Possibility of Scientonomy - The Argument from Social Construction

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How is scientonomy possible if science is a social construction?

The Argument from Social Construction undermines the possibility of theory of scientific change. If it can be shown that science is a social construct, then it follows that there can be no general theory of scientific change. The meanings of “science” and “social construct” can be construed in various ways, which determine the line of reasoning that follows 1p. 90. However, ultimately, the fundamental idea to this challenge is that not only is the scientific practice a social activity in one way or another but the entirety of scientific mosaic is a product of social construction 1p. 90. Therefore, if science is driven by social factors such as politics, economics, cultures etc. that define the particular contexts wherein the scientific practice is conducted, then it follows that if the social factors were to be different in the past then Science could develop in ways that we cannot comprehend. For instance, we can conceive of an alternative history whereby the Newtonian corpuscular theory of light is replaced by a quantum theory rather than going through the intermediary stage of Fresnel’s wave theory 1p. 91. As a result, we cannot devise a general pattern or law that defines the changes that science undergoes because we cannot infer from the past what the social factors will be in the future and so the mosaic evolves in ways that is unpredictable. As such, the argument from social construction concludes that there is no general theory of scientific change. For example, the infamous case of Lysenkoism shows that the theories accepted by the scientific community in Soviet Union in 1940 was determined by the government. Genetics was labelled as a bourgeoise pseudo-science and Lamarckism was accepted instead. So, it can be seen that the social factors, namely, politics, determined the theory that came to be accepted by the scientific community 1p. 239. In the scientonomic context, a general of scientific change is not possible if science is a social construct 1p. 89.

In the scientonomic context, this question was first formulated by Hakob Barseghyan in 2015. The question is currently accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by Scientonomy community. Response to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015) is currently accepted by Scientonomy community as the best available theory on the subject. Response to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015) states "Science can be said to be socially constructed in several different senses (e.g. the contingency, nominalist, and reducibility theses). None of these preclude the possibility of scientonomy."

Prehistory

The social constructivists do not use a particular line of reasoning to argue for their case. Over the years, various approaches have been taken to show that science is not independent of external sociocultural factors.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn argues that Science cannot be investigated with an objective outlook, for the formulation of “objective” conclusions of science are products of the activity of subjective scientists and researchers in the first place. His idea was that science undergoes ‘paradigm shifts’ rather than progressing in a linear and continuous way 2p. 75.

In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970), Imre Lakatos claims that the scientific methodology constitutes research programmes that dictate, which theories are accepted over time 1p. 187. This implies that the method of theory acceptance is a subjective one. In The Social Construction of What (1999), Ian Hacking posits that the idea that Science is a social construct can be argued through the Contingency thesis and the Nominalist thesis 3p. 89.

The Contingency thesis argues that Science cannot be said to be deterministic as the evolution of scientific mosaic is not contingent. This claim implies that the scientific mosaic could develop in ways that we cannot predict (as any change to the mosaic if fundamentally not inevitable). As such, no general laws or theories of scientific change can be devised through inspection of the evolution of Science 3pp. 78-80.

The Nominalist Thesis posits that the scientific mosaic is not reflective of the inner structure of the world. This means that our scientific theories can describe our experiences and can serve as important instruments, but they do not ultimately reveal to us any truth about the external world. This is because the external world does not have any inherent structure, or at least as far as we know. Hence, one cannot predict the evolution of Science in the future or devise any such laws to describe them 3p. 84.

Another Social Constructivist thesis that undermines the possibility of scientific change is the Reducibility thesis. In The Laws of Scientific (2015), Barsegyhan discusses that the Reducibility thesis can be construed in three distinct forms 1p. 93:

Ontological Reducibility Thesis: “The scientific mosaic and scientific change cannot exist independently of the underlying social interactions.”

Epistemic Reducibility Thesis: “The axioms and theorems of a theory of scientific change can, in principle, be reduced to the laws of sociological theories.”

Methodological Reducibility Thesis: “The scientific mosaic and scientific change are most fruitfully studied not by a theory of scientific change, but by sociology.”

History

Acceptance Record

Here is the complete acceptance record of this question (it includes all the instances when the question was accepted as a legitimate topic for discussion by a community):
CommunityAccepted FromAcceptance IndicatorsStill AcceptedAccepted UntilRejection Indicators
Scientonomy1 January 2016This is when the community accepted its first answer to the question, Response to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015), which indicates that the question is itself legitimate.Yes

All Theories

The following theories have attempted to answer this question:
TheoryFormulationFormulated In
Response to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015)Science can be said to be socially constructed in several different senses (e.g. the contingency, nominalist, and reducibility theses). None of these preclude the possibility of scientonomy.2015
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Accepted Theories

The following theories have been accepted as answers to this question:
CommunityTheoryAccepted FromAccepted Until
ScientonomyResponse to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015)1 January 2016

Suggested Modifications

According to our records, there have been no suggested modifications on this topic.

Current View

In Scientonomy community, the accepted theory on the subject is Response to the Argument from Social Construction (Barseghyan-2015). It states: "Science can be said to be socially constructed in several different senses (e.g. the contingency, nominalist, and reducibility theses). None of these preclude the possibility of scientonomy." In The Laws of Scientific Change (2015), Hakob Barseghyan argues that none of the social constructivist theses preclude the possibility of a general theory of scientific change. He provides different reasons to invalidate each of the respective social constructivist theses. The general theory is that the argument from social construction does not undermine the possibility of the theory of scientific change (TSC). Barseghyan shows that each of the theses lead to bizarre implications that form threats not only to the scientonomic project but to all other disciplines that constitute descriptive propositions. Read More

Open Questions

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Related Topics

This topic is a sub-topic of Possibility of Scientonomy.

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References

  1. a b c d e f g  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. ^  Godfrey-Smith, Peter. (2003) Theory and Reality. University of Chicago Press.
  3. a b c  Hacking, Ian. (1999) Social Construction of What? Harvard University Press.

Contributors

Abdullah Sarwar (72.2%), Hakob Barseghyan (2.2%), Paul Patton (25.6%)