Role of Sociocultural Factors in Method Employment

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What is the role of sociocultural factors, such as economics or politics, in the process of method employment?

According to the "Sociocultural Factors in Theory Acceptance Theorem," sociocultural factors can affect the process of scientific change within a mosaic in accordance to the Laws of Scientific Change, when it is permitted by the employed method of that mosaic.1p. 239

Individual and group interests can be considered either directly as an employed method of theory appraisal, or they can influence theory acceptance indirectly. For example, when the results of a theory appraisal by the employed method is inconclusive, sociocultural factors may be taken into account in order to choose between rival theories. This is a case of indirect influence from sociocultural factors.1p. 240

A hypothetical situation where sociocultural factors are directly employed as a method within the mosaic is that of the following “High Priest” example. Imagine that members of a scientific mosaic accept that a political or religious leader (denoted as the “High Priest”) is the singular possessor of knowledge about the world. In this circumstance, the Laws of Scientific Change allow for the employed method to dictate that the High Priest may individually chooses between rival theories, as this follows directly from the accepted beliefs of the community. In this example, sociocultural factors are allowed to directly influence scientific beliefs in accordance with the Laws of Scientific Change.1p. 239-240

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. At the moment, the question has no accepted answer in Scientonomy.

Prehistory

According to the “rationalist” view of science, reason, evidence, and logic are the only factors which are employed as scientific method. It was only in the 20th century that philosophers of science began to consider that theories may be accepted for other reasons, such as political or other social interests that are not considered to be “scientific.” In 1971 Paul Forman wrote a famous article on the acceptance of quantum mechanics, in which he proposed that quantum mechanics was only accepted because between 1918-1927, the German public underwent a period of deep distrust in traditional mechanistic science. By Forman’s account, the method of the time in Weimar Germany was one in which social opinion dictated which theories were accepted.2p. 115-116

Thomas Kuhn believed that paradigm shifts were influenced by sociocultural factors, and that the only type of science that was influenced by evidence and reason was the regular “every-day” science within the paradigms. This belief follows from Kuhn’s understanding of science as a non-progressive enterprise, where paradigms are chosen according to community needs, and not because scientific knowledge is progressing towards a more accurate description of the world.2p. 144-145

Imre Lakotos understood sociocultural influence on changes in scientific belief (which he referred to as “external” science) to be dependent on the methodology of the mosaic in question. However, if we define all sociocultural influences on theory appraisal to be “external” to science then those factors will exist outside of the Laws of Scientific Change, which currently is not understood to be the case.1p. 234 Instead, we allow sociocultural factors to be elements of employed methods within scientific mosaics.

History

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Scientonomy1 January 2016The question became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.Yes

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This topic is a sub-topic of Role of Sociocultural Factors in Scientific Change.

References

  1. a b c d  Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
  2. a b  Brown, James Robert. (2001) Who Rules in Science? Harvard University Press.

Contributors

Paul Patton (4.5%), Nadezhda Woinowsky-Krieger (47.6%), Jacob MacKinnon (22.1%), Hakob Barseghyan (25.8%)