social construction of science

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Sun Apr 14 22:08:48 EST 1996


In article <4kjd2d$mc5 at ccshst05.cs.uoguelph.ca>,
Kim Cuddington <kcudding at uoguelph.ca> wrote:
>Patricia S. Bowne (pbowne at omnifest.uwm.edu) wrote:
>
>I know this will raise many hackles but, I have to say it...I think
>that this is EXACTLY what science is.  In fact this is also what
>mathematics and logic are. You SELECT a set of premises and rules of
>the game and you procede within those rules. 
>
>ASSUMING, that science has a more worthwhile world view than Christian
>scientists or the Ku Klux Klan is exactly that, an assumption. By the
>way, you've also got to realize that science as it currently operates
>is pretty much an embodiment "male western european" worldview. It's 
>only been farily recently that this prejudice has been reduced enough 
>for medical science to start looking at tradition herbal cures and 
>combing the forests of South America for wonder drugs. Until recently 
>scientists ASSUMED that tradtional medicine was just so much bullshit.

I'm not sure this is fair.  It seems to me that statements like
"science as it currently operates is pretty much an embodiment of
'male western european' worldview" are demeaning to us women who aren't
male or european but who practice science too.  What are we?  Invisible?
Chopped liver?  Not "real women," but women who've been brainwashed or
corrupted by male western europeans?  

I disagree that viewing the worldview based on science as more worthwhile
than that of the Ku Klux Klan is an "assumption."  We can also take data
on what the consequences of that worldview are.  We can see how well
or poorly "Western" medicine works vs. Christian science practice or
herbal medicine.  We can see which one saves more lives, for example.  We
aren't "assuming," then, we are basing our opinions on data.

Which isn't to say that  bad "assumptions," such as the one pointed
out above, aren't often made.
>
>: Why should politicians, for example, pay any attention to data 
>: - if objectivity and concordance with data are just one more set
>:  of social rules? Why not make money the criterion of truth, or
>: strength, or beauty, or loud voices and guns?
>
>Umm, this strikes me as particularly naive. Do you really believe that 
>politician pay much attention to data if the findings conflict with 
>their pursuit of money and political power? Perhaps you had better 
>check out the history on the Canadian cod fishery.

I'm not sure what the naievete attributed by Kim to Pat's comment has to  
do with anything, here.  I agree that politicians, who are often very
ignorant about scientific issues, and who have other agendas, don't pay
very much attention to scientists.  But what does that have to do with
whether science is a more valid worldview?  Perhaps it has to do with the
poor training that scientists have in expressing themselves, and the
insularity of scientists (at least in the US):  I think scientists could
do a much better job in presenting their case to the public.  How can 
they even begin to learn to do that, if they don't believe in the worth
of what they have to say?  Do we really want to live in a society where
the only criterion for what is worthwhile is who shouts the loudest and
who has the best well-oiled publicity and lobbying machine?  Unfortunately,
our society resembles this nightmare scenario, but does that mean we
should just "give up" and say, well, that's the way it has to be?  
>
>:On a more serious note, I think we should think twice before we 
>: weaken a foundation that has so much potential for women. If we 
>: couldn't use scientific arguments as the evidence of *truth*- and that
>:  includes things like compilations of how much women make as 
>: compared to men, data on the numbers of deaths from illegal 
>: abortions, studies of how women's response to drugs differ from 
>: men's - what *would we use to convince society of the justice of our 
>: claims?  
>
>This IS a concern, however, I very much doubt that powers that be are
>very concerned about this data, regardless of its epistemological
>status.

You're probably right, but then, isn't it our job to convince them?  And
for the sake of our OWN integrity (let "the powers that be" take care of
themselves) shouldn't we be believing in what we're saying?  Otherwise,
don't we just become another smarmy special interest group, just like the
rest of "the powers that be?"

Karen




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