science, I thought it would be interesting to treat it as the object of our inquiry. In addition to helping us understand Merton’s arguments in context, I hope this will raise the larger issue of whether we can apply the tools of the sociology of science to the sociology of science itself.
Three terms (loosely)
Two prominent epistemological stances in STS:
Tycho Brahe’s geocentric model
Nicolaus Copernicus’ heliocentric model
Photo of Hore Abbey by Christian Bowen on Unsplash
Illustration from Children's Classics in Dramatic Form (1909), via Wikimedia
Image via Wikimedia
Photo by Janet Stephens via Wikimedia
Image by Jonathan Bailey on Flickr
Photo by Peter McMahan
ie if i tell you “we all know that the earth revolves around the sun”
or: “vaccines decrease the chances of catching COVID”
how can we call that ‘correct’?
does the earth really revolve around the sun?
How could I justify that belief?
Pretty much all STS scholars subscribe to constructivism, but not all subscribe to realism
Going to go over each of these in a bit more detail
standard view: we observe reality and describe it
bring up bias as an inherently realist term
Late 16th century
early 17th century: Galileo Galilei argues for Copernican model by pitting it against Ptolemy’s geocentric model
Today we believe: both are wrong
strong programme and standpoint theory fit nicely into nominalism