Re: Sociology of Science

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sat Dec 31 2005 - 12:55:16 EST

I fear you're confusing a personal commitment with a professional
responsibility. Every person decides on a discipline and a task based on
commitments. Some of these are obvious, but others are hidden, even
deeply hidden. These latter can cause unsuspected problems. The task of a
scholar is to present an accurate description and develop a responsible
theory. To the extent that their personal commitments interfere with
objectivity, they cannot meet their requirements properly. Overt
commitments are rather easy to counter. It's the hidden ones that are
most damaging. That these aspects of being human are part of the practice
of any study does not vitiate the ideal.

As to the lines between the studies, that a person has many commitments
does not erase them. Indeed, to the extent that one gets sloppy and
undiscriminating, problems with objectivity increase. I know, there's a
radical rejection of objectivity in some quarters. I contend that,
whatever the difficulties, it remains an ideal. I also recognize that
there are scammers and others who reject standards.

I will acknowledge an area of overlap, for theology has been defined as
the application of philosophical method to the data of scripture.

On Sat, 31 Dec 2005 05:00:12 -0500 (EST) Gregory Arago
<> writes:
“The only way a reference to any deity in a scientific study can be other
than religious is in the description by a sociologist or anthropologist
of the beliefs of a group. ‘x believes that...’ is noncommittal on the
part of the describer… When philosophers or theologians speak of the
deity, they are not doing science.” – Dave F. Siemens (29-12-05)

Dave, this challenges my sensitivities deeply! Can a sociologist be
value-free about the meaning and purpose of religion and/or theology in
their life or in the groups they frequent? Can they report about it and
study it without committing them-self to a si ngular, partial position?
Perhaps we need to accept that the l-i-n-e-s between science, philosophy
and theology are not really so black and white after all? A scientist
speaking about theology, a philosopher verging on scientific grounds, a
theologian expressing philosophical views; these things happens on a
seemingly daily basis, even just at the discussion list of the ASA. This
is an encouraging thought!
Received on Sat Dec 31 13:00:21 2005

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