Topic 7 - Ideology and Science

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Popper:
Science is an open belief system ­ theories are open to scrutiny, testing and criticism
Science is governed by the principle of falsification ­ scientists deliberately try and disprove theories
Scientific knowledge is cumulative; it builds on the achievements of previous scientists
Scientific knowledge is not sacred or absolute truth
Merton:
Scientists need an ethos to help knowledge grow:
COMMUNISM = Knowledge must be shared
UNIVERSALISM = Truth of knowledge must be tested using objective criteria
DISINTERESTEDNESS = Must be committed to discovering knowledge for its own sake ­ publish
ORGANISED
SCEPTICISM
Closed belief systems:
Horton ­ whenever fundamental beliefs are threatened , a closed belief system has `get out clauses'
that reinforce the system and prevent it from being disproved (e.g. the Azande)
Witchcraft among the Azande:
Azande believe that misfortune is down to witchcraft
Evans Pritchard: belief system is a social control mechanism
It is highly resistant to challenges = closed belief system: individuals accept its basic assumptions
Polyani:
Belief systems have three devices to sustain themselves in the face of opposition
1. Circulatory ­ each idea in the system is explained in terms of another idea within it (goes round and
round)
2. Subsidiary explanations ­ e.g. failure of the oracle will be explained as due to incorrect use of the
benge
3. Denial of legitimacy ­ belief systems reject alternative worldviews by refusing to grant any legitimacy
to their assumptions
Science as a closed belief system:
Case of Dr Velikovsky:
Challenged some fundamental assumptions of science
Widely met with criticism from the scientific community
Kuhn: scientists challenged Dr Velikovsky because his work challenged a paradigm
Scientific education and training is based on the `truth' of a paradigm ­ anyone who challenges it
therefore will be ridiculed
However... only exceptions = scientific revolution: when truth of the paradigm has been undermined
by an accumulation of anomalies.
The sociology of scientific knowledge:
Knorr-Cetina: scientific knowledge is socially constructed by social groups using the resources available
to them (e.g. invention of new instruments such as microscopes allows scientists to make new
observations and construct new facts)
Woolgar: scientists interpret their `evidence' from their observations and then decide what it means by
devising and applying new theories and explanations but have to persuade their colleagues to share it
as scientific fact
Marxism and ideology:
Ideology = a distorted set of beliefs that favours the interests of a particular social group
Marxists believe capitalists exploit the w/c labour to produce profit

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Prevent w/c from realising their true situation through r/c ideology which creates a false class
consciousness (e.g. equality will never work because it goes against human nature)
HOWEVER ABERCROMBIE ET AL ARGUE THAT ECONOMIC FACTORS RATHER THAN IDEOLOGICAL
FACTORS KEEP THE WORKERS FROM REBELLING (E.G. UNEMPLOYMENT)
Gramsci: w/c can develop ideas that challenge r/c hegemony.…read more

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