science and social construction
Tue, 4 Mar 97 14:40:00 -0500

I thank Jack Haas for his report on the Kansas
conference on science and its critics, and commend him
for making formal comments as he did.

The question of the degree to which science is "socially
constructed" is indeed important to ASA. On the one hand,
if science is "absolute truth" with no socially constructed
component, then we might as well pack our bags and go home,
for then there can be little or no conversation about scientists
as persons and the influence of religion on science. On the
other hand, if all scientific truth-claims are nothing but
opinions at the same level as political opinions, then equally
we might as well pack our bags and go home, for we will
have no reasons to think that scientists are describing a
reality external to themselves. Kant's problem in another
guise, if you will.

Colin Russell discusses this in the first few pages of his
book, Cross-Currents, which some members may have at hand.

My own spin on this is seen in the following course objective
from a few of my courses. I try to help students see :

that scientific knowledge is not determined by observations
and experiments, but by the outcome of debates about how to
interpret observations and experiments; and these debates are
influenced by a variety of factors, including social, philosophical,
and religious factors.

Hope this is not too off-the-wall,


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840