social construction of science

Kim Cuddington kcudding at
Wed Apr 10 16:01:26 EST 1996

SL Forsburg (susan_forsburg at wrote:
: I'm enjoying this discussion, and I am going to play deliberate
: devil's advocate:

: are the constructivists arguing that RNA polymerase behaves
: differently on a DNA molecule depending upon whether a man or
: a woman looks at it????

: I'm not talking about theories, I'm not talking about funding,

: I'm talking about the behavior of this molecule.

WOW!!!! This last sentence assumes a WHOLE LOT of things about reality...
But okay, I'll bite. I think that a constructivist may argue one of the 

1. that the theory involving RNA polymerase ENTAILS beliefs about 
its behaviour which influence empirical observations about said molecule
(i.e. theory-laden observation), and in addition, the association of 
this theory with various other beliefs that the observer holds 
(perhaps gender-specific ones), may determine A) what different gender 
observers "see" or B) how they interpret their observations


2. that the types of scientific theories that are developed by 
different scientists may be influenced by gender specific differences 
therefore the theory-laden observations of the molecules determine 
either A) what the observers "see" or B) how they interpret their 


3. that the standards of evaluating "truth"  (i.e. the acceptable
methods for evaluating observations) vary between observers with
different beliefs (again possibly gender specific), so that while the
observation and/or interpretation of the observation is the same (as
opposed to case 1 and 2), the SIGNICANCE of said empirical
observation is different. 

Now let's put this in a more concrete fashion: case 1 A)
different genders "see" the RNA polymerase doing different things ( as
a trite example, there is some evidence for gender difference in colour
perception), case 1 B) different genders "see" the RNA doing the same
thing (i.e. producing the same results) but interpret their
observations differently because of the influence of gender on their
beliefs, the interprestations of Case 2 A) and B) arre essentially the
same as case 1 EXCEPT that the influence of gender is directly on the
scientific theory itself, rather than influencing observation obliquely
through a sort of coherentist effect and finally, in case 3) different
gender observers "see" the same thing and interpret it in the same way
but differ in their evaluation of the observation (i.e. does it support
a given theory, is it a significant observation etc). 

Any REAL constructivists care to correct me?? Gotta go finish that 
phil paper now...


Kim M.D. Cuddington			kcudding at
Department of Zoology			office: 519-824-4120 ext 2422
University of Guelph			fax:	519-767-1656
Guelph, Ontario
N1G 2W1				"Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom."	
______________________________________________-Soren Kierkegard________

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