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PHIL202: Philosophy of Science

Unit 6: Social Dimensions of Scientific Practice   “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” [1]

Science is not some abstract idea.  It is a social institution, with research organized and conducted by people.  Apart from their special training and specialized education, scientists are no different from other people.  They have similar biases and prejudices, similar hopes and dreams, similar ambitions and desires.  To what extent does the human element of scientific inquiry impact the products of that inquiry?  Does science warrant the authority that many ascribe to it?  Is science biased toward males and male concerns?  Does government sponsorship of scientific research compromise science’s objectivity?  How ought scientists respond to the demands and agendas of politicians?  Should political concerns contribute to the direction of scientific inquiry?  This concluding unit for the course surveys some of the principal philosophical replies to these questions about the social dimensions of scientific practice, supplementing the largely epistemological focus of the other course units with attention to ethical and political issues.


[1] Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1999), 187.

Unit 6 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 21 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 6.5: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 6.6: 3 hours
 

☐    Reading: 1 hour

☐    Assessment 8: 2 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Distinguish between the intellectual organization of science and the social organization of science. - Identify the major types of scientific field. - Compare and contrast the organization of research in each field. - Summarize and assess feminist equity critiques of science. - List key questions regarding the trustworthiness of scientists. - Summarize answers to key questions regarding the trustworthiness of scientists. - List epistemological and axiological issues related to values in science. - Summarize claims regarding moral and epistemic values in scientific research and practice. - Assess claims regarding moral and epistemic values in scientific research and practice. - List intersections between scientific research and political issues. - Summarize key claims regarding the appropriate relationship between scientific research and political issues. - Assess key claims regarding the appropriate relationship between scientific research and political issues.

6.1 Organization of Science   6.1.1 Intellectual and Social Organization of Science   - Reading: whatprogress Blog: “The Intellectual and Social Organization of the Sciences (Book Review)” Link: whatprogress Blog: “The Intellectual and Social Organization of the Sciences (Book Review)” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the review in
its entirety.  

 This essay reviews Richard Whitley’s classic text *The Intellectual
and Social Organization of Science*.  Rather than understand
scientists as motivated entirely by a lofty goal such as *pursuing
the truth* or *understanding nature*, Whitley’s work focuses on more
prosaic motivations, such as *publishing a paper* and *having a good
professional reputation*.  This orientation leads Whitley to focus
on the social institutions and organizational structures that
support scientific inquiry, the professional nature of scientific
research, and the ways in which scientific disciplines differ from
one another as a result of these features.  While the review does
not provide many of the details in Whitley’s text, it offers a good
overview of the basic ideas.  

 As you read the material, attempt to answer the following
questions: What distinguishes the modern sciences?  What social
developments permit the existence of science in its modern form? 
How does academic science differ from state or industrial science? 
What is the degree of functional dependence of a scientific
discipline, and the degree of strategic dependence?  What factors
affect these degrees of dependence?  What is the difference between
technical task uncertainty and strategic task uncertainty?  What
factors affect these differences?  How do these concepts—functional
dependence, strategic dependence, technical and strategic task
uncertainty – yield a typology of the modern sciences?  

 Reading this review and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2 Intellectual and Social Organization in Specific Sciences   6.1.2.1 Physics (Conceptually Integrated Bureaucracy)   - Reading: University of Michigan: The Journal of Electronic Publishing: Jeremy Birnholtz’s “When Authorship Isn’t Enough: Lessons from CERN on the Implications of Formal and Informal Credit Attribution Mechanisms in Collaborative Research” Link: University of Michigan: The Journal of Electronic Publishing: Jeremy Birnholtz’s “When Authorship Isn’t Enough: Lessons from CERN on the Implications of Formal and Informal Credit Attribution Mechanisms in Collaborative Research” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Birnholtz’s
article in its entirety.  

 Birnholtz’s article explores the way in which the goal of
*publishing research* affects research and authorship practices in
physics.  Read this article with Whitley’s topology of the sciences
in mind, recalling that Whitley classifies physics as a conceptually
integrated bureaucracy (refer to the book review in subunit 6.1.1). 
Focus especially on the Introduction, Background, Research Context,
and Results.  

 Reading this article will take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2.2 Bio-Medicine (Professional Adhocracy)   - Reading: United States National Library of Medicine: Medical History: Helen Valier and Carsten Timmermann’s “Clinical Trials and the Reorganization of Medical Research in Post-Second World War Britain” Link: United States National Library of Medicine: Medical History: Helen Valier and Carsten Timmermann’s “Clinical Trials and the Reorganization of Medical Research in Post-Second World War Britain” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the article
in its entirety.  

 Valier and Timmermann’s article explores the way in which social
developments after World War II (post-1945) affected the social
organization of bio-medical research.  Keep in mind Whitley’s ideas
about the intellectual and social organization of the sciences (see
subunit 6.1.1), and read in order to understand the ways in which
non-scientific factors (social goals, government policies, and so
on) affect contemporary bio-medical research (its goals, values,
organization structure, professional standards, and so on).  

 Reading this article will take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2.3 Economics (Partitioned Bureaucracy)   - Reading: Post-Autistic Economics Review: Kyle Siler’s “The Social and Intellectual Organization and Construction of Economics” Link: Post-Autistic Economics Review: Kyle Siler’s “The Social and Intellectual Organization and Construction of Economics” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the article
in its entirety.  

 Siler’s article offers an account of the social factors that
affected the development of modern economics.  The content is based
heavily upon Whitley’s work (see subunit 6.1.1).  Read the article
to understand the ways in which non-scientific factors (social
goals, government policies, and so on) affect contemporary economics
(its goals, values, organization structure, professional standards,
and so on).  

 Reading this article will take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2.4 Sociology (Fragmented Adhocracy)   - Reading: Rutgers University: Phaedra Daipha’s “The Intellectual and Social Organization of ASA 1990-1997” Link: Rutgers University: Phaedra Daipha’s “The Intellectual and Social Organization of ASA 1990-1997” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and then click on the
link for the paper titled “The Intellectual and Social Organization
of ASA 1990-1997.”  This will open a PDF article.  Read the article
in its entirety.  

 Daipha’s article explores the development of sociology, and
especially the American Sociological Association, in the 1990s. 
Keep in mind Whitley’s ideas about the intellectual and social
organization of the sciences (see subunit 6.1.1), and read in order
to understand the ways in which non-scientific factors (social
goals, government policies, and so on) affected sociological inquiry
(its goals, values, organization structure, professional standards,
and so on).  

 Reading this article will take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.2 Science and Gender   6.2.1 The Role of Gender in Science   - Reading: Science and Technology Studies: Helene Götschel’s “The Entanglement of Gender and Physics: Human Actors, Work Place Cultures, and Knowledge Production” Link: Science and Technology Studies: Helene Götschel’s “The Entanglement of Gender and Physics: Human Actors, Work Place Cultures, and Knowledge Production” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above.  Click the link
marked “v24n1Götschel.pdf” under the heading “Link to Journal PDF”
(which is under the journal abstract) in order to open a new
webpage, and on this new page click the link marked “download” in
order to open the article.  Read the article in its entirety.  

 Götschel’s article summarizes extant literature on the role of
gender in physics.  As you read, attempt to answer the following
questions: How do biographies and histories of physics represent
women differently than men?  How does the work place culture of
professional physicists differentially affect men and women (in the
classroom, in the research lab, and so on)?  How do images of gender
and knowledge production in physics affect each other?  

 Reading this article and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.2 Feminist Equity Critiques   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Alison Wylie, Elizabeth Potter, and Wenda K. Bauchspies’ “Feminist Equity Critiques”; and Who Will Do Science? Educating the Next Generation: Henry Etzkowitz, Carol Kemelgor, Michael Neuschatz, and Brian Uzzi’s “Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Alison Wylie, Elizabeth Potter, and Wenda K. Bauchspies’ “Feminist Equity Critiques” (HTML); and Who Will Do Science? Educating the Next Generation: Henry Etzkowitz, Carol Kemelgor, Michael Neuschatz, and Brian Uzzi’s “Barriers to Women in Academic Science and Engineering” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above and read Section
2 of “Feminist Equity Critiques” in its entirety.  Please click on
the second link above and read the article in its entirety.  

 These materials present further information about the way in which
the social organization of the academic sciences differentially
affects men and women, and they engage with the issue of whether
these differential affects are due to facts about the intrinsic
differences between genders or, instead, contingent facts about the
social organization of the science disciplines themselves.  The
encyclopedia article also discusses the implications of the
resolution of this issue.  

 As you read these materials, attempt to answer the following
questions: What are some of the ways in which the social
organization of the sciences differentially affects men and women? 
What is the evidence in favor of the view that the best explanation
of these differences concerns entrenched practices in the system of
academic sciences rather than intrinsic differences between men and
women?  What are some implications of this explanation?  

 Reading these materials and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.2.3 Social Implications of the Genderization of Science   - Reading: National Academies Press: Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, and Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy’s “Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering”; and Seattle Woman Magazine: Ashley Griffin’s “Re-Genderizing Science” Link: National Academies Press: Committee on Maximizing the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, and Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy’s “Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering” (HTML); and Seattle Woman Magazine: Ashley Griffin’s “Re-Genderizing Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above and read Chapter
6 (pages 214-243) by the Committees of the National Academies in its
entirety.  Please click on the second link above and read the
article in its entirety.  

 These readings explore more thoroughly the effects of gender
inequality for scientific research and education.  The chapter by
the Committees of the National Academies also reviews some of the
factors that indicate gender bias in the sciences, some reasons that
motivate taking action to eliminate this bias, and some suggestions
for how to implement such action.  Griffin’s article, in contrast to
the generality of the Committees’ chapter, presents information
about the effects of gender inequality in the sciences in the lives
of particular individuals.  

 As you read these materials, attempt to answer the following
questions: What are some of the gender disparities between men and
women in science education?  What are some reasons to take action to
eliminate gender disparities and bias in the sciences?  What are
some policies that would help to eliminate gender bias and disparity
in the sciences?  

 Reading these materials and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3 Scientific Authority   6.3.1 The Rise of Scientific Authority   - Reading: Freie Universität Berlin: Lars Frers’ “Develop a theoretical explanation for the historical rise in the epistemic authority of modern science” Link: Freie Universität Berlin: Lars Frers’ “Develop a theoretical explanation for the historical rise in the epistemic authority of modern science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the first
section of the essay in its entirety.  

 Frers’ essay summarizes some of the major factors that confer upon
modern science the authority to be arbiter of our understanding of
how the world works.  

 Reading this essay will take approximately 15 minutes.  

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6.3.2 Scientific Authority and Politics   - Lecture: YouTube: Rotman Institute: Philip Kitcher’s “Authority, Responsibility, and Democracy” Link: YouTube: Rotman Institute: Philip Kitcher’s “Authority, Responsibility, and Democracy” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch the video in
its entirety.  

 In this lecture, philosopher of science Philip Kitcher presents,
explains, and illustrates some instances of what are, in his view, a
series of problems regarding the authority of science in a
democratic society.  Watch this video to better understand the
claims he defends in the preceding essay, “The Climate Change
Debates.”  

 Watching this lecture will take approximately 1 hour.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Issues in Science and Technology: John Marburger’s “Science’s Uncertain Authority in Policy”; and Science: Philip Kitcher’s “The Climate Change Debates” Link: Issues in Science and Technology: John Marburger’s “Science’s Uncertain Authority in Policy” (HTML); and Science: Philip Kitcher’s “The Climate Change Debates” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on each link above and read each essay in its entirety.

    These essays explore the ways in which the epistemic authority of modern science exhibits itself in political contexts.  Marburger’s essay focuses on the way in which the statutory authority of government often overrides the epistemic authority of science.  Kitcher’s essay, although a review of some books about climate science, also offers some reflections on the appropriate relation between scientific and political authority in a democratic society.

    As you read these essays, attempt to answer the following questions: What are some examples of policy advice that scientists have given to politicians?  How was that advice received in each case?  Why, according to Marburger, is scientific authority inferior to statutory authority in a democratic context?  How, according to Kitcher, ought policy-makers treat scientific advice in a democratic society?

    Reading these essays and answering these questions will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.4 Values in Science   6.4.1 Underdetermination and Objectivity   - Reading: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Helen Longino’s “How Values Can Be Good for Science” Link: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Helen Longino’s “How Values Can Be Good for Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Longino’s
chapter in its entirety.  Use the navigation buttons (“next”) at the
bottom of the page to advance the pages.  

 Longino’s chapter examines whether and, if so, how social and
pragmatic values – values that concern social relations and social
utilities – can be good for scientific inquiry.  She discusses the
attraction of the ideal of science as “value-free,” the
underdetermination problem (refer to subunit 5.2.1), competing
conceptions of scientific knowledge, and the implications of
value-laden science for rationality, universality, and
objectivity.  

 As you read this chapter, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is the ideal of value-free science?  Why, according
to Longino, is the lesson of the underdetermination problem that
there is a legitimate role for social values in science?  How does
incorporating social values into science resolve the
underdetermination problem?  What are some consequences of
acknowledging the social dimensions of cognitive practices in
science?  Why, according to Longino, does the presence of social
values in scientific practice not undermine the cognitive
rationality of that practice?  How does the presence of social
values in science affect the ideals of universality and objectivity
in scientific inquiry?  

 Reading this chapter and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.4.2 Science and Public Policy   - Reading: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Heather Douglas’ “Border Skirmishes between Science and Policy: Autonomy, Responsibility, and Values” Link: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Heather Douglas’ “Border Skirmishes between Science and Policy: Autonomy, Responsibility, and Values” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Douglas’
chapter in its entirety.  Use the navigation buttons (“next”) at the
bottom of the page to advance the pages.  

 Douglas’ chapter focuses on the role of science in policy making,
sketching a brief history of the relation between scientists and
policy-makers and arguing that there is not (and should not be) a
clear boundary between science and politics.  

 As you read her chapter, attempt to answer the following questions:
What are some examples of successful scientific advice for policy
making after World War II?  How do attitudes toward this advice
differ in different time periods (1945-1965, 1965-1980, 1980-2000),
and how do views about the role of values in science and policy
inform these different attitudes?  Why, according to Douglas, have
attempts to draw a sharp boundary between science and policy
failed?  What problems arise for the view that, even if value
judgments have a legitimate role in science, scientists should not
be the ones who make those judgments?  Why, according to Douglas,
should science intended for use in policy making *not* be
value-free?  

 Reading this chapter and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hours and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.5 Science and Politics   - Reading: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Peter Weingart’s “Between Science and Values”; and Issues in Science and Technology: Daniel Yankelovich’s “Winning Greater Influence for Science” Link: University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library: Science, Values, and Objectivity: Peter Weingart’s “Between Science and Values” (HTML); and Issues in Science and Technology: Daniel Yankelovich’s “Winning Greater Influence for Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the first link above and read
Weingart’s chapter in its entirety.  Use the navigation buttons
(“next”) at the bottom of the page to advance the pages.  

 Please click on the second link above and read Yankelovich’s
article in its entirety.  

 Weingart’s chapter explores the issue of why, despite the
ever-increasing reliance of politics on science, and the increasing
expectation that science offers reliable knowledge, there is a
gradual decrease in the epistemic authority of science. 
Yankelovich’s essay discusses some social implications of, and
suggestions for overcoming, this decrease in authority.  

 As you read this material, attempt to answer the following
questions: What are the four types of interchange between scientific
knowledge and social application?  What are some of the
institutional changes responsible for the attitude that scientific
knowledge has become unduly “diluted” by values?  How do these
changes explain the gradual decrease in science’s epistemic
authority?  What are some symptoms of this decrease in authority?  

 Reading these materials and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.6 Review of Social Dimensions of Scientific Practice   - Reading: Issues in Science and Technology: Barack Obama’s “What Science Can Do” Link: Issues in Science and Technology: Barack Obama’s “What Science Can Do” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the essay in
its entirety.  The following assessment references the content of
this essay.  

 Reading this essay will take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 8” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 8” (PDF)

    Instructions: This assessment will ask you to examine a Presidential Address to the National Academy of Science for its attitudes about the role of values in science and the relationship between science and politics / policy-making, and then to critically assess the appropriateness of these attitudes in light of the readings in Unit 6.  Use the “Assessment 8 – Guide to Responding” (PDF) to help you.  Please check your essays against the “Assessment 8 – Self-Assessment Rubric” (PDF).

    Completing this assessment will take approximately 2 hours.

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