chapter 7 - ideology and science

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  • Created on: 02-10-18 09:48


Beliefs = ideas we hold true

Ideology = a belief system, worldview based on ideas of a particular social group 

negative aspects of an ideology:

  • A distorted/biased view of reality 
  • ideas that justify the privledges of a certain group
  • ideas that conceal of reality and so prevent change 
  • a self sustaining belief system that is closed to criticism 

Enlightenment period = brought about science as we know it today. People began to challenge religion. Lead to secularisation 

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science as a belief system (impact of science)

The impact of science 

  • Objective and value free (however this is debateable) 
  • the success of science has led to widespread faith in it - falsifacation 
  • modern advancements 
  • faith in science has said to have dimmed of late as it is acknowledged that advancements caused by science have damaged society e.g. pollution, global warming 
  • both the good and bad effects of science demonstrate the key feature distinguishing it from other belief systems - that is. its cognitive power = science enables us to explain, predict and control the world in a way that non-scientific belief systems cannot do. 
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science as a belief system (open belief systems)

  • Popper (1959) claims science is an open belief system, open to criticism and testing
  • Science is based on the principle of falsificationism 
  • Scientific knowledge is not absolute truth 
  • It can always be tested and potentially falsified.
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science as a belief system (The CUDOS norms)

if Popper is right, this still leaves the question of why science has only grown so rapidly in the last few centuries. 

Merton 1973 (functionalist) argues that science as an organised social activity has a set of norms that promote the growth of knowledge by encouraging openness:

Communism  - knowledge must be shared with the scientific community. 

Universalism -  scientific knowledge is judged by universal, objective criteria (testing). 

Disinterestedness - seeking knowledge for its own sake. 

- Organised Sceptism - every theory is open to criticism and testing.

Evaluation - Some argue that science is a self-sustaining. closed belief systems reject fundamental challenges to their knowledge claims science is no different.    

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Closed belief systems

In this respect, science appears to differ fundamentally from traditional religious belief systems. While scientific knowledge is provisional, open to challenge and potentially disprovable, religion claims to have special, perfect, knowledge of the absolute truth. Its knowledge is literally sacred and religious organisations claim to hold it on God's divine authority. This means it cannot be challenged - and those who do will be punished for their heresy. It also means that religious knowledge doesn't change - it is fixed and cannot grow. 

Horton (1970) distinguishes between open and closed belief systems. However, religion is a closed belief system: it makes knowledge-claims that cannot be overturned. A closed belief system has 'get-out clauses' that prevent it from being disproved in the eyes of its believers, one example is witchcraft 

Evans-Pritchard's (1936) classic anthropological study of the Azande people of the Sudan illustrates Horton's ideas of a self-reinforcing, closed belief system 

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self-sustaining beliefs

Polyani (1958)

uBelief systems have three devices to sustain themselves in the face of apparently contradictory evidence: Circularity: Each idea in the system is explained in terms of another within the system Subsidiary explanations: For example, if the oracle fails it may be explained away as due to the incorrect use of the benge Denial of legitimacy to rivals: Belief system reject alternate views by refusing to grant them legitimacy to their basic assumptions.

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Science as a closed system

Despite Popper's view of science as opena dn critical, some other writers argue that science itself can be seen as a self-sustaining or closed system of belief. For example, Polyani argues that all belief systems reject fundamental challenges to their knowledge-claims - science is no different, as the case of Dr Velikovsky indicates  - 

In 1950, Velikovsky published ‘Worlds in Collision’, in which he put forward a new theory on the origins of the earth. His theory challenged some of the most fundamental assumptions of geology, astronomy and evolutionary biology. The response from the community was far from ‘open’ one advocated by Popper. Instead of putting his theory to the test, scientists rushed to reject it – without even having read the book.

One explanation for scientists refusal even to consider such challenges comes from Kuhn who argues mature science is based on a set of shared assumptions called a paradigm. This tell scientists what the reality is like, what and how to study. Those who are successful and rewarded with a bigger research grants, professorships, Nobel prizes etc. The only expectations are rare, in a scientific revolution. Most of the time, scientists are engaged in normal science, which Kuhn likens to puzzle solving - the paradigm lays down the broad outlines and the scientists have to fill in the details. Any scientists who challenges the paradigm is ridiculed. The only exceptions to this is rare periods that Kuhn describes as scientific revolution, where faith in the paradigm has already been undermined by an accumulation of anomalies. Only then do scientists become open to radically new ideas

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The sociology of scientific knowledge

Interpretivists expanded on Kuhn's idea and believe that all knowledge is socially constructed which is created by social groups using the resources available to them rather than being the objective truth.

Knorr-Cetina argues that the invention of new instruments (telescope etc) allows scientists make new observations and construct new facts. Also, she points out that what scientists study in the lab is highly 'constructed' and far removed from the natural world they are supposedly studying.

Little Green Men

Woolgar states that scientists have to persuade the scientific community to accept their interpretations of the world.

For example, Researchers at Cambridge astromony lab discovered pulsors and did this by observing patterns on a radio. They annotated them LGM1 and LGM2 and so on and decided it stood for Little Green Men. However they could lose their credibility so they considered changing the name.

Woolgar noted that a scientific fact is simply a shared, socially constructed belief.

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Marxism, feminism and postmodernism

Marxism and Feminism see scientific knowledge as far from pure truth and see science as serving the interests of dominant groups- the ruling class and men. Many scientific developments have been driven by the needs of capitalism for certain types of knowledge.

Postmodernists also reject the knowledge-claims of science to have 'the truth'.

Lyotard argues science is one of a number of meta-narratives that falsely claims to offer the truth. He also believes that in reality, science is just one more 'discourse' or way of thinking that is used to dominate people.

Some postmodernists argue that science has become technoscience, simply serving capitalist interests by producing commodities for profit.

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Ideology - intro

Ideology- a belief system, worldview or set of ideas.

The term often includes negative aspects such as :

  • Beliefs that are false or offer a partial/biased view of reality
  • Ideals that conceal the interests of a group or legitimate inequalities
  • Ideas that prevent change by misleading people about their situation
  • A self-sustaining belief system that is irrational and closed to criticism

Therefore, if someone uses the term ideology to describe a belief system, it means  they regard it as factually/morally wrong.

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Marxism and ideology

Marxism sees society as divided into two opposed classes: the capitalist ruling class and the working class who are forced to sell their labour.

The capitalist class take advantage and exploit worker's labour to produce profit. Therefore, it is in the interests of the workers to overthrow capitalism by revolution and replace it with a classless communist society. However, the revolution can not occur until the working class become aware of the reality of their exploitation which is class consciousness.

However, it may not be ideology that prevents attempts to overthrow capitalism, but economic factors, e.g. fear of unemployment that keep the workers from rebelling.

The ruling class also control the means of production of ideas through the media, education religion which produces ruling-class ideology- ideas that legitimate the status quo. The dominant ideas are of the ruling class and prevent change by creating a false consciousness among the workers. R/C ideology includes ideas such as:

  • that equality will never work because it goes against 'human nature'
  • Victim blaming ideas on poverty e.g. the poor are dumb
  • Racist ideas about the inferiority of ethnic minorities
  • Nationalist ideas that workers and capitalist have similarities
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Marxism and ideology - hegemony and revolution

Gramsci 1971

W/C can develop ideas that challenge R/C ideology.  This is because workers have a duel consciousness -  a mixture of R/C ideology and ideas they develop from their own experience of exploitation It is possible to develop class consciousness and overthrow capitalism This require a political party of ‘organic intellectuals’ – workers who can spread class consciousness

Evaluation Of Gramsci 

LAbercrombie: It is economic factors e.g. the fear of employment that keep workers from rebelling LThere is no evidence to suggest there is a dominant ideology

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Marxism and ideology - hegemony and revolution

Gramsci 1971

W/C can develop ideas that challenge R/C ideology.  This is because workers have a duel consciousness -  a mixture of R/C ideology and ideas they develop from their own experience of exploitation It is possible to develop class consciousness and overthrow capitalism This require a political party of ‘organic intellectuals’ – workers who can spread class consciousness

Evaluation Of Gramsci 

LAbercrombie: It is economic factors e.g. the fear of employment that keep workers from rebelling LThere is no evidence to suggest there is a dominant ideology

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The ideology of nationalism (1)

·       Nation – Unique and individualistic with its own sense of cultural, historical, linguistic and political character that unites citizens because of it.

·        Self-governing – Not a fan of large multinational organisations such as the UN or EU

·        Loyalty to the nationshould come before religion, class, ethnicity etc.

Anderson imagined community – binds us together without us actually having to personally know everyone in it. (AO2)

Marxism: nationalism as false consciousness

·        Marx Wanted to see the world unite under one banner.

·      Nationalism = false class consciousness that helps to prevent the overthrow of capitalism by dividing the international W/C. This is beause nationalism encourages workers to believe they have more in common with capitalists in own country than workers of other countries. War – working class fight wars for ‘nation’ rather than against capitalists.

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The ideology of nationalism (2)

Functionalism: nationalsim as civil religion 

Functionalists see nationalism as a secular civil reliigon. Like religion, it integrates people into larger social and political units by making them feel part of something greater than selves -  Bigger than individuals.

In modern secular societies, people may be unwilling to believe in supernatural beings but may be willing to see themselves as part of a nation. Modern societies also often contain many different faiths, so is likely to be a source of division. Whereas nationalism unites everyone into single community. For functionalists, education plays a key role in this, by creating social solidarity, and this may include collective rituals invloving nationalist symbols such as the flag and national anthem. 

Gellner: nationalsim and modernity 

Gellner (1994:2006) also sees nationalism as false consciousness: its claim that nations have existed since time immemorial is untrue. Nation is a product of modernity. Pre-industrial society based on small, personal communities, face-to-face with ascribed roles. Industrialisation created division - hugely mechanised, impersonal, geographical isolation, complex division of labour. All citizens equal under law. Centralised bureaucracy.  Nationalism – uses education to ensure that all citizens share culture and language. Views everyone as equal. Makes communication and economic cooperation possible. Helps people to cope with hardships of initial industrialisation and allows state to modernise.

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Karl Mannheim: Ideology and utopia

Karl Mannheim: ideology and utopia

  • Mannheim's two types of belief system:
  • ideological thought - justifies keeping things as they are. It reflects the position and interests of privileged groups such as the capitalist class. These groups benefit from maintaining the status quo so their belief system tends to be conservative and favours hierarchy
  • utopian thought - justifies social change and reflects the position and interests of the under privileged and offers a vision of how society could be organised. E.G. the working-class are disadvantaged of the status qup and may favour radical change to a classless society
  • Mannheim suggests that worldviews are created by a groups of intellectuals who attach themselves to particular classes
  • worldviews only give a partial view of reality because these intellectuals represent the interests of particular groups not society as a whole
  • Mannheim points out that the source of conflict in society is due to different intellectuals linked to different groups and classes which produces opposed and antagonistic ideas that justify the interests and claims of their group as against the others.
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feminism and ideology

  • according to feminists, the fundamental division in society is gender inequalityand a patriarchal ideology as playing a key role in legitimating it
  • Pauline Marks suggests that ideas from science has been used to justify women's exclusion from education - doctors, scientists and educationists have the view of educating females would lead to the creation of a 'race if puny and unfeminine' females and disqualify women from their true vocation which is being a nurturer of the next generation
  • religious beliefs may define women as inferior as religions have the idea that women are impure and unclean, because of childbirth and menstruation
  • a religious belief that does not subordinate women is before the emergance of the monotheistic patriarchal religions where there was female priests and the celebration of fertility cults as in Hinduism goddesses are seen as the creators of the universe
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