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THE PHILUSUPHY UFSCIENCE AND TECHNULU6Y STUDIES

STEVE FULLER

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Routledge

Taylor & Francis Group New York

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Fuller, Steve, 1959The philosophy of science and technology studies

I Steve

Fuller.

p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-415-94104-0 (acid-free paper) -- ISBN 0-415-94105-9 (pbk. : acid-free paper) 1. Science--Philosophy--Social aspects--History--20th century. 2. Technology--Philosophy--Social aspects--History--20th century. 3. Knowledge, Theory of--History--20th century. 4. Social sciences­ -Philosophy--History--20th century. I. Title. Q174.8.F85 2005 501--dc22

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2005025200

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Dedication

This book is dedicated to the two people who have best embodied in their practice the "philosophical" character of STS advocated here: Jim Collier and Joan Leach.


Contents

Acknowledgments I

Introduction: The Conspicuous Absence of Philosophy from Science and Technology Studies

II

ix

1

The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS

11

1. Philosophical Foundations and Main Sociological Traditions

11

2. Science as a Special Problem for the Sociology of Knowledge

14

3. Kuhn's Checkered Legacy to STS

21

4. The Punch Line: A Sociology of Science that is

not a Sociology of Knowledge 5. Relativism and the Illusion of Autonomy in Science

28 30

6. STS's Janus-faced Antirealism:

Relativism versus Constructivism 7. Conclusion: So is Relativism the Wrong Target?

III

Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site

35 39

45

8. Making Philosophy Safe for STS: The Rise of the Underlaborer 9. Philosophy by Sociological Means: STS as Fieldwork

45 49

10. STS Catches Philosophy by the Achilles' Heel:

The Problem of Replication 11. What Is Living and Undead in Actor-Network Theory

54 58

12. STS Fieldwork as a Reflection of the Shifting Material

Conditions of Scientific Work

67

13. New Horizons for Laboratory Life: Science as a Site of

Generational Conflict and Jurisdictional Ambiguity IV

"Postmodern Positivism": STS by Another Name?

72

79

14. Platonism as Proto-Positivism

79

15. The Dialectical History of Positivism

82

vii


viii

•

Contents

16. Postmodernism as Positivism's Bastard Child

88

17. Motivating the Science Wars: The Politics of Popularizing

and Esotericizing Science

93

18. The Elusive "Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists"

Defended in the Science Wars

98

19. Does Research Fraud Matter? Reflections on the

Sokal Hoax as a Social Experiment

102

20. What Should Have Been Done About Sokal?

What Can Be Done About Positivism? V

Re-enchanting Science: Beyond Puritans and Gnostics

108

115

21. The Science Wars as Signaling the End of

Scientific Puritanism

115

22. The Secularization of Science as a

Precondition to its Re-enchantment

122

23. Re-enchanting Science with a Vengeance:

Gnostic Scientism

127

24. Prolegomena to the Hidden History of

Gnostic Biology

133

25. Distinguishing the Enchanted and Disenchanted Mind:

The Mark of Theodicy

141

26. Two Disenchanted Theodicies: Invisible Hand and

Natural Selection

145

27. The Cost of Disenchantment: A Failed Scientific Defense of

Human Freedom

149

28. Conclusions: Meeting Weber's Challenge and

Transcending the Science Wars VI

Citizen Science: Cultivating a Life in STS

152

157

29. Introduction: Beware of Greeks Bearing

Historical Precedents

157

30. Expertise and Its Discontents:

Some Institutional Alternatives

160

31. Institutionalizing the Public Understanding of Science in

Consensus Conferences

164

32. The Prospects for Scientific Citizenship Today

171

33. Conclusion: Toward a Rhetorical Reclamation of Science

174

Bibliography

181

Index

189


Acknowledgments

It is difficult to write a book about the philosophy of a field as resolutely disre足 spectful of academic philosophy as Science and Technology Studies. Luckily, philosophy's most astute and potent allies are often found outside the disci足 pline. Here I would like to thank those who, in various ways, have helped me along this difficult passage. First, I must thank my former colleagues at the Sociology Department in Durham University, England, which in December 1 995 enabled me to organize the first conference in the Science Wars that brought together representatives of both the scientific and STS communities. This first corresponding U.S. initiative occurred in February 1 997, through the good offices of two physicists at the University of Kansas, Adrian Mellott and Phil Baringer. Here I debated the well- intentioned, if ultimately misguided, Alan Sokal. In 1998 and 1999, the UK's Economic and Social Research Council funded two cyberconferences I organized, which examined the diverse con足 ceptions of "public understanding of science" and "peer review" worldwide. Credit for the technical success of these innovative projects goes to Andrew Stansfield. Others who have provided various forms of critical support include Thomas Hellstrom, Dick Hobbs, Merle Jacob, Bill Keith, Jose Lopez Cerezo, Stephanie Lawler, Bill Lynch, Martin Medhurst, Hugo Mendes, James Mittra, John S. Nelso n , Nicolas Rasmussen, Paul Roth, Joseph Rouse, Raphael Sassower, Ullica Segerstrale, Nico Stehr, Stephen Turner, Peter Wagner, and Tom Woodward. Thanks must also go to Damon Zucca for commissioning this book and to Bill Germano and Fred Veith for their patience in awaiting the finished product.

ix


I Introduction: The Conspicuous Absence of Philosophy from Science and Technology Studies

Science sets the standard for rationality in today's world, yet our attach­ ment to science is anything but rational. This paradox captures the excitement that currently surrounds those who study the social and cul­ tural foundations of science and technology, known as science and tech­ n ology studies, or STS for short. It also explains why p racticing scientists have frequently found the field vaguely threatening. However, their response has been too often like shooting the messenger who bears bad news. The message remains the same. For example, each year I ask my undergraduate students whether sci­ ence or religion p rovides a better basis for understanding the world around them. Science always receives a ringing endorsement. However, on further questioning, it seems that students have a more detailed grasp of the religion they reject than the science they accept. They can easily deconstruct biblical stories, but they can rarely recall specific sci­ entific equations and theories, let alone explain their relevance to any­ thing. Almost all have entered a place of worship, but at most one or two have been inside a place of research, a laboratory. What happens in my classroom is part of a larger trend. Books popu­ larizing science have never been of higher quality or sold better. Stephen Hawking's A BriefHistory of Time, alone, has sold over nine million cop­ ies in 35 languages since 1 988. Yet, in the same period, science enrol­ ments have generally dropped across the industrialized world, leading to the closure of several university departments and periodic calls to revamp the science curriculum. Faith in the wonders of genetic engi­ neering may be at an all-time high-but so too is public skepticism about its long-term consequences. How should one respond to these mixed signals of science's social standing? The scientific community has a characteristic way of handling

1


2

The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies

the matter. The expression "public understanding of science" sums it up. The underlying idea is that, when it comes to science, to know it is to love it. Therefore, any dissatisfaction with science must be the result of ignorance. Innocent schoolteachers are then browbeaten for not infus­ ing youngsters with the spirit of "wonder" and "discovery" that is supposed to be the essence of science. But the situation is really much more complicated. If science has a public relations problem, it is not due to public hostility or even indifference to science. Rather, it would seem that science is being taken off its pedestal and shifted to some other place in our culture. STS tries to understand and sometimes influence this undeniable sea change in public attitudes. But what exactly do STS researchers do-and why does it seem to bother scientists so much? We apply the theories and methods of the humanities and social sciences to the work of natural scientists and tech­ nologists. We study them as people, not minor deities. We observe them in their workplaces, interpret their documents, and propose explana­ tions for their activities that make sense of them, given other things we know about human beings. All of this may sound pretty harmless, but it actually took a while even for sociologists to come round to it. Until the 1 9 70s, the "sociology of science" was based on a fairly uncritical acceptance of what distin­ guished scientists and philosophers of science had to say about the nature of science. To see what this means, imagine relying exclusively on the testimony of priests and theologians for developing a sociology of religion. The sociologist would simply not be doing her job, which is to study science as a concrete human activity. What we find is that science is not a clearly defined activity. Rather, it is many different activities that are typically connected more to their social contexts than to one another. At any point in its history, science could have gone in many directions. The few paths actually taken have been due to ambient political, economic and cultural factors. There appears to be n othing uniquely "rationaL" "obj ective," or "truth­ oriented" about the activities our society calls "scientific." Make no mistake: it is not that scientists are less rational than the rest of humanity; rather, they are not more rational. STS researchers generally credit ordi­ nary people with a good deal of intelligence. The power of science seems to rest on three pillars. One is science's distinctive social organization, which enables concentrated periods of both teamwork and criticism, nowadays done on a global scale with considerable material resources. Another is concerted political effort to apply the results of scientific research to all aspects of society. Finally is the control that scientists continue to exert over how their history is told. Past diversions and failures remain largely hidden, resulting in an airbrushed picture of "progress" otherwise absent from human affairs.


Introduction .

3

Of course, these are controversial claims that, in a sense, "demystify" science. But they are also meant to encourage scientists to be more mod­ est in their pronouncements so that the public is not oversold on what science can do. The failure of science to live up to its own manufactured expectations has probably done more harm to science's social standing in recent years than anything STS has ever done. STS had nothing to do with the PR disasters associated with research into AIDS and BSE (i.e. bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a.k.a 'mad cow disease'). However, some knowledge of STS might actually help scientists cope with why the public feels let down by them. STS was suddenly thrown into the limelight in 1 9 96, when an obscure American physicist, Alan Sokal, published an article designed expose what he regarded as the absurdities advanced by the field. Noto­ riously he managed to publish the piece in a leading cultural studies journal, the editors of which failed to see that it was meant as a parody. From the massive attention given to Sokal's ruse-most of it favor­ able-it was clear that he had tapped into some profound misgivings that still surround STS. Many of these concerns were simply the result of perverse readings of what STS researchers say. However, the legitimate bone of contention can be summed up in the following proposition: practicing scientists are only a fraction of those who contribute to what science is. The other contributors are not just the people who use science more-or less as scientists intend, such as technologists, physicians and policymakers. STS also takes seriously the rest of the population who consume science by reading The Tao of Phys­ ics, watching "Tomorrow's World;' and eating fat-free muffins. Where scientists see only the potential for bad puns, technical terms like "rela­ tivity," "uncertainty," and "chaos" hold the promise of deep cultural meaning for these science consumers. Indeed, without all those misbegotten metaphors and half-under­ standings of science that pervade our culture, it is unlikely that science would enjoy its current levels of economic, political, and even spiritual support. Scientific research itself is a very specialized activity that, on a day-to-day basis, is rather alien from the larger concerns of people. Its actual results have been mixed, with every new breakthrough quickly b e coming a s o u rce o f more p roblems. Ye t , p e op l e continue to believe-and perhaps they should. But in any case, it is not clear what is to be gained by ignoring, disowning, or even re-educating these people. A better strategy begins by trying to understand them. And that's where STS enters the picture. The opening twelve paragraphs are a slightly edited version of an article I wrote defending the honor of SIS in debate with the science journalist Kenan Malik. It originally appeared in the magazine section of the Sunday edition of


4

The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies

the British liberal broadsheet newspaper, The Independent, on 28 June 1 998, in the run-up to "the great debate" between Alan Sokal and STS's most illustri­ ous champion, Bruno Latour, at the London School of Economics. This widely watched episode of the ongoing "Science Wars" did little to relieve the tensions ( Fuller and Collier 2004, introd. ) . This field-defining conflict between the scientific and STS communities, introduced in the next chapter, forms the centerpiece of this book. Although misunderstanding has been ram­ pant on all sides, especially as the conflict snowballed into the mass media, the continuing tensions between scientists and STS researchers cannot simply be reduced to misunderstanding. On the one hand, STS has developed sophisti­ cated tools for analyzing the role of science and technology in society but it remains studiously deaf to the normative implications of its analyses, espe­ cially as they might sound to the people they normally write about, i.e., the scientists. On the other hand, the scientific community still lacks both a sophisticated understanding and an adequate justification of its own place in contemporary society. Nevertheless, scientists certainly realize that their pride of place is under threat by the spread of STS-style analyses, if not STS itself. What scientists no longer have and STS researchers refuse to supply tradition­ ally has been provided by philosophy. In the last quarter century, STS has come into its own as an academic field. It now sports its own professional societies, journals, handbooks, degree pro­ grams-not to mention funding streams and cross-disciplinary gurus like Latour and Donna Haraway. But perhaps the best sign of the field's institu­ tionalization is its recognition as a subject area in the latest (200 1 ) edition of the International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences (IESBS). Here area editor Sheila Jasanoff has organized under the rubric of "Science and Technology Studies" seventy articles divided into six categories: "History and Sociology of Science and Technology;' "Methodological Approaches in Science and Technology Studies;' "Organization of Science and Technology," "Politics of Science and Technology," "Science and Technology Policy," and "Theoreti­ cal Issues and Approaches in Science and Technology Studies." Some of the articles are written by philosophers, but none bear the name of this book, The

Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies. Writing as a long-standing member of the STS community, I am not sur­ prised. STS research has been mainly devoted to studying the means by which science and technology are insinuated in larger social and material processes, typically resulting in an undifferentiated "technoscientific culture" or simply "technoscience" o r "techno culture" ( Fuller 2000b, 3 6 6 ) . Such objects o f inquiry defy easy philosophical encapsulation. Nevertheless, the provenance o f "technoscience" alone i s quite telling. According t o the Oxford English Dictio­ nary, which only started to include "technoscience" in 2002, the word began life in 1 960 as a pejorative for the amoral attitude toward science and technol­ ogy of political realists who then dominated U.S. Cold War policy. Specifically, it first appeared in a critical review in the American Political Science Review of


Introduction . 5

the game theorist Oskar Morgenstern's The Question of National Defense. At the time, "technoscience" looked like a synonym for "military-industrial complex:' However, with the end of the Cold War, the amoralism of "techno­ science" remained but now transferred to a world in which the risk of nuclear war had been replaced by the uncertainty of the marketplace ( Latour 1 98 7 , Callan 1 9 9 8 ) . A studious non-normativity that i n a n earlier generation would have been called "neutral" is now called "symmetrical," routinely allowing STS to elude philosophical scruples. Moreover, STS has learned-perhaps too well-from its discoveries of how other sciences have managed to establish a larger social presence. Most bla­ tantly, STS journals enjoy what scientometricians call "high impact factors" as a result of the sometimes spontaneous, but sometimes editorially encouraged, tendency of researchers to cite colleagues who publish in the same journals ( Fuller 2000b, 3 2 1 , fn 4 ) . A subtler strategy-the one criticized in this book-is for STS to limit severely, if not outright eliminate, the role of philos­ ophy in its interdisciplinary practice. If we insist on discussing STS matters in conceptual or abstract terms, the IESBS tells us to engage in theory rather than philosophy. "Theory" consists of the several possible frameworks for doing STS research, whereas "philosophy" constitutes a more basic inquiry that asks embarrassing questions about the relative merits of particular frameworks vis­ a-vis the reasons we might have for wanting to do STS research in the first place. In the blunt terms a purveyor of "perennial philosophy" might use: What is a life in STS? A vocation? A job? A style of voyeurism? A form of aca­ demic careerism? Revenge for past academic disappointments? One long inside j oke? A vehicle for social transformation? In what follows, it should become clear that I regard STS as a vocation that is also a vehicle for social transformation. My own project of social epistemology presupposes just such an image of STS (Fuller and Collier 2004). Equally I realize that this perspec­ tive sets me apart from many, but of course not all, who dwell in STS these days. Like all fields of inquiry, STS emerged out of philosophical disputation, the result of which laid the field's foundations. However, this dispute looks differ­ ent, depending on whether one stands on the philosophy or the STS side of it. From the philosophy side, it looks as if STS researchers stopped arguing at a certain point and simply decided to build dogmatically upon what they believe in common about the world. To be sure, STS has convinced many younger philosophers of science of this point-of-view. They are the self­ described "underlaborers" in the philosophy of physics, biology, etc. , who often pride themselves more on their knowledge of the special science on whose behalf they philosophize than on their knowledge of philosophy (Fuller 2000b, chap. 6). Some have even become underlaborers for STS itself, busying themselves clarifying concepts like "practice" and "model" that routinely arise in the field's empirical inquiries (e.g., Sismondo 2004, but already criticized in Turner 1994 ) . From the STS side, it looks as if the bulk of philosophers who


6

The Philosophy of S cien ce

and Technology Studies

remain resolutely "philosophical" discourage any constructive work by pursu­ ing arguments endlessly, regardless of their empirical or practical conse­ quences. While philosophers and STS researchers have a keen eye for one another's flaws, the difference between them is such that philosophers are much less motivated than STS researchers to tell their side of the story of their dispute. For their part, most philosophers who refuse to attach an s at the end of "knowledge" or "science" blissfully act as if nothing has changed. They con­ tinue to shoehorn STS positions into preconceived categories of "relativism," "antirealism," and even "skepticism." (This is the default strategy of even the more informed and sophisticated versions: e.g., Brown 200l. ) This form of collective denial is h isto rically familiar as the standard philosophical response to disciplinary specialization. It reveals the difficulties that philoso­ phy has had in learning from forms of inquiry that cannot be easily assimi­ lated into the ordinary philosophy curriculum. To be sure, this learned incapacity is not without its subtle strengths, as has been demonstrated with the onset of the Science Wars. Philosophers who heretofore were not known for their expertise in science or even philosophy of science, let alone STS research, suddenly began to fill the pages of The Times Literary Supplement (TLS) and The New York Review of Books (NYRB), trotting out threadbare three-line arguments to counter such tried- and-tested objects of didactic derision as the Village Skeptic or the Self- Refuting Relativist, only now papered over with a stock set of surgically removed quotes from STS researchers. Among the most adept of these classroom recyclers have been Simon Blackburn, Paul Boghossian, Susan Haack, Thomas Nagel, John Searle, and Galen Strawson. While failing to engage with the most philo­ sophically challenging issues of STS, they manage to reassure bien pensant readers that nothing in the pages of, say, Bloor ( 1 976) or Latour ( 1 987) had not been already laid to rest in Epistemology 1 0l. Again now, writing as someone formally trained in (analytic) philosophy, this does not surprise me. More than any other discipline, philosophy uses the classroom as the research site. This applies equally, though somewhat differ­ ently, to contemporary analytic and continental philosophers. Analytic philos­ ophers have been more eager or able to enter the fray of the Science Wars. This may have something to do with the synchronous attention spans of analytic philosophers and readers of periodicals like the TLS or the NYRB. Both expect to clinch even the most difficult points in about 20-60 minutes, or about 2,000-6,000 words. Anything that requires longer treatment is regarded with suspicion, as either signs of unclear expression or outright charlatanry. In this respect, the legacy of A. J. Ayer's positivist best seller, Language, Truth and Logic ( 1 936), lives on. Analytic philosophers hone this mind-set by trying their arguments in the company of students who together beat the arguments into publishable submission. There is a brutally democratic character to this procedure, which recalls the intimate relationship between male arrogance


Introduction . 7

and dialectical prowess in philosophy's roots in Athens-which of course eventuated in the city-state's downfall (Fuller 2000b, 43-5 1 ) . Continental philosophers proceed with a clearer distinction between teacher and student that replaces much of this democratic brutality with smug elitism-i.e., intimate knowledge of the texts worth knowing. Nevertheless, the knowledge production process turns out to be much the same-especially when contrasted with the conditions of teaching and research in other disci­ plines, including STS. Thus, while continental philosophers have been gener­ ally more receptive than analytic ones to STS themes and concepts, that is only because they see in STS research "applications" or "extensions" of ideas that are already present in Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze, and others. From an STS standpoint, the patronizing attitude of continental philosophers causes them to mistake their own philosophical tail for STS's empirical dog. To their Machiavellian credit, STS researchers have remained diplomatic on this point. Latour is the grand master of this strategy, having ridden successive waves of French philosophical fash­ ion-most noticeably from Serres to Deleuze-while maintaining the empiri­ cal high ground. Generally speaking, STS prefers to play off the two dominant philosophical traditions against each other: on the one hand, analytic philoso­ phers are easily typecast as myth-makers whose normative theories of ratio­ nality obscure the empirical character of scientific practice; on the other, continental philosophers appear as speculative sociologists whose limited sense of context fails to reach beyond their own "intertextuality." Left to its own devices, STS tries to create as much distance as possible from its disputatious philosophical past. Thus, the field tends to tell its history in terms of the progress it made once it started building on some empirically grounded insights about how science works. Conveniently forgotten is that these "insights"-about the conduct of laboratory life, the circulation of knowledge, and the organization of credibility-were originally introduced as philosophical conversation stoppers. And, strictly speaking, such insights are still best understood that way, since they do not add up to a body of disciplin­ ary knowledge. Indeed, one aspect of disciplinization that continues to elude STS is research methodology. At one level, this gives the corpus of STS research a pick-and-mix quality that allows different fields to appropriate different bits. The cross-disciplinary borrower need not first commit to great swaths of the­ ory. Indeed, the leading so-called theory in STS, "actor-network theory," is best seen as a sensitizing device-an "instrument of surveillance;' as Foucault might say-that reveals aspects of the phenomenon under investigation that might otherwise go unnoticed. This turns out to be an advantage in the neo­ liberal times when STS has come to flourish-contract-based research projects, where client satisfaction is more important than epistemic consis­ tency. But more generally, it suggests that STS is much clearer about what it wants to escape-philosophy-than where it wants to go.


8

The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies

There are many more topics and claims of philosophical import currently associated with STS than are covered in these pages. Readers may be disap­ pointed that this book says little about feminism or the subfield of technology studies. This is mainly because the philosophical issues they raise largely do not depend on STS's existence as a special field. Indeed, drawing from their own original normative resources, feminist- and technology-studies practitio­ ners have been among the most penetrating critics of the disciplinary trappings that increasingly characterize STS. ( Rouse 1996 develops some interesting philosophical themes from this "anti-discipline" of STS.) Instead I have focused on topics and claims that arise specifically from the self-under­ standing of the field called "Science and Technology Studies." It was through this field that the quarter-century-old culture wars against postmodernism were upgraded into the Science Wars. STS is primarily represented in English by the j ournals, Social Studies of Science, Science, Technology and Human Val­ ues, and the reviews j ournal, Metascience. Its principal anthologies over the past dozen years have been Pickering ( 1 992), Galison and Stump ( 1 996) and Biagioli ( 1 999) . The fractious and dispersed nature of STS makes it difficult to recommend a particular text as representative of the tenor of the entire field. However, Erickson (2005) is a recent honest broker with the virtue of not pre­ suming that the reader necessarily knows what normally happens in a scien­ tific worksite before an STS researcher has "inscribed" it. STS's historical opposition to philosophy is undoubtedly related to the high proportion of the field's founders who were trained in-and subsequently dis­ illusioned by-the natural sciences, yet without ever quite having been con­ verted to the humanities. In this and other respects, STS resembles no other philosophical movement so much as positivism, which explains the repeated attention I draw to what many (mistakenly) regard as a closed chapter in the history of Western thought. Positivism figures initially in the next chapter as part of a general treatment of how STS transforms traditional themes in the sociology of knowledge and the philosophy of science. In chapter 3, I examine in more detail the underlaboring philosophy that STS research encourages. Chapter 4 makes explicit the continuities between the histories of positivism and postmodernism from which STS has emerged and which subsequently have fuelled the Science Wars. Finally, chapters 5 and 6 consider from, respec­ tively, a historico-philosophical and a more explicitly political standpoint, the emerging challenges to both "secularize" and "re-enchant" science as it comes to lose the state-protected monopoly it enjoyed in the Cold War era. Here I discuss the various movements associated with the "public understanding of science," stressing the need to institutionalize the participation of the general public in scientific decision-making. (Each chapter includes an opening para­ graph summarizing the argument. ) Readers curious about my own position o n the development of STS can turn to the semi-autobiographical Fuller (2000e) or the transcript of my own debate with Latour (Barron 2003 ) . In most general terms, my project of social


Introduction . 9

I

epistemology aims to recover and extend the ground common to the Enlight足 enment, positivism, and postmodernism-three movements that are typically seen as centrifugally related to one another. In short, I am a social constructiv足 ist who still believes in the possibility of universal human progress, even though this goal cannot be underwritten by appeals to human nature, a priori knowledge, or any other backward-looking foundationalist standard. Rather, humanity is a goal for which those engaged in it must take full responsibility. At the moment, STS suffers from a complacency that results from thinking that because things can always be otherwise, we never need to commit to any足 thing. This inference works only if one is a disappointed foundationalist, not someone who takes seriously that the future is largely what we collectively make of it. In this respect, STS as normally practiced is much less of a threat to the future of science than scientists think. Indeed, we shall see in what follows that the Science Wars have been so far largely a comedy of errors. Neverthe足 less, there is something quite serious at stake-and worth arguing about-that these pages endeavor to reveal.


II

The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS

The growth of the field of STS is usually treated as a triumph for a relativist philosophical sensibility that has turned itself into an empirical research pro­ gram. But the story is much more complicated. This chapter begins by exam­ ining the philosophical reasons for studying knowledge sociologically. The main historical reasons have pertained to the normative organization of soci­ ety, especially against what may be regarded as "natural" ( in the sense of "default") cognitive tendencies. However, studying the systematic pursuit of knowledge itself, or science, poses special reflexive problems, which STS has tried studiously but unsuccessfully to avoid. Symbolic of this failure are the ongoing Science Wars in which the public import both of science and of STS is at once thrown into question. I focus on the role played by STS's preference for Thomas Kuhn over Karl Mannheim as a source of both normative orienta­ tion and sociological imagination. The result, quite unwittingly from Kuhn's own standpoint, has rendered STS a "sociology of science that is not a sociol­ ogy of knowledge." This means that knowledge has lost any special normative status as an object of investigation. Such a conclusion is most naturally aligned with the neo-liberal political economy in which STS is largely conducted, but it is also implicated in the modularized sense of "autonomy" that has informed philosophical relativism. r consider the migration of relativism from anthropology to science policy since the end of World War II. Notwithstand­ ing this lineage, "relativism" is ultimately an imprecise label for what is most philosophically challenging about STS. A better label is "constructivism" whose associations with positivism and antirealism need to be taken more seriously by those who would criticize STS, a point I develop in relation to the critique of "relativism" that emerges from the Science Wars. 1. Philosophical Foundations and Main Sociological Traditions

The idea that there is a sociological component to knowledge is at least as old as Plato's Republic. Indeed, Plato's assumptions only came to be ques­ tioned seriously in the late-nineteenth century. Plato assumed that society

11


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The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies

was held together by the integration of different class-based forms of know1edge. Each form of knowledge, the realization of an innate capacity, was supposed to provide access to a unified vision of reality in a manner appro­ priate to the class in question. However, by the late-eighteenth century, the prospect of class mobility led the philosophes of the Enlightenment to tinker with Plato by suggesting that these different forms of knowledge could be ordered according to the degree of freedom permitted to their adherents. An individual or a society might then pass through these forms as stages in a process of development. However, the philosophes still accepted a key Pla­ tonic assumption, epitomized in the idea of the philosopher-king: that the "higher" classes possess a knowledge that is not only politically more effec­ tive but also epistemically more comprehensive. Thus, human progress came to be associated with the extension of this sense of knowledge-and-power to more people. G. W. F. Hegel and Auguste Comte brought this vision to frui­ tion in the early-nineteenth century. However, it was not long before a trade-off between the distribution o f knowledge and the production of power was realized: The more who know, the less it matters. Knowledge only seems to beget power if relatively few people enjoy it. It is what the political economist Fred Hirsch ( 1 976) originally called a "positional good" ( Fuller 2 0 0 2 a , chap. 3 ) . Progressive thinkers fro m JohnStuart Mill t o Karl Marx embraced this conclusion a s a n invitation to challenge received forms of knowledge, be it by parliamentary or revolution­ ary means. However, neither Mill nor Marx was an academic. The academic response has been more muted but, for better or worse, more lasting. It involves jettisoning Plato's idea of a unified vision of reality as the basis for knowledge. Thus, one can attribute to different sectors of society-or even different societies-different forms of knowledge, each appropriate to the lives of those in its possession, without judging the knowledge to be distorted or deceptive in any way. This robust academic posture is commonly known as relativism, the doctrine most commonly associated with the sociology o f knowledge. As befits a n academic stance, relativism does not envisage that the society under study will or should change in light of academic investigation into its form of knowledge. This point has remained a constant in the history of the sociology of knowledge, which properly speaking begins only at this point. Not surprisingly, then, the main question posed by this inquiry has been, "How do societies come to acquire and maintain the knowledge they possess?" The history of the sociology of knowledge is a tale of two traditions, French and German. Both came to fruition in the period 1 890- 1 930. They are based on the proximity of knowers in space and time, respectively. Thus, the French tradition focused on how people of different origins who are concentrated in one space over time acquire a common mindset, whereas the German tradi­ tion focused on how people dispersed over a wide space retain a common mindset by virtue of having been born at roughly the same time.


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 13

The French tradition is exemplified by the work of Lucien Levy-Bruhl and Emile Durkheim, who regarded sustained interpersonal contact as the means by which a "collective consciousness" is forged and maintained. Both took tribal rituals as the paradigmatic site for the formation of this sort of con­ sciousness, whereby emotional energy is translated into such cognitively sig­ nificant artifacts as sacred texts and canonical procedures. The French tradition has been applied quite generally to cover the social construction of philosophical ( Collins 1 99 8 ) and scientific ( Bloor 1 9 76) knowledge. One striking and celebrated application of the French tradition was made by a Polish-German medical scientist, Ludwik Fleck ( 1 979), who in a popular book first published in the 1 930s explained the discovery of the syphilis vaccine in terms of "thought collectives" that many believe anticipated Thomas Kuhn's ( 1 970) influential concept of "paradigms." While the Fleck-Kuhn connection is somewhat tenuous, a clear legacy of the French tradition has been the "anthropologization" of the sociology of science, starting in the 1 970s, espe­ cially through Latour and Woolgar ( 1 986), a book that has been controversial for its explicit treatment of scientists at Jonas Salk's San Diego laboratory as natives in a remote tribe whose activities acquire meaning solely from happen­ ings in their immediate environment and not in response to a socially tran­ scendent reality. In contrast, the German tradition in the sociology of knowledge, exempli­ fied by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey and Karl Mannheim, was influenced more by history-indeed, historicism-than anthropology. Instead of looking at how the physical environment, including artifacts, constrains cognitive development, the German tradition focused on the overall world-view exhib­ ited by an array of texts produced by people who marched through time together-what sociologists today call a "generational cohort" (Mannheim 1 952). The character of this investigation tended to be more humanistic than naturalistic, modeled on hermeneutics rather than ethnography. Mannheim explicitly distanced his own sociology of knowledge from that of Wilhelm Jerusalem, who had coined the word Wissenssoziologie in a German translation of Levy-Bruhl. Mannheim objected to the potentially racialist implications of the French tradition, which stressed territoriality and lineage as sources of sol­ idarity rather than the gestalt of one's lifetime experience. For Mannheim ( 1 936), the paradigmatic vehicle of social knowledge was the political party, which projected an "ideology" or a "utopia," depending on whether the party's ideal society was located in the past or the future, respectively. An assumption common to both the French and German traditions is that collective p atterns of thought are constituted as acts of resistance to the environment. The exact nature of the resistance is explainable by the spatio­ temporal arrangement of the people concerned. Thus, a Durkheimian might show how religious rituals enable the faithful to escape the limitations of their material conditions and stand up to potential oppressors, while a Mannheim­ ian might show how a persistent ideology enables the experience of a particular


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generation to define the parameters of policy for the entire society. In both cases, the sociology of knowledge is meant to complement, not replace, the psychology of normal thought processes (or "logic," understood as normative psychology) through which individuals adapt to a world that is largely not of their making. 2. Science as a Special Problem for the Sociology of Knowledge

The sociology of knowledge finds itself in a peculiar normative position. Is its object of inquiry-organized resistance to the environment-to be valorized or pathologized? Are tribal religions and political ideologies instances o f thought operating a t a standard, a s i t were, "above" o r "below" that o f normal reasoning? Are they vocations or manias? The two sociology of knowledge tra­ ditions are themselves ambivalent on this point. This ambivalence has per .. sisted through the history of the field, culminating in Berger and Luckmann's The Social Construction of Reality ( 1 967), which eclectically mixes the two tra­ ditions. The addition of science as a potential object of inquiry has only com­ plicated matters. Among the founders of modern sociology, the Italian political economist Vilfredo Pareto was perhaps clearest about the "non-logical," or "arational," status of the forms of knowledge eligible for sociological scrutiny. Reflecting his original training in physics, Pareto declared that rationality is self­ explanatory as the path of least resistance between ends and means, while sociology is needed to explain the friction of bias and error that usually gets in the way. The "rational choice" paradigm in the social sciences retains this perspective today. It was also how positivistically inclined philosophers of science from Hans Reichenbach ( 1 93 8 ) to Larry Laudan ( 1 977) divided the intellectual labor between the epistemology and the sociology of knowledge. In each case, it was presumed that science would always fall on the rational side of the divide and, hence, not require special sociological treatment. Mannheim himself justified the presumption on reflexive grounds: sociol­ ogy could not be trusted to study knowledge scientifically unless it was sys­ tematically immune to the kinds of frictions Pareto identified . By the 1 940s, Robert Merton ( 1 977) identified four aspects of the normative structure of science-universalism, communalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism-that provided an allegedly sociological gloss on Mannheim's justification. This general line of reasoning came to be seriously challenged in the late-1 970s from two sources, one conceptual and one empirical, which together formed the basis of STS. The conceptual challenge turned on the definition of science used to infer that it is necessarily a rational activity. Science had been said to be rational because scientists pursue their research programs to their logical conclusions, which result in the validation or invalidation of their theories. But might not the same be said of a religion or a political party? This question seems not to have been asked in the past because sociologists had been operating with an


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 15

equivocal sense of "consequences": scientists were being held accountable only for things they were trying to do in their research sites, whereas the bearers of other forms of knowledge were held accountable for all the consequences of their actions, both intended and unintended. If scientists were likewise held to this broader standard, then they too might not appear so "rational," or at least their rationality would need to be redefined in terms that go beyond the offi­ cial methods of science. For example, the socially and ecologically transforma­ tive, sometimes even destructive, character of science would need to be taken into any overall j udgment of its rationality. Within STS, this challenge has been most keenly taken up by social epistemology, a field that attempts to reconstruct a normative order for science in light of this socially expanded sense of consequences. Social epistemology may be understood as using socio­ logical means to address philosophical questions, thereby turning epistemol­ ogy into a form of science policy ( Fuller 1988) . There is a strong democratic theme to this line of inquiry, based on the idea science cannot legitimately claim to be a universal form of knowledge unless it has a strong sense of public accountability. However, social epistemology so described remains as minority report within STS, where the majority holds that "universality" is more part of the ideology than the reality of science. Instead, the empirical challenge has turned out to be more indicative of STS research. Here too a double standard is identified, this time in terms of the evidence used to infer science's "normative structure." In both the French and German traditions, the sociology of knowledge tended to "demystify" the forms of knowledge it studied by focusing on the relationship between know­ ers' words and deeds. There usually proved to be a discrepancy, often system­ atic, which led sociologists to interpret what the knowers said as either a strategic recoding (French) or an unwitting distortion (German) of their com­ mon reality. However, Merton's evidence for the normative structure of sci­ ence was not based on this general approach. Rather, he simply surveyed the methodological pronouncements of distinguished scientists and philosophers. Empirically speaking, this was akin to constructing a sociology of religion solely out of the writings of saints and theologians. Not surprisingly, once STS incorporated science into the sociology of knowledge, many scientists took offense at the public recognition that their laboratory deeds were usually much more ordinary and, hence, recognizable, than the exalted philosophical words used to refer to them (e.g., "true," "rational;' "objective") . This demysti­ fication was bound to lead to delegitimation, they thought. Moreover, the his­ torical timing of STS research did little to quell scientists' suspicions. Its ascendancy during the twilight of the Cold War coincided with increased pub­ lic questioning of science's role in society. However, relatively few STS researchers have voiced anti-science sentiments. Rather, they have advised sci­ entists to tone down their philosophical rhetoric and make people aware of the genuine skills they bring to a variety of social and intellectual problems (Collins and Pinch 1 993). Nevertheless, this counsel of moderation failed to


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prevent the outbreak of the Science Wars (Gross and Levitt 1 994, Ross 1 996, Koertge 1 998, Fuller 2000b, 354-65) . To b e sure, the sociology of knowledge has been a lightning rod for con­ troversy ever since the field started to travel under that name in the interwar years of the twentieth centllry (Frisby 1 99 2 ) . Intellectuals who welcomed social scientific explanations, evaluations, and improvements of social life in general have typically balked at the consequences of those approaches applied to themselves. Observant of this history, Ian Hacking has established himself as an honest philosophical broker in the Science Wars, especially through his popular work, The Social Construction of What? ( Hacking 1 9 9 8 ) . However, the issue i s not a s neatly reducible a s Hacking thinks t o scientists' resistance to the application of scientific scrutiny to their own practices. O n the contrary, S T S probably suffers from a greater lack of reflexivity than its scientific opponents. Hacking suggests-albeit ambiguously-that social constructivism has succeeded in unmasking the pretensions of certain elite scientists who would like science to do more political work than is strictly warranted. At the same time, he also believes that the political and philosophical functions of social constructivism need to be kept separate: the former he calls "unmasking" (or "demystifying") and the latter "refuting." (Hacking believes that a few exem­ plary works, such as MacKenzie 1 990, combine both.) Thus, the philosophical currency in which the Science Wars is traded-debates over contingency v. necessity, nominalism v. realism, externalism v. internalism-is likely to remain forever inconclusive. But that does not deny that social constructivism has drawn attention to oppressive features of science's grip on society. Hacking's message, then, is that science's negative social functions should be addressed, even if social constructivism cannot provide a knock-down epistemological critique of science. There is much to be said for such an evenhanded approach. Hacking shows that scientists mistakenly presume that unmasking a scientific practice is tan­ tamount to refuting the practice's underlying knowledge claims. Yet, his account also implies an unmasking of the unmaskers, since it would appear that social constructivism's radical philosophical packaging is a diversion from its straightforward empirical proposition that certain scientifically inspired ideas have justified oppressive social practices. But this immediately raises the question of why abstract philosophical distinctions should have defined the terms of the Science Wars in the first place. On Hacking's telling, they amount to little more than sophisticated name- calling. Here lies the blindspot in Hacking's account-his generally anti-theoretical approach to the philosophy of science (Hacking 1 98 3 ) . More like social constructivists than their philo­ sophical and scientific antagonists, Hacking iixates on the status of the labora­ tory sciences as "stable material practices" to such an extent that he ignores the rhetorical significance of these practices commanding the relevant philo­ sophical labels of "rational," "real," "objective," etc. Yet, command over this


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 1 7

rhetoric remains the primary mode of social legitimation in all the sciences. After all, why should intelligent lay people see a connection between the stabil­ ity of laboratory phenomena and the stability of everyday social life, once words like "rationality," "reality," and "objectivity" lose their significance (Fuller 1 997, 40-79)? How many people are familiar with the stages by which a laboratory finding is stabilized into a nugget of knowledge or a reliable tech­ nique? Were the numbers large, STS would not have caused such a stir. In this respect, natural scientists concerned about the consequences of their fields being seen as "constructed" have had a better grasp of how the sociology of knowledge informs their situation than have their sociological opponents. Scientists are not just personally offended by social constructivism; they are justifiably worried about the fate of their endeavors. My own position in the Science Wars can be captured precisely in the fol­ lowing paradox: I agree with the scientists' sociology of knowledge and the sociol­ ogists' philosophy of science. In other words, social constructivist accounts of science are largely correct, but science's high epistemic status in contemporary society depends on the principled rejection of such accounts. Thus, the social epistemology of science must ask how science is to be legitimated once social constructivist accounts are widely accepted. Can science, like religion, survive in a demystified form? Thomas Kuhn-still the philosopher of choice in pub­ lic understandings of science-ill equips us to address this question because practitioners of a scientific paradigm are licensed to discuss the overall ends of their inquiry only once it has started to fail on its own terms and, hence, enters a "crisis." This point applies with a vengeance to STS's desire for academic respectability. It has led the field to embrace the Kuhnian image of normal science, which has in turn disabled it from seeing the reflexive consequences of its own practices on the larger society. When scientists complain about the cynicism that STS seeds in society at-large, STS responds by pointing to all the wonderful, empirical phenomena it uncovers. When Karl Mannheim proposed that a "free-floating intelligentsia" would be the ideal unmaskers, the last thing he imagined was that they would sell their critical independence for the protective coloration afforded by a para­ digm, as arguably STS has done. Hacking draws the distinction between "unmasking" and "refuting" from Mannheim's original demarcation of the sociology of knowledge from epistemology. [The unmasking] turn of mind . . . does not seek to refute, negate, or call in doubt certain ideas, but rather to disintegrate them, and that in such a way that the whole world outlook of a social stratum becomes disinte­ grated at the same time. We must pay attention, at this point, to the phe­ nomenological distinction between "denying the truth" of an idea and "determining the function" it exercises. In denying the truth of an idea, I still presuppose it as a "thesis" and thus put myself upon the theoretical ( and nothing but theoretical) basis as the one on which the idea is


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and Technology Studies

constituted. In casting doubt upon the " idea," I still think within the same categorical pattern as the one in which it has its being. But when I do not even raise the question (or at least when I do not make this ques­ tion the burden of my argument) whether what the idea asserts is true, but consider it merely in terms of the extra- theoretical function it serves, then and only then do I achieve an "unmasking" which in fact repre­ sents no theoretical refutation but the destruction of the practical effec­ tiveness of these ideas (Mannheim 1 952, 1 40). Hacking follows most commentators in interpreting Mannheim as juxta­ p osing two equally valid methods for evaluating knowledge claims, with "unmasking" and "refuting" corresponding to "external" and " internal" approaches. The question for Hacking, then, is whether the former requires the latter to complete its task. (Hacking says no.) However, Mannheim himself did not regard the two methods as equally valid, especially in an age of ideo­ logical conflict. Refuting the knowledge claims of an ideology that is not one's own is both too easy and too difficult. For example, it is easy to refute Marxist arguments about capitalist exploitation if one does not presuppose that the capitalist extracts "surplus value" from the worker; but once the presupposi­ tion is granted, it is virtually impossible to refute the Marxist. Under the cir­ cumstances, the usual epistemological tools will not work. Consequently, the sociology of knowledge is needed to reveal the background conditions that have maintained the set of presuppositions that constitute an ideological framework. Like a wide range of thinkers of the interwar period concerned with "frameworks" in the broadest sense-ranging from positivist Rudolf Carnap to idealist Robin Collingwood-Mannheim assumed that an ideology's pre­ suppositions are logically independent of one another but combine for histor­ ically contingent reasons. The sociologist thus unmasks the ideology by identifying the relevant background reasons for each presupposition, thereby providing grounds for "disintegrating" the ideology's particular combination. This unmasking may turn out to be a diagnostic reading of the ideology focused on stock examples ("paradigms" in that sense) used to motivate the ideology's arguments. For example, the prima facie plausibility of the Marxist ideological framework trades on our tendency to imagine "labor" in terms of the nineteenth-century factory worker,' say, drawn from the pages of Charles Dickens. In a sense, Marxism is designed to address different aspects of this striking image. And perhaps the relevant mental associations were grounded in the reality experienced by Karl Marx and his original followers. Neverthe­ less, it is no longer clear that it captures the experience of labor today. When Mannheim boldly suggested that deeply held knowledge claims can­ not be evaluated simply at their level of expression, Karl Popper notoriously demonized the sociology of knowledge, alongside psychoanalysis and, indeed, Marxism, as part of the ongoing authoritarian subversion of rational thought


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to

STS . 19

( Popper 1 945, chap. 2 3 ) . However, for Popper rationality was a modest thing-no more than the product of an irrational choice to be sensitive to error and to eliminate it from future action. Popper's objection to Mannheim was not that Mannheim promoted irrationality but that he pretended to a higher form of rationality that served only to undermine Popper's modest ver­ sion, as Mannheim restricted the capacity for criticism to those adept at the relevant unmasking techniques. While Popper scored a lasting rhetorical vic­ tory over Mannheim, Popper himself held that if ideologues are not willing to submit their knowledge-expressed arguments to possible refutation, then little could be done about it-since rationality is, in the final analysis, a matter of choice. Abstracted from the Weimar context in which Mannheim and Popper honed their views, we can see that the unmasker, Mannheim, engages more of human psychology in his sociologically comprehensive conception of ratio­ nality than the refuter, Popper, in his narrowly philosophical conception. In particular, the unmasker presumes that the mind is a house divided against itself, so that to address knowledge claims simply as expressed is to ignore the conflicting motives that remain unexpressed in the claims. Moreover, the unmasker presumes that the psychic balance of power can be redistributed under the right environmental conditions. For example, Mannheim seemed to anticipate the idea of the "consensus conference;' which aims to resolve the ideological differences of participants by having them focus on a common task, the design of policy guidelines that would be binding on all concerned ( Fuller 2000a, 1 1 - 1 9; cf. Hacohen 2000, 542-43 ) . If someone like Popper interprets this as manipulation, it may be that he presumes people should alter their beliefs only when these are explicitly challenged, not when the conditions that first made the beliefs plausible have changed. Mannheim was alive to what Jon Elster ( 1999, 341) has called the "civilizing force of hypocrisy," whereby people mask their beliefs in contexts where the expression of those beliefs is immaterial and perhaps even detrimental to their interests. Moreover, if these contexts, once institutionalized, have regularly served people's interests, people may come to adopt the masks as their true selves and thereby learn to want different things. Indeed, the deliberative char­ acter of civic republican democracies aims to facilitate this psychic transfor­ mation by providing incentives for people to think of their own personal interests as best served by promoting the interests of others (Pettit 1 997; cf. Fuller 2000a). In this respect, Mannheim wished to accomplish by political design what the capitalist marketplace had clearly failed to achieve by studied indirection, namely, the conversion of private vices to public virtue. In more strictly social psychological terms, Mannheim supposed that in a specially constructed deci­ sion-making environment, people could be made to adapt their preferences so as to overcome the divisive anchoring effects of their disparate histories. Pop­ per believed that the implementation of Mannheim's proposal would do more


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harm than good, whereas more recent defenders of deliberative democracy, such as J urgen Habermas, o ften write as if it were possible to achieve Mannheim's objective within already existing political structures. For its part, STS has largely failed to take up normative reconstruction as the positive side of the project that begins by unmasking ideologies that cannot be directly refuted. I shall redress this deficiency in the final chapter of this book in terms of "scientific citizenship." It is worth observing that, with the onset of World War II, Mannheim him­ self abandoned the disciplinary divide that increasingly separated epistemol­ ogy ( "rational") and sociology of knowledge ( "arational"). Indeed, once he moved to London and b ecame ensconced as Professor at the Institute of Education, Mannheim ( 1 940) adopted a "rational planning" p erspective toward society reminiscent of American pragmatism, a point that was observed sympathetically at the time by the young C. Wright Mills ( 1 93 9 ) . Indeed, Mannheim's shift helped seed Mills's political critique of science a s a military-industrial complex during the Cold War (Nelson 1 995). However, science is not so easily assimilated to the pragmatist model, since it is not obvious that science has had markedly rational consequences outside the controlled mental and physical spaces-say, seminars and laboratories-in which its distinctive forms of knowledge have b een produced. After all, if judgments about the rationality of religion and politics were similarly con­ fined to, say, theological disputation and parliamentary debate, would judg­ ments of their rationality suffer significantly by comparison with science? Here the extended legacy of the Vienna Circle-including Carnap, Popper, and to a large extent Kuhn-provides an instructive point of reference. In most general terms, the Vienna Circle regarded conceptual frameworks in a generally Kantian fashion. Thus, the "external" question of which framework should be selected was treated as "practical;' whereas the "internal" question of what follows from a selected framework was treated as "theoretical." This led to what we now recognize as an "asymmetrical" treatment of framework origins and consequences. The former represented an existential choice; the latter was determined by logic. Mannheim departed from this legacy by interpreting the "consequences" of such a framework in existential, not logical, terms. This led him before 1 940 to exclude the natural sciences and mathematics from the purview of the sociol­ ogy of knowledge. But after 1 940, he began to include these disciplines-at the cost of keeping their rationality an empirically open question. After all, the traditionally "purest" of the sciences-mathematics and physics-were inte­ gral to what were shaping up to be some of the most oppressive and destruc­ tive episodes in human histo ry. In other words, the original turn to "symmetry" in the sociology of knowledge, otherwise so closely associated with the studied neutrality of STS research, came less from an open-minded­ ness to alternative research trajectories than from an openly critical attitude toward the dominant trajectory. Nevertheless, the overall history of STS has


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 2 1

consisted in the gradual removal of the normative sting of Mannheim's later sociology of knowledge, largely by attenuating science's status as a form of organized inquiry that offers collective resistance to the world in which it finds itself. The U.S. rhetorician Kenneth Burke ( 1 969) wrote knowingly of how to get into the mindset for appreciating Mannheim's sociology of knowledge: per­ spective by incongruity. The idea is to break up an image into its component parts-in this case, the contingently associated presuppositions of an ideo­ logical framework� much as the early-twentieth- century art movement Cubism flattened out three-dimensional vision on a canvas by placing side by side the different perspectives from which the visual image is composed. Thus, the viewer could appreciate at once the constructed nature of the taken­ for-granted image through the disorientation that results from its literal deconstruction. In contrast, sticking to the art history analogy, STS research­ ers tend toward "impressionism," whereas normative philosophers of science render the research site in "abstract" terms, reminiscent of Mondriaan or Kan­ dinsky. The former captures the shimmering and transient surfaces of labora­ tory life, the latter the pure epistemic substratum that belies the welter of scientific practices. Much trickier to critique is an image that seamlessly melds aspects of science from different places and times into a composite whole that conveys the impression of a timeless idea, as, say, art done in the classical style. Step forward Thomas Kuhn. 3. Kuhn's Checkered Legacy to STS

The historical sensibility that informs Kuhn's masterwork, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn 1 970), is best described as syncretistic: he com­ bines features from different periods in the history of science as if they had been always present together (Fuller 2000b, 195 f£) . Thus, it is easy to find his­ torical examples that fit elements of his account of scientific practice and the stages through which it allegedly passes: a politically and metaphysical divisive prehistory, followed by consolidation around a research exemplar that pro­ vides a blueprint for future inquiries (i.e., "paradigm") , which then leads to activities that aim to realize the blueprint (i.e., normal science) , which in turn generate unsolved problems (i.e., "anomalies") , enough of which then gener­ ate a "crisis" out of which a "revolution" and new paradigm then spring. How­ ever, it is impossible to find a historically extended episode that exemplifies this entire cycle. Not surprisingly, Kuhn's historical examples in Structure are no more elaborated than those of other historically minded philosophers of science of his time, such as Imre Lakatos ( 1 9 8 1 ) or Larry Laudan ( 1 977) . For each, history provides snapshots of a process purportedly explained by the theory on behalf of which the examples have been mobilized. Thus, Kuhn never tells us the social processes by which members of an actual scientific community came to perceive the accumulation of anomalies in their paradigm as constitutive of a crisis.


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To be sure, some STS practitioners have tried to put flesh on these Kuh­ nian bones. But significantly, the scale of the scientific communities they have studied is much reduced from the original sociological pretensions of "paradigm," which was supposed to refer to an entire discipline or sub-disci­ pline, not a mere research team (e.g., Pickering 1 984). And while few STS practitioners openly endorse the model o f scientific change presented in Structure, little effort has been made to find a replacement. Moreover, there is no reason to think that an aggregation of such "micro-Kuhnian" stories of the sort will add to Kuhn's own grand narrative. On the contrary, it may simply render science more susceptible to the "ends-turned-into-means" reversal discussed in section 5 below. Syncretism in historical writing is associated with what rhetoricians call chiasmus, an exchange of properties that serves to blur the difference between the entities from which the properties are drawn. Consider Kuhn's translation of the philosophical problem of "rationality" in science. In a nutshell, the his­ tory of modern science has thrown up two ways of conceptualizing the differ­ ence between "rational" and "irrational;' each associated with a philosophical standard-bearer, which I have called Enlightenment and positivist to mark their origins in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century thought, respectively (Fuller 2000b, 289-94) . Kuhn's innovation was to recombine these two distinctions into alternating phases of his model of scientific change: normal and revolu­ tionary. The result neutralized the normatively charged language in which both the Enlightenment and the positivist accounts of rationality had been cast. Thus, the philosophy of science lost its scary "demarcationist" image, which seemed ever on the lookout for charlatans. Indeed, Kuhn's model was sufficiently user-friendly to be adopted by social scientists and other inveterate pseudoscientists as a recipe for enhancing their epistemic status. Comparing tables 1 and 2, we see that each Kuhnian phase contains ele­ ments of both historical models of scientific change. Specifically, Kuhn com­ bined the tradition-method diagonal into the concept of normal science and Table 1 Phi losophy of Science before Kuhn

Philosophical Conceptions of Image of the Rational Rationality

Image of the Irrational

Enlightenment

Critique

Tradition

Positivist

Method

Disorder

Table 2 P h i l osophy of Science after Kuhn

Phases of Science

Normal Science (aka "rational")

Revolutionary Science (aka "irrational")

Research practice

Method

Critique

Social backdrop

Tradition

Disorder


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 23

the critique-disorder diagonal into the concept of revolutionary science. More­ over, because Kuhn made it clear that normal science was typical and revolu­ tionary science aberrant, he was widely read as promoting normal science as a new model of rationality, with revolutionary science implicitly standing for irrationality. A sign of this shift was that the most prominent post-Kuhnian spokesperson for "science criticism" came to be the self-styled epistemological anarchist, Paul Feyerabend, whereas previously it had been that Enlightenment stalwart, Karl Popper. The legacy of the Kuhnian chiasmus continues in the ten­ dency (e.g., Habermas, Mary Hesse) to assimilate all social epistemologies of science to the conformism of the "consensus theory of truth;' including those (e.g., C. S. Peirce's, Donald Campbell's, my own) that clearly place disputation and competition at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Charitable readers may wish to interpret Kuhn's model of scientific change as a Weberian "ideal type" that strategically highlights certain features that a wide range of cases exhibit to varying degrees but none exhibits completely. However, this charitable gesture is problematic because, as we have seen, Kuhn's model is primarily normative in intent. Thus, philosophers have gener­ ally rejected the model, not for its lack of empirical adequacy or historical verisimilitude but for its supposed failure to give rationalism and realism their dues as meta-norms of scientific inquiry. Similarly, social scientists have embraced the model, not because it captured the actual histories of their disci­ plines but because it seemed to offer a prescription for converting their disci­ plines into proper sciences. In this respect, Kuhn's model has been received in much the same way social scientists have received homo economicus. Most sociologists continue to reject homo economicus, less for its failure to predict social behavior than for the "asocial" image of people it implies. In contrast, economists treat the model as a standard against which actual economies may be judged and, in the right policy context, improved. It was precisely these normatively inspired appeals to homo economicus that Weber's conception of ideal type was meant to oppose. But more importantly, it is problematic to treat Kuhn's model of scientific change as an ideal type because Structure's syncretism combines aspects of dif­ ferent periods in the history of science that have sociologically excluded each other, thereby rendering his model empirically incoherent. Kuhn assumes that changes in the size and shape of the social structure of science have not altered the cognitive motivation for doing science. Moreover, Kuhn's presumption comes with a twist: The likes of Newton and Maxwell are assigned today's moti­ vation rather than to day's scientists being assigned Newton's and Maxwell's motivation. Thus, Kuhn's historical examples draw mostly from a 300-year span of the history of the physical sciences in Europe, roughly bounded by the 1 620s and the 1 920s, yet the terms he uses to discuss them-the language of "paradigms"-start to have currency in the period immediately afterward. At stake here are the background social conditions under which science is regarded as a self-organizing community of inquirers with sufficient control


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Table 3 Sociology of Science before K u h n

Sociological Conditions for Autonomy

"Little Science"

"Big Science"

Micro-foundations

Individual curiosity

Technical problems

Macro-foundations

Self-organized scientific

State-sponsored research

societies

and train ing programs

Table 4 Sociology of Science after Kuhn

Paradigmatic Phases of Science

Normal Science

Revolutionary Science

Micro-foundations

Technical problems

Individual curiosity

Macro-foundations

Self-organized scientific

State-sponsored research

societies

and training programs

over the means o f knowledge production to enjoy sovereignty over who counts as a scientist, what counts as a valid knowledge claim, and what consti­ tutes an appropriate research direction. Tables 3 and 4 present the resulting syncretism, whereby features of two successive stages in the institutional his­ tory of modern science, "little" and "big" science, have been recombined to produce the alternating paradigmatic phases of normal and revolutionary sci­ ence, driven by "internal" and "external" factors, respectively. As we shall see, it would be a mistake to see the impact of Kuhn's syncretism as confined to philosophical conceptions of rationality. If anything, it left a stronger impres­ sion on sociological conceptions of scientific autonomy. In the p eriod fro m which Kuhn's examples are drawn, the economic demands and political ambitions of science were relatively modest. For exam­ ple, the Charter of the Royal Society of London granted an exclusive license to practice science in exchange for loyalty to the Crown. The Royal Society did not depend on the Crown for funding its activities, nor did the Crown expect that the Royal Society would solve all of Britain's political and economic prob­ lems. Of course, government expectations ( and hence funding) were raised from time to time, but in the period from which Kuhn's model is drawn, sci­ entific activity was organized and funded largely by private means and, in that sense, autonomous from the larger political and economic forces in society. Moreover, the experimentalists and naturalists associated with the original scientific institutions tended to be independent spirits who pursued a wide variety of research agendas and metaphysical orientations. What united them was agreement on the means of peer appraisal. This view of scientific inquiry as a couplet of diverse inspirations and common evaluations was eventually canonized in the philosophical literature as the distinction between the con­ texts of "discovery" and "justification." In telling contrast, Kuhn disavowed the distinction, especially its implication that the impulse to discover comes from


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philos ophical Backdrop to STS . 25

outside a duly constituted scientific paradigm. For their part, it is unlikely that the early members of the Royal Society would have regarded their efforts as "puzzle-solving" contributions to Kuhnian "normal science." Here it is worth stressing that Kuhn's vision is equally opposed to orienta­ tions to science as otherwise different as Michael Polanyi's ( 1 9 5 7 ) "mutual trust" and Percy Bridgman's "operationalism." Nowadays, Polanyi's sense of trust is interpreted as based on the professional competence of fellow scien­ tists, such that colleagues "trust" one another's research accounts unless there is reason to suspect error or fraud. However, Polanyi was ultimately harking back to a monastic ideal that implied the ultimate irrationality (qua unra­ tionalizability) of the exact course that the sincere inquirer would need to take in order to arrive at God. A self-recognized community of the faithful would nevertheless be able to determine whether inquirers had reached their destina­ tion. Bridgman's operationalism updated this perspective for an age that had begun to transfer its faith in human judgment to mechanical measures. Yet, here too the source of the concepts that were in need of operationalization was that mysterious pre-positivist world of "metaphysics," the tangible fruits of which operationalism would ultimately reveal. Remnants of Polanyi's monastic ideal can be found today in popular sci­ ence writing that motivates the path of inquiry by appealing to "curiosity" as a secular version of spiritual longing. Yet, curiosity fails to capture the micro­ foundations for the autonomy found in Kuhn's conception of normal science. Structure presents a micro-level account much closer to twentieth-century trends in the specialization and massification of scientific inquiry. Here scien­ tific autonomy is underwritten by a social contract between science and the state that began with the German strategy in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and came to fruition in U.S. science policy in the Cold War ( Fuller 2000b, chaps. 3-4). This period corresponds to the emergence of the military-indus­ trial complex that marks the transition from little to big science in table 3 . Thus, p eer review processes have b e e n extended fro m t h e validation of research results to the very right to conduct research. Scientists now depend on peers not only for final publication but also for prior accreditation and funding (Fuller 2002a, app. ). They are no longer curi­ ous "all-rounders" but tunnel-visioned technicians focused on problems of little relevance outside a widely shared paradigm. For this reason, followers of Karl Popper came to regard the workings of a Kuhnian paradigm as an expres­ sion of the herd mentality ( Fuller 2003a, chaps 1-3 ) . Yet, all of Kuhn's exam­ ples come from before the onset of this objectionable micro-sociology. This oversight reflects the relative continuity of the language of scientific justifica­ tion across major historic changes in science's scale and scope ( Fuller 2000a, 2 8-45 ) . In other words, even though scientists are now doing radically different things in radically different contexts from three centuries ago, they nevertheless draw on largely the same linguistic resources to justify their knowledge claims. Not surprisingly, then, philosophers continue to rely on


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seventeenth- century science to illustrate basic points about the scientific method. Even the famous four sociological norms of science proposed in Merton ( 1 977) were plucked from the pronouncements of philosophers and scientists over several centuries, without reference to particular scientific practices. In comparative morphology, a distinction useful in this context is drawn between homologues and analogues ( Runciman 1 998, 2 8 ) . Biologists have observed, on the one hand, similar-looking physical structures that perform dif­ ferent functions in different species (homologues), and on the other, recurrent organic functions that are performed by different structures in different species (analogues) . That all homologues are not analogues helped undermine the idea of a universal blueprint for life that might have been used by a divine creator. We have yet to reach a comparable state of awareness in our understanding of sci­ ence, whereby the multiple research contexts in which "the scientific method" has been invoked would serve to undermine the method's univocality. To some extent, STS has been sensitive to this point, especially by drawing attention to the discrepancy between what scientists do and what they say they do. However, syncretism sets in, once STSers follow Kuhn's example, fortified by that protean creature, the "situated reasoner" of micro-sociology. The result is the mysterious image of scientists organized into discrete communities (aka "incommensurable paradigms") spread over time and space that nevertheless manage to interpret the same norms in ways that have radically different consequences for their communities and the knowledge they produce. In what sense, then, can these norms remain "the same"? I shall return to this question in the next chapter. STS's sociological sensibility is the result of Kuhn's historical sensibility minus his philosophical sensibility, or, as I see it, what is bad about The Struc­ ture of Scientific Revolutions without what is good about it-and certainly what Kuhn thought had justified his account of science. Since I have so far dwelled on the bad features of Kuhn's account, let me finally turn to what was good about it, though admittedly Kuhn himself was not its most ardent publi­ cist. It consists in the homely proposition: Science is only sometimes pure inquiry. Kuhn had a clear sense of the different social functions that science might perform, but he chose to dwell on only one of them-its function as organized inquiry. His justification is worth recalling, especially since it was made in response to why he had not altered his account, given twentieth­ century developments in science: I see no reason to suppose that the things I think I have learned about the nature of knowledge are going to be disturbed by the need to change the theory of science. I could be all wrong with respect both to science and to the nature of knowledge, but I would make this separation to explain why I'm less concerned about the question, "Is science changing?" than I might be if studying the nature of science weren't in the first instance simply a way of looking at the picture of knowledge [Sigurdsson 1990, 24] .


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 27

The suggestion here is that at some point in its history, the social function of science may turn (or have turned) out to be a factor of production or an instrument of governance, rather than a search for knowledge. In that case, science drops out of the normative horizons of Kuhn's model. While science might continue to produce truths on a reliable basis, the truths so produced would be done under social conditions that preclude science from constituting autonomous inquiry. This was early appreciated by the more astute of Kuhn's radical followers, especially Jerome Ravetz ( 1 9 7 1 ) , who went on to found the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science. However, fields as appar­ ently opposed to each other as analytic epistemology and STS have been united in their failure to appreciate this. Contemporary analytic epistemology, p artly under the influence o f W. V. O . Quine ( 1 969), i s i n a self-styled "naturalistic" phase that i s preoccu­ pied with distinguishing forms of inquiry that on a regular basis are "truth­ oriented" and "non-truth-oriented." Only the former are deemed "reliable" ( Goldman 1 999). The project aims to prove two things at once: first, that we are "always already," seeking the truth whenever we are engaged in a putatively rational activity; second, that we can (at least in principle) determine just how truth-oriented such an activity is. Given the above quote from Kuhn, it would seem that the preoccupation with reliability may allow science to win all the epistemological battles, yet lose the larger axiological war, if it turns out that science's reliably produced truths are produced in the aid of interests that per­ vert or perhaps even subvert the overall course of inquiry. One example that would have been vivid for Kuhn was the capture of physics by a military­ industrial complex keen on perfecting its understanding of the payload delivery of top-secret weapons. Thus, we need to distinguish between the pursuit of knowledge as an end in itself and as a prerequisite for pursuing other ends. The former captures Kuhn's sensibility, the latter the naturalized epistemologist's. To be sure, the distinc­ tion is delicate to maintain in practice, as naturalists are prone to legitimate the "serving two masters" scenario of Cold War science policy. The situation is not helped by STS's constructivist gloss, which denies an a priori distinction between satisfying the needs of knowledge and other needs. Rather, it is con­ structed ex post facto, which may prove especially convenient if one does not need nor want to take responsibility for all of the consequences of one's actions. Here one is reminded of the Jesuit do ctrine of "double e ffect," whereby the killing of a combatant does not violate the Ten Commandments if it is an unintended, albeit expected, consequence of a vigorous defense of Christendom. (Nowadays this doctrine is most familiar as the liberal Catholic justification of abortion.) A secular version of this doctrine enables scientists to take credit for the pathologies they help cure but not the problems they help cause, though the two may come as part of a package deal. Crucial to these cases is the conceptual differentiation of causal streams from a common set of actions, so that types of effects can be easily discussed independently of


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one another. This is what Quine ( 1 953) originally called "referential opacity" and some STS researchers regard more fancifully as "ontological generativity" (Latour 1 988b). Either way, it inhibits a sense of social responsibility that might exceed the narrow reach of the agent's original intentions ( Fuller and Collier 2004, chap. 7). However, lacking a comprehensive, let alone teleologi­ cal, conception of truth in the service of humanity beyond the reliable applica­ tion o f the latest methods, both naturalized epistemologi s ts and S T S researchers make themselves easy marks for more powerful principals with a focused sense of the ends to which science should be put (Fuller 2002d). 4. The Punch Line: A Sociology of Science that is not a Sociology of Knowledge

The sociology of science has undergone three stages, since it broke away from the universalist aspirations of normative epistemology. These stages can be cast as successive attenuations of the idea of "scientific rationality." In the first stage, rationality is relativized. Fleck was perhaps the first to make this move by applying the French tradition in the sociology of knowledge to science itself. By the early- 1 960s, Michael Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn had elaborated this position based partly on philosophical considerations and their own expe­ rience as scientists. However, it was only in the 1 970s and the rise of STS that science was fully incorporated within the sociology of knowledge. In the second stage, scientific rationality is bracketed. This is characteristic of mainstream STS research today. Bracketing implies that apparent differ­ ences in the rationality of, say, science and religion or politics-or even true science and false science-is an artifact of the evaluative framework the inquirer uses. Seen from the inside, all sustainable social practices are rational. Thus, when practices seem irrational to an outsider, such as the sociologist, that is probably because she is applying a framework alien to the insiders. This move has significant implications for the historical study of science. It means that a proper appreciation of the agents' rationality requires that the historian see them as confronting a future open to several different directions and not simply the one that eventually prevailed. The classic work in this vein is Leviathan and the Air-Pump ( Shapin and Schaffer 1 98 5 ) , which recounts a debate between Thomas Hobbes and Robert B oyle that resulted in the triumph of experiment over philosophy in the establishment of claims to scientific knowledge. The third and most recent stage would have scientific rationality eliminated altogether. This radical proposal is associated with a tendency since the late1 980s to erase any strong distinction between science and the larger society. This undifferentiated entity, technoscience, is nowadays identified as the proper object of STS. In a sense, this is the "conceptual" challenge carried to its logical extreme. In that case, scientific rationality does not exist as a uniquely truth­ oriented, or objective, mode of operation but simply as a special case of politi­ cal rationality. According to one influential formulation, those who maintain


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 29

the longest technoscientific networks for the longest time simply come to be defined as both the most knowledgeable and most powerful, with the former predicate used to explain the latter by obscuring the local struggles faced along the way ( Latour 1987). By the time we reach this point, it is fair to ask whether STS's failure to rec­ ognize the "epistemic" character of science removes it from the sociology of knowledge. However we answer this question, the phenomenon is itself worthy of study as an episode in the sociology of knowledge. The techno scientific turn may be radical from the standpoint of the intellectual history of STS, but it also provides an explication, perhaps even legitimation, for associated social tendencies that have accompanied the decline of the welfare state and the rise of neo-liberalism. These are associated with the claims that we live in "knowl­ edge societies" ( Stehr 1 994) in need of "knowledge management" ( Fuller 2002a). As state funding has devolved to the private sector, it has become increasingly common to regard knowledge as a commodity traded in many markets by many producers. In this emerging political economy, traditionally state-supported institutions like universities n o longer enjoy any special advantage. Indeed, to increase their competitiveness, universities have had to become more sensitive to potential research "clients" and student "consum­ ers." Scientists have adapted especially well to this new environment by forging technoscientific networks that bring together academia, the state, and indus­ try. The results include patents, power, and profits. However, it is unclear whether the integrity of science as a form of knowledge can survive this trans­ formation that STS mirrors all too well. Knowledge managers perversely combine the classical philosophical idea that knowledge is given to "multiple instantiations" and the neo-classical eco­ nomic idea that rational agents are "constrained maximizers." They conclude that knowledge is valuable only on a "need to know" basis by whatever organi­ zational arrangement happens to be most efficient to the task at hand. Of course, philosophers and economists themselves have tended to regard knowl­ edge as a special good-called "public," "collective;' or "ethereal"-that resists such a reductive move. Nevertheless, this traditional normative barrier has begun to come down, especially as increasing numbers of STS researchers find themselves on short-term academic contracts that make them beholden to non-academic "clients" for continued support. Thus, in the knowledge man­ agement literature, a university is the paradigm case of a "dumb organization" that is so high on "intellectual capital" but low on "structural capital" that managers cannot fully capture the fruits of their employees' labors. Here the "smart organization" is exemplified by a fast food franchise whose low intel­ lectual capital is complemented by the high structural capital supplied by knowledge managers (Stewart 1997). This is hardly the ideal social setting for reviving Mannheim's late project of developing institutions for incorporating more of the populace in collective deliberation over the ends of knowledge. I have developed this possibility in


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terms of a civic republican approach to knowledge policy (Fuller 2000a; Fuller 2002a, chap. 4) . At the moment, however, social forces tend to be going in reverse, namely, toward incorporating what the populace already believes into already existing institutions of knowledge production. Only when STS for­ mally recognizes the difference between these alternative trajectories will it become a genuinely progressive agent in the ongoing social transformation of science and technology. 5. Relativism and the Illusion of Autonomy in Science

Those who follow the developments in STS from a high altitude can easily reduce the field's philosophical contribution to a colorful extension of the basic relativist strategy that was initiated by Peter Winch in The Idea of Social Science (Winch 1 959). After all, the various schools of empirical STS-from Edinburgh and Paris to Cornell and San Diego-follow in many of Winch's Wittgensteinian footsteps. They share a suspicion of distinctly "philosophical" explanations that override accounts explicitly grounded in native practices. The goal, then, is to delegitimate these explanations and in some sense let the phenomena speak for themselves. Here, "philosophical" is synonymous with "metaphysical" in the objectionable sense that originally united Wittgenstein and the logical positivists in common cause: namely, a source of misunder­ standings, false expectations, and potentially disastrous interactions that result from letting what we say get in the way of what we see. However, the range of actual practices deemed "philosophical" in this objectionable sense extends beyond metaphysics proper to much of what passes for explanatory theory in social science research and even the natives' ordinary self-understandings, insofar as these are " in the grip of a theory" that do not adequately capture native practices. Recalling these features of the Winchian project helps account for many of the distinctive features of STS. Consider the opening move of the field's land­ mark monograph, Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar 1 986), in which the authors p resent the ideal observer of the scientific laboratory as someone ignorant of the science under investigation. This then licenses their suspension of belief in the categories invoked by the scientists they interact with. Indeed, only those social scientific methods that remain "close" to the phenomena are officially allowed. In the next chapter, I shall explore the philosophical impli­ cations of such methods as "grounded theory" and "virtual witnessing:' Their upshot is that STS is just as dismissive (at least presumptively) of social scien­ tific as natural scientific explanations of the scientific enterprise (Fuller 2000b, 322-24) . At this point, it may be useful to relativize the Winchian relativist strategy common to STS, since it did not itself arise in a sociological vacuum. Signif­ icantly, Winch and his followers take their principal empirical inspiration from anthropology-specifically, the field work of Edward Evans-Pritchard whose most distinguished disciple, Mary Douglas, was an early resource for


The Sociology of Knowledge:

The Philosophical Backdrop to STS .

31

much STS theo rizing ( e . g . , Bloor 1 9 8 3 ) . Philosophers know o f Evans­ Pritchard largely through his studies in the 1 930s and '40s of two Sudanese tribes, the Nuer and the Azande, which have provided "hard cases" for cross­ cultural judgments of rationality. However, in the annals of anthropology, Evans- Pritchard is known as one of the first to insist that anthropologists eschew interpreters and master native languages for themselves for purposes of penetrating the natives' worldview ( Evans-Pritchard 1 964, 79-8 0 ) . This signature relativist move was developed just as the sun began to set on the British Empire, when the Crown was mainly concerned with retaining the good will of natives whose loyalties were likely to be tested by the Nazis as the theater of war shifted from Europe to Africa in a second Great War ( Goody 1 995, 63-66). Small wonder that the main contributors to the universalism-relativism debate that invented the "philosophy of the social sciences" in the Anglophone world were more likely to have been educated in the UK than in the U.S. The two sides of this debate reflect consecutive moments in the history of British imperial rule. The first moment corresponds to the original subordination of native peoples to the Crown, the . second to the maintenance of their loyalty in the face of threat from other imperial powers. Here the relativist offers the prospect of external rule without either force or condescension, since (say) the Sudanese could conduct themselves as they see fit, as long as they did not try to undermine Britain's struggle with Germany. In short, the British and the Sudanese could agree not to interfere in each other's practices as long as these did not interfere in their own. Yet, despite its official concern for the integrity of native practices, from the standpoint of power politics, relativism merely reinforced the existing terms of colonial domination ( Fuller 2000b, 1 8-2 1 , 146-49). Indeed, the success of this strategy suggests the Machiavellian lesson that treating people as "ends-in- themselves" may be one of the best means of treating them as means to one's own ends. The lesson acquires special poi­ gnancy when applied to the institutional history of modern science. Two sorts of reversing means and ends have occurred. First, the original relativist strategy for appeasing the natives has been disembedded from its original context and become an end in itself, as arguments for and against relativism are endlessly refined and debated. Here STS is just as complicit as philoso­ phers ( Hollis and Lukes 1 982, Pickering 1 9 9 2 ) . But more importantly, the political success of relativism lay in the natives' allowing themselves to func­ tion as reliable players in larger power struggles. We shall now apply these two types of reversals to science, with scientists functioning as natives. In (A) I examine how means turn into ends and in ( B ) , how ends turn in to means. The former accounts for how we come to have science as distinct from politics, the latter for how science comes to have political import. I shall then suggest (C) a moral based on the reversible means-ends reversal that results from combining (A) and (B).


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5. 1 Means Turn into Ends According to most nineteenth- and twentieth-century evolutionary models of social change, an innovative social practice usually emerges (unintentionally) as a means to achieving some standing ends, which then, by virtue of its suc­ cess in this role, becomes (intentionally) an end in its own right. Wilhelm Wundt originally colonized this insight for social psychology by speaking, in Kantian terms, of the evolution from the "heteronomy" to the "autonomy" of human ends as a by-product of the division of labor in complex societies. Wundt held that heteronomy was bred by the need to resolve, say, the compet­ ing demands of spiritual and material well-being in the same institution, such as a church, whereas now these are handled more rationally in two separate institutions, each devoted exclusively to one form of welfare. At the same time, Wundt carried over Kant's original connotation of autonomous pursuits as ethically purer than heteronomous ones, which helped to square the moral circle of scientific fields whose increasing technicality removed them from immediate relevance to standing social problems. Ferdinand Toennies applied Wundt's insight to explain the differentiation of social science from social policy at the inaugural meeting of the German Society for Sociology in 1 9 1 0 (Proctor 1 99 1 , 9 1-93 ) . In 1 925, a t the dawn of logical positivism, Moritz Schlick ( 1 974, 94-1 0 1 ) argued for the superiority o f deontological ("Kantian") over consequentialist ("Benthamite") ethics on grounds similar to Wundt's. Schlick added the Aris­ totelian insight that society had to be sufficiently leisured to allow certain activities to be pursued beyond the point of their providing a clear benefit to those pursuing them. Invoking a sociological distinction popular at the time, Schlick saw "culture" and "civilization" as corresponding, respectively, to the spheres of the consequentialist and the deontologist. The former was explicitly concerned with promoting a particular people, the latter with a more diffuse and potentially limitless agenda. Schlick's formulation intuitively resonated in the imperial era, since residents of the "mother country" generally bore the brunt of the "White man's burden;' as their own standard of living leveled off and even dropped with the spread of "civilization" overseas. As we shall see in the next section, the culture-civilization distinction has been raised to a still more abstract level, in terms of the difference between relativism and con­ structivism. Aided by evolutionary theory and heroic generalization, Karl Popper ( 1 972) extended Schlick's original line of thought to explain the origins of objective knowledge, or "World Three:' In Popper's telling, efforts to improve the instruments of survival breed a class of specialists who study the instru­ ments' properties abstracted from any context of application. These specialists usually begin as troubleshooters who, as we now say, "reverse engineer" the instruments to discover the limits on their performance. Thus, practices of measuring and calculating yielded knowledge of geometry and arithmetic. In contemporary economics, this is portrayed as a self-organizing process for


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 33

producing what Michael Perelman ( 1 99 1 ) has called "metapublic goods." Accordingly, a science is seeded once "free riders" are encouraged to use a technology in exchange for communicating their experience to other users who lack the relevant experience.

5.2 Ends Turn into Means In the Western legal tradition, guilds provide the surest guide to groups that have constituted themselves in terms of commonly shared ends but then ended up becoming manipulated by a larger agent (Krause 1 996). Guilds offi­ cially enjoy an effective monopoly over the transmission of certain skills and products by virtue of their ability to maintain a consistently high level of qual­ ity. Historically, guilds acquired the conservative disposition of insurance bod­ ies, censoring deviant practices that do not meet with the governing board's approval. As Bismarck well knew, the guild right of "academic freedom" made German academics more manageable: the state need not intervene to stop the spread of politically subversive positions, if the academics themselves already find it in their collective interest to do so. Thus, the mutual criticism of the peer-review process simultaneously launders out more radical positions and insures that what remains is of sufficiently high quality to be appropriated for orthodox political purposes (Hofstadter and Metzger 1955). The constitution of science as a self-organizing and self-directing "commu­ nity," though presaged in the writings of philosophers ranging from Thomas More to Charles Sanders Peirce, only became second nature to natural scien­ tists in the 1 950s, largely as an ideological defense against unwanted public scrutiny (Hollinger 1 990). Unlike humanists and social scientists, natural sci­ entists have never been as heavily concentrated in universities. The location of natural scientists in virtually every class position across the entire economy meant that they failed to share a common relationship to the means of pro­ duction, a necessary condition for the emergence of Marxist class conscious­ ness. The notably sustained attempt by J. D. Bernal to align natural scientists with the industrial proletariat from the 1 930s to the 1 960s foundered precisely on these grounds. Indeed, Joseph Rotblat's continuing failure to persuade fellow scientists to adopt a code of professional ethics modeled on the Hippo­ cratic Oath should be seen in a similar light: it is far from obvious that natural scientists all belong to the same profession. However, none of this has made natural scientists any less manipulable. The original proposal generated by the U.S. Congress to support a "National Science Foundation" (NSF) shortly after World War II would have rendered scientific research a means to larger societal ends, subject to the approval of social-scientifically led oversight panels (Fuller 2000a, 1 1 7-3 1 ) . The consid­ e r e d r e s p o n s e o f American p o l iticians to the success o f the atomic bomb project was that academic scientists had to be kept on a short leash to ensure that they continue to perform for the public good. They held that science serves society best when it serves society directly. In retrospect, this attitude turned out to be the last gasp of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The


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peer-review-based NSF that ultimately triumphed reflected the anti-New Deal Republican majority that was elected to Congress in 1 946 ( Kevles 1 977). The leading ideologues for this policy shift were such card- carrying "Yankee Republicans" as James Bryant Conant and Vannevar Bush, who promoted the old Bismarck idea that the spontaneously self-policing functions of academic research scientists ensured the quality of the published findings. These could then be confidently appropriated by policymakers without the scientists them­ selves becoming involved in the applications. In the emerging Cold War context, this proposal was read as calling for a collectivization of scientific effort in the name of national security. The lesson that Conant and Bush helped Congress draw from the success of the U. S . atomic bomb project was that academic scientists could be confidently left to their own devices to get the job done. After all, the brains behind the project included several pioneers of subatomic physics. In this way, and for the first time, the government became the majority shareholder in American science, the management of which was turned over to largely discipline-based peer review panels that were assisted by such newly developed "metascientific" pol­ icy instruments as the Science Citation Index, which were used to nurture research as one might incubate an organism. The master thinkers of this strangely autonomous yet manipulable "scientific community" were Thomas Kuhn and Derek de Solla Price, who theorized the qualitative and quantitative sides of this image of science. Most scientists flourished under this regime, comfortably serving Caesar and God at once. For example, decision theory-a field that changed the face of philosophy, psychology, economics, and computer science-was the spawn of Cold War science policy, a point easily inferred from the acknowledgements sections of the field's seminal articles. While these publications were often subject to military clearance, they usually passed scrutiny because the abstract and specialized nature of academic interest in decision theory posed little threat to national security. Indeed, here is a clear case of the relativist moral paradise p reviously illustrated by the British imperial p olicy toward the Sudanese tribes, whereby each side achieves its own ends by enabling the other side to achieve its ends. However, problems arise once one side decides to take an interest in the other side's ends, perhaps because it comes to believe that they all live in the same moral universe. One prominent example was the scan­ dal associated with The Pentagon Papers, classified documents about the Viet­ nam War that were passed to The New York Times in 1 971 by the distinguished decision theorist, Daniel Ellsberg. 5.3

The Moral of this Reversible Means-Ends Reversal

To appreciate the full implications of this reversibility, we must begin by taking literally that science is "autonomous" in the same sense as the self in modern ethics. In that case, science is a special case of the following generali­ zation: not only may autonomy be a long-term emergent property of instru­ m e n t a l s u c c e s s , b u t i n s t r u m e n t ality may e m e rge as an u n i n t e n d e d


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS .

35

consequence of the autonomization of certain social practices from the con­ texts that originally gave them shape and direction. The moral of this story is ironic, to say the least. Put in interpersonal terms, the more consistently you are constituted as a Kantian ego, the more efficiently I can render you a poten­ tial means to my own ends. Of course, I cannot make you do exactly what I want, but your consistency enables me to adjust my own behavior so I can get the most out of you. Thus, the principled agent turns out to be the "second­ best" solution to the problem of strategic rationality, where the best solution is someone who does only what I want, and the worst solution is someone who does what anyone (including my opponents) wants. However, the end of the Cold War has so subverted this second-best solu­ tion in science policy that the "serving two masters" scenario described above may well come to be regarded as a "golden age" in the history of free inquiry, especially if the United States remains the dominant power in a world pos­ sessed by free market ideology. From that standpoint, the legacy of the Cold War would be its unprecedented period of consolidated growth for universi­ ties and other nation-based epistemic institutions. In contrast, our brave new world of neo-liberal inquiry has "secularized" science, rendering it increas­ ingly demand-driven, problem-oriented, and structurally permeable ( Fuller 2000a, 99-1 1 6 ) . In European science policy circles, it is now fashionable to speak of this transition as between "Mode 1 " and "Mode 2 " knowledge pro­ duction ( Gibbons et al. 1 994) . Moreover, as we shall now see, this develop­ ment has been shadowed by relativism and constructivism as successive phases in the philosophical history of STS. 6. STS's Janus-faced Antirealism: Relativism

versus

Constructivism

So far I have followed the standard philosophical practice of referring to STS's underlying philosophy as relativism. Another term-constructivism-is increasingly used in the same context. However, relativism and constructivism are not the same position. Nevertheless, they are often used interchangeably because they have a common enemy, scientific realism (Leplin 1 984), against which much of the STS research agenda has been defined. Below is a definition of scientific realism, along with the distinct challenges that relativism and constructivism pose to it.

Scientific Realism involves two distinct propositions, each of which can be denied separately: 1.

2.

A scientific account is universally valid. Therefore, if scientific theory, T, is true, it is true everywhere and always. The denial of this is relativ­ ism. It implies that reality may vary across space at any given time. A scientific account is valid independently of what people think and do. Therefore if T is true, it is true even if nobody believes it. The denial of this is constructivism. It implies that, for a given place, reality may change over time.


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Relativism and constructivism thus pose alternative challenges to realism. The particularist orientation of relativism opposes realism's claim to universality, whereas constructivism's reliance on the contingent actions of knowers under­ mines realism's claim to necessary truth. Thus, philosophical criticism tar­ geted at constructivism may miss its mark by taking issue with relativism. For example, Boghossian (200 1 ) glosses the constructivist slogan, "the rational itself is constitutively social" as "a relativization of good reasons to variable social circumstance." However, the constructivist slogan is meant to deny any clear distinction between what is rationally and socially acceptable. This view is compatible with either a relativist or a universalist epistemol ogy. All that it implies is that rationality is to be explained sociologically. In principle, the rel­ evant sense of "social" may be common to all societies. It certainly need not be limited to the relativist's clearly bounded, self-contained social worlds that are grist for paradoxes about the impossibility of standing both "inside" and "out­ side" one's world at the same time. Indeed, constructivists do not accept the idea that worlds (social or otherwise) have such clear "insides" and "outsides," as these boundaries are themselves the product of social construction, not the cause of them. It follows that relativism and constructivism are compatible only under certain conditions but not others. However, from Parmenides onward, the Western philosophical tradition has tended to obscure this point, as necessity and universality, on the one hand, and contingency and particularity, on the other, have been thought of together. Good examples include the long-stand­ ing distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge, or the kind of knowledge one can acquire from mathematical reasoning versus sense experi­ ence. To be sure, there have been attempts-such as Kant's synthetic a priori or Hegel's concrete universal-to forge intermediate forms but they have been generally regarded with suspicion. The presumption has b een that differ­ ence-be it defined in terms of sheer variety (a la relativism) or restless change (a la constructivism)-is always a deviation from a fixed norm that needs to be disciplined by either explanatory subsumption (i.e., theoretically) or social control (i.e., practically). In contrast, had the West taken its marching orders from Heraclitus, we might now be operating in a philosophical universe where relativism and con­ structivism are clearly distinguished, but scientific realism exists only as an unstable hybrid. Thus, we would be puzzled about the idea of truths that remain invariant across all possible worlds without first having broken down the boundaries separating those worlds. ( In other words, can universalism be anything other than imperialism?) For, in the Heraclitean universe, knowl­ edge claims would be either contingently universal or necessarily particular. The presumption here would be that the maintenance of a consistent identity is an ongoing, and only locally successful, struggle in a world engulfed in endless flux.


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 37

As it turns out, the Heraclitean starting point is the one adopted by STS, which, as we shall shortly see, helps explain the distinctive character of its internal philosophical disputes. However, STS is not alone in deferring to Heraclitus. The literature surrounding "globalization" routinely supposes that we are living through a struggle between what Benjamin Barber ( 1 995) has called "McWorld versus the Jihad," or, in the titles of the first two volumes of Manuel Castelis' magnum opus, The Information Age (Castells 1 996-8 ) , "The Network Society" and "The Power of Identity." In each binary, the former term refers to an unbounded constructivism and the latter to a resistant rela­ tivism. But we can reach back further to one of sociology's founding dualisms, what Ferdinand Toennies called Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. To be sure, the classical sociologists regarded the flow of history differently from today's glo­ balizationists. They saw Gesellschaft as a rationalization of Gemeinschaft, usu­ ally through the mediation of the state, whereas globalization theorists would have Gemeinschaft emerge as a spontaneous reaction against Gesellschaftlich practices that are no longer under state control. The clearest case of non-relativist constructivism is free market capitalism in which the value of goods is determined entirely by negotiated exchanges among interested parties. No preferences or beliefs are so fundamental as to be exempt from such negotiations, to which there is no "natural" outcome. Indeed, it is this inherent volatility that unites relativists and realists against constructivists. Indeed, the prototype of the modern relativist position-the "culture" which affixes a world-view to a particular group-was introduced in Germany to stave off the universalizing ambitions of the commercial ethic emanating from Britain in the early-nineteenth century (Fuller 2000c) . More­ over, before the advent of postmodernism, most anthropologists were proba­ bly relativists but not constructivists. To believe that truth is culturally relative has usually implied that there are "facts of the matter" (about history, geogra­ phy, and perhaps even biology) as to which knowledge claims are true for which cultures. Anthropologists like Evans-Pritchard did not suppose that the natives negotiated their epistemic practices as they went along. That would have rendered a science of anthropology virtually impossible, a point that postmodernists gladly admit. Instead, anthropologists regarded native prac­ tices as ceteris paribus instances of normal behavior in the societies where they occurred. The difficult task was establishing the scope of these practices: when and where did the natives tend to behave this way? But, in principle, this task was no different from establishing the boundary conditions under which an empirical regularity applied in the physical world. It is often forgotten that the radical "otherness" with which anthropologists classically regarded the natives contributed to the idea that native cultures enjoyed a kind of epistemic independence from the anthropologist. Thus, to a constructivist, anthropology's relativism amounted to a realism about multi­ ple social worlds. (Kuhn's incommensurability thesis is also such a realism; cf. Fuller 1 988, 85-8 9 . ) However, anthropology has suffered from its original


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non- constructivist relativism, typically by underestimating interaction effects-that is, the ease with which both native practices can be altered by alien intrusion and aliens can be fooled by native irony and deceit. Unsurpris­ ingly, then, the turn to constructivism in anthropology began with a reflexive realization that the anthropologist was in the very world she was trying to write about (Marcus and Fischer 1 986). From the standpoint of constructiv­ ism, the "otherness" of relativism turned out to be a form of self-deception whereby anthropologists were discouraged from observing their own partici­ pation in the imperialist project. In that sense, a reflexive relativism is con­ structivism (Fuller and Collier 2004, chap. 9 ) . To a large extent, and i n a much shorter time, STS has repeated anthropol­ ogy's sequence of relativist consolidation and constructivist dispersion, as recently epitomized by, respectively, David Bloor ( 1 999) and Bruno Latour ( 1 999). Together they illustrate an instance of what I call in table 5, The Hera­ clitean Dialectic of Sociology. As suggested by the row on "principle of social change," it is possible to regard relativism and constructivism as complemen­ tary positions, for example, if social functions are reproduced across genera­ tions by redistributing properties previously possessed by one group of individuals to another group. However, this neat macro-micro picture starts to crack once the redistributive process is seen as a source of emergent properties that alter the character of the reproductive process, such as when women come to fill roles previously filled by men. At this point, constructivism breaks free from relativism. State-building has proven historically to be the most effective strategy for incorporating the best of both positions and canceling out the worst (Fuller 2004d) . Accordingly, the state functions as a hegemonic relativist whose ends (i.e., social welfare) provide a sense of normative closure what would otherwise be absent from the free exchange of properties fostered by constructivism. The result is a macro-level policy of redistribution in aid of a micro-level reproduction of the social order. In the English intellectual tradition from Hobbes to Spencer, "war" and "commerce" often appeared as alternating historical phases. War unifies a people against a common foe, whereas commerce encourages people to forge networks that extend beyond tribal borders. Indeed, this attitude has perme­ ated science-policy thinking well into the twentieth century, given the cycles of mobilization and redeployment of scientific effort that have marked the peri­ ods before and after wars (Reingold 1 994) . According to this model, the threat of war stabilizes society, which over time may intensify into a totalitarian mindset, whereby individual differences are completely submerged into a single cultural, or "national," identity. The removal of external threat opens the door to a more outward policy that, by acquiring cumulative advantage over many exchanges, may evolve into imperialism. No imperialist pretends that, say, Christian values are "natural" to non-Western cultures, only that these cultures are likely to be benefit from adopting them. Whether this is


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 39

Table 5 The Heraclitean Dia lectic in Sociology

Relativism

Species of Antirealism Fundamental process

Identification

Constructivism Differentiation

Image of the social

Bounded groups

Interactive networks

Scope of the social

Finite and invariant

Infinite and variable

Source of value

Intrinsic to society

Defined in exchange

Principle of social change

Reproduction at the

Redistribution at the

Macrolevel

M icrolevel

Classical sociological image

Customs (Gemeinschaft)

Contracts (Gesellschaft)

Defining social practice

War

Commerce

Political extreme

Totalitarianism

Imperialism

Biological version

Racialism

Adaptationism

STS version

Group-Grid Theory

Actor-Network Theory

Return of the repressed

Revolutions and Overflows

Sustainability and Ecology

because Christianity satisfies a standing need or induces such a need by virtue of its associated consequences is a matter of indifference to the imperialist. In the STS literature, Latour's actor-network theory canonizes the imperi­ alist's indifference as constructivist research methodology, which is treated more explicitly in the next chapter. Constructivists tend to be insensitive to pre-existent ("structural" or "historical") power relations between the parties to an exchange that may overdetermine the outcome of the ensuing negotia­ tions, as in British imperial encounters with African natives in the 1 930s and '40s. In contrast, group-grid theory, as adapted by Bloor from Douglas, is explicitly concerned with the conditions under which social identity is stabi­ lized. Consequently, "outsiders" figure only as candidate insiders, not as potential subsumers of the entire social order. Here, then, are the complemen­ tary weaknesses o f constructivism and relativism that a p p e a r as the "repressed" sides of their positions. Constructivists are haunted by the idea of a social or material limit or both to "free exchange;' which nowadays is often expressed as the need to incorporate "sustainability" and, more generally, "ecology" into social theory (Murdoch 200 1 ) . For their part, relativists face the prospect of their normative orders imploding as anomalies accumulate with­ out formal resolution. This situation is captured by the Kuhnian concept of "revolution" in science, though more recently, actor-network theorists have begun to speak of "market overflows" in a similar vein (CalIon 1 998). 7 . Conclusion: So i s Relativism the Wrong Target?

Relativism is a necessary evil for making sense of the human condition: the more necessary it appears, the more evil it becomes. Relativism should not be allowed to slide from a methodological principle that enables us to access the distinctness of others to a full-fledged epistemology of human cognition. In other words, relativism should be itself treated relativistically, a position I have


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called meta-relativism or reflexive relativism (Fuller 2000b, 283, n 4 1 ) . Perhaps this view is shared by most STS researchers-and even most Science Warriors. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, this quite reasonable perspective is con­ founded by the totalizing and logically self-refuting views of relativism that prevail in philosophy textbook presentations and continue to provide the framework through which STS's knowledge claims are understood. By fixating on the straw man of extreme relativism, the opponents of STS unwittingly shore up simple-minded views of science that cannot withstand serious epistemic scrutiny. Here are six examples, inspired by the notorious Fashion­ able Nonsense, by Alan Sakal and Jean Bricmont ( 1 998, chap. 4): l.

2.

Science is presented as perfecting what commonsense tries to do, namely, explain "the coherence of our experience." In contrast, relativ­ ism deviates from commonsense and thereby fails to perform this pre­ sumably valuable explanatory function. Philosophically speaking, this justification of scientific knowledge is more familiar from the annals of idealism and pragmatism than of realism. Sokal and Bricmont lack any sense of the radical epistemological disjunction between what Wilfrid Sellars ( 1 963) called "the scientific image" and "the manifest image," which would align realists with logical positivists as well as with such disparate theorists of science as Bachelard, Koyre, Popper and Kuhn. All of these figures held that science has not only discovered entities and processes that defy the expectations of our normal modes of thought but has done so by systematically discounting and reorienting those modes. In this respect, science is a very artificial form of cogni­ tion that is easily subject to epistemological backsliding, absent the explicit normative strictures for which the positivists in particular have become notorious. The urgent tone of Fashionable Nonsense alone proves that point, though the book's authors refuse to acknowledge as much. Instead, they prefer the rhetorically easy route of eliding com­ monsense trust in scientific cognition with their own belief that scien­ tific cognition is the deep structure of commonsense. Related to this last point is the peculiarity of assuming there is some pre-scientific (natural?) need to explain the coherence of experience. Of course, as a goal of scientific inquiry, this need is perfectly under­ standable: it is epitomized in the ancient definition of science as the means by which we explain the most by the least. However, in everyday life, we seem to operate quite happily with locally coherent but globally incoherent bodies of knowledge. Consequently, much of the history of science has been devoted to showing that realms of experience that people had traditionally regarded as ontologically distinct should be seen as falling under the same epistemic jurisdiction. The debates sur­ rounding these efforts at explanatory unification have resembled argu­ ments about nation-building in the face of regional differences. And, in both cases, the drive toward a unitary vision has involved tradeoffs in


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 4 1

3.

4.

interests. For example, just as regions have objected to the assimilation of their cultural identities, craft knowledges have come under threat of extinction once they were treated as prototypes for specialized applica­ tions of more overarching scientific principles. Remaining on the topic of explanation-this time, of science itself-Sokal and Bricmont seem to think that the development of sci­ ence has resulted from the interaction of two general factors, namely, the structure of the physical world and our biologically rooted liabili­ ties. Social factors function as little more than enabling or disabling conditions for this interaction. Two features of this explanatory scheme are worthy of note. First, since Sokal and Bricmont appear to grant the unique origins of the Scientific Revolution in seventeenth- century Europe, any global history of science they might wish to give would be committed to the idea that the search for knowledge has been usually retarded or otherwise perverted: social factors confound our natural limitations so that we cannot learn systematically from our encounters with physical reality. This suggests the account's second peculiarity, namely, a refusal to treat biological factors as "external" to the develop­ ment of science in the same sense as social ones (see esp. p. 55, fn 56). Alongside our inherent cognitive limitations, Sokal and Bricmont espy our instinct to learn about the world, which they would gloss as a desire to seek the truths of science, something that is in turn realized only under the right social conditions. If so, one would like to hear more about the warrant for this crypto-teleological vision of epistemic growth. The intractability of the problem of induction is presented as a major philosophical reason for STS going down the path of relativism-skepti­ cism. While there is some truth to this observation, Sokal and Bric­ mont cast it in the wrong light. The source of concern is not that there is no foolproof means of determining whether the sun will rise tomor­ row; rather, it is that there is no foolproof means of determining whether, if the sun rises tomorrow, it will be for the same reason as it did yesterday. Clearly, if the sun fails to rise, then the background assumptions that made us think it would are thrown into doubt. But we still have reason to be skeptical, even if the sun does rise. In other words, the spatio-temporal consistency of our ordinary experience is an insufficient guide to a properly scientific understanding of reality. Such consistency may be simply a superstition resulting from our unreflective habits of collecting experiences. Something more needs to be added, a theoretical context that justifies why experiences should be grouped one way rather than another, as "relevantly similar" and hence subject to common epistemic appraisal. Thus, insofar as STS has a professional interest in the problem of induction, it has been via Wittgenstein's queries about rule-following (Lynch 1 99 3 , chap. 5 ) .


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Indeed, here Sokal and Bricmont should have forsaken David Hume for Nelson Goodman ( 1 955) as a guide to the scientifically interesting problem of induction. The problem of induction quickly brings us to the use that is put to the idea that scientific research programs have "track records." Sokal and Bricmont seem quite comfortable arguing that even if we grant that, say, the atomic hypothesis was empirically weak when John Dalton first proposed it in the early-nineteenth century, nevertheless, within a cen­ tury, the hypothesis had made up for its initial weakness in terms of explanatory and predictive success in the physical sciences. This too involves a superstitious appeal to history. If their argument were simply that the atomic hypothesis is better than its competitors at explaining and predicting what interests us today, then there would be no prob­ lem. However, the argument as it stands suggests further that competi­ tors to the atomic hyp othesis have had comparable resources to develop their research programs-not to mention that the criteria of argument, evidence, and "success" in the physical sciences have not changed substantially over the last two centuries. In short, the concept of track record implies that rivals are given a "fair trial." Unfortunately, the history of science has not displayed sufficiently sportsmanlike qual­ ities to be discussed intelligibly in this fashion. Once again, Sokal and Bricmont seem to be in the grip of a false philosophical picture that, upon further reflection, they might regard as pre-scientific. One of Sokal and Bricmont's frequent rhetorical moves is to argue that scientists are much more "reasonable" than is implied by stronger forms of relativism. The benchmark here is Kuhn's incommensurabil­ ity thesis, according to which scientists cannot recognize evidence that contradicts the fundamental tenets of their paradigm. Their opposition begins by asking us to imagine Aristotle transported to Galileo's day and forced to witness the experiments that are now taken to have refuted Aristotelian doctrines of motion. How could a reasonable per­ son like Aristotle have denied what he would have seen with his own eyes? Unfortunately, such a thought experiment begs the question against the incommensurability thesis. In the first place, the mutual incomprehensibility of paradigms is supposed to reflect a breakdown in communication between two largely self-contained research com­ munities. To then imagine Aristotle in the presence of Galileo-indeed, long enough to be brought up to speed on the background assump­ tions of Galileo's experiments-is to undermine that crucial supposi­ tion. Moreover, it may be that Aristotle could see what Galileo was trying to argue without admitting its b earing on Aristotle's own beliefs-because he may come to regard Galileo as having radically shifted the context in which Aristotelian claims are to be evaluated ( Fuller 1 988, chaps. 5-6) . Again, only if one begs the question against


The Sociology of Knowledge: The Philosophical Backdrop to STS . 43

incommensurability is one committed to supposing that Aristotle must regard Galileo's work as a natural continuation of his own, as opposed to a project that uses elements of Aristotelianism to its own distinct ends. Sokal and Bricmont want to have their philosophical cake and eat it. On the one hand, like many Science Warriors, they openly admit their philosoph­ ical amateurism; on the other, they want to catch others in philosophical sole­ cisms. In particular, they are keen to show the self-refuting character of relativism. But relativism turns out to be a broad church in their telling: in p articular, skepticism and relativism appear to be indistinguishable. To be sure, both philosophical doctrines are opposed to "realism" in a general sort of way, but they oppose it in ways that are sufficiently different to make relativ­ ism and skepticism mutually opposed. Skepticism opposes the idea that we can ever know whether a statement is true or false-that it has a determinate truth-value-which is the fundamental premise of realism. It is a premise that relativism shares with realism, but then it disagrees with realism over how one determines the truth-value: the realist universalizes truth conditions, whereas the relativist provincializes them. The disagreeably radical element of STS associated with "constructivism" lies closer to skepticism than relativism in this sense, since constructivist nar­ ratives of "science in action" typically show that there is no fact of the matter as to which statements are true and which are false until closure (often mis­ leadingly called "consensus," so as to mask the power relations involved) is reached over what the relevant agents are thought to have accomplished. In that respect, the distinction between ontology and epistemology collapses, as the existence of an entity becomes dependent on our mode of access to it, which once established may change and perhaps even be reversed over time, thereby rendering intelligible the idea that entities can go in and out of exist­ ence. To be sure, this is a controversial position that presupposes an open­ ended, process-oriented metaphysics (For a contemporary defense, see Fuller 2004b). However, as such, it does not require the commission of any philo­ sophical errors; rather, it implies a philosophically respectable position, known most broadly as antirealism. Indeed, the most articulate philosophical defense of antirealism in our times can be found in the work of A. J. Ayer's successor at Oxford, Michael Dummett ( 1 976), who even defends antirealism as the implicit epistemology of the "commonsense" so cherished by Sokal and Bricmont. Antirealism implies that knowledge claims are intelligible only insofar as one has access to the evidence needed to decide them. In that sense, antirealist intuitions are vindicated by trials, since it is generally supposed that without due process of law, justice cannot be served: there is no way to get at legal truth except through a trial, and the outcome of a specific trial is regarded (subject to appeal) as having settled a particular case. A scientific experiment functions in a similar manner whenever it is regarded as the only or ultimate route to


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truth on some matter. (The idea of a "crucial experiment" is the classic expres­ sion of this view, whose first great modern champion, Francis Bacon, served as Britain's Lord Chancellor, the nation's top lawyer.) Not surprisingly, then, real­ ists have stressed the need for independently converging lines of inquiry on a common truth, whereas antirealists have tied the truth of knowledge claims to canonical modes of demonstration. It may be that realists have the upper hand when it comes anticipating bold leaps in the scientific imagination, but that is only for the same reason that traditionally the pursuit of science has been tied to the pursuit of the divine plan: both are driven by a sense of unity that transcends what can be immediately demonstrated. However noble and sacred this makes the quest for the scientific knowledge, it does not make it commonsensical.


III

Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site

STS not only defines itself in opposition to philosophy but also requires a philosophy it can call its own. This involves a shift in the role of the philoso足 pher from legislator to underlaborer. In this chapter, I explore why and how this transition occurred. A major part of the story concerns the implosion of the philosophy of science as a normative enterprise, especially once the logical positivists became the philosophy of science establishment in the United States. Conceptually, this corresponded to a shift from an "inquirer-" to an "inquired-" based form of social inquiry. "Theory-driven observation" was eventually replaced by "object-centered sociality." Philosophically speaking, it marked the ascendancy of ontology over epistemology. After discussing a valiant effort to return STS to a strong normative perspective, I turn to the philosophical roots of the dominant non-normative mode of STS, actor-net足 work theory. Crucial to its success has been its replacement of philosophical critique and political engagement with an overriding interest in creating and serving m arkets. The idea that science constitutes a kind-or several kinds-of markets is explored for its empirical consequences in the final two sections. Here I draw attention to intergenerational conflict and the elusive足 ness of "normative structure" as the market absorbs more of scientific life. 8. Making Philosophy Safe for STS: The Rise of the Underlaborer

There is a ready-made formula for translating philosophical concerns about science into topics for STS research: what philosophers regard as problems, STS researchers treat simply as facts. Philosophers are o ften misled by the import of STS's fixation on the "social construction of scientific facts," to quote the notorious subtitle of the first edition of Latour and Woolgar ( 1 986). Much more telling than showing that facts are socially constructed is that what is socially constructed are facts. In other words, STS takes the existence of facts as unproblematic, once they have been constructed. If the relevant scientists deem that a certain social construction constitutes a fact, then, ipso facto, it is a fact, with no philosophical questions left to be asked about it. Here STS's

45


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debt to a late Wittgensteinian style of empiricism is most keenly felt, whereby the main task of fieldwork is to enable us to observe without epistemological prejudice (Lynch 1 993). Of course, the scientists under study may query a fact according to approved discipline-based methods, but such queries are not available to a free-ranging philosophical critic, let alone skeptic, who might wish to ground the fact in principles of knowledge that could ground any con­ ceivable fact. Even in matters as basic and universal as logic, STS fieldworkers are inclined to reserve judgment, interpreting those who prima facie commit contradictions as "contextually sensitive reasoners." In effect, they sociologize the old scholastic saying that every apparent contradiction is really a distinc­ tion waiting to be drawn. But how exactly did philosophy and philosophers manage to end up in this diminished state in STS? Even today philosophers of science often fail to appreciate the institutional weakness of their position as experts on the nature of science. It is not that academia or even the public at-large has lost its taste for asking big philoso­ phical questions about science. Rather, philosophers have unwittingly ceded their own territory to, among others, STS researchers. The fatal turn came as an overreaction to logical positivism's fetishizing the mathematical side of physics, as if it were capable of not only justifying but also of explaining all scientific reasoning. This side of the positivists became more prominent, once they fled the Nazis and metamorphosed into the analytic philosophy establish­ ment in the United States. (In contrast, the positivists who moved to Britain, notably Otto Neurath and Karl Popper, never quite lost their maverick edge.) Once ensconced in the U.S., the positivists reneged on their movement's tradi­ tional commitment to promote science as a progressive social force. At a con­ ceptual level, this disengagement involved initially blurring and ultimately discarding the difference between fact and value (or norm ) , description and prescription, and so forth. It is often not appreciated the degree to which the logical positivists' quasi-Platonic insistence on logical form as a "translation" of natural language helped to seed their movement's demise. It suggested that the positivists were trying to discover, rather than dictate, the rationality of science. This tendency was abetted by Thomas Kuhn, who cast the normative structure of science in broadly "functionalist" terms that seemed to imply that the nature of science could be discerned by examining its normal practices. If so, it was no longer clear that philosophers brought a special expertise to the task at hand. Not surprisingly, by the mid- 1 960s, self-declared "naturalistic" and "histor­ icist" philosophers trained by the positivists began to speak in terms of "test­ ing" normative theories against the evidence of, say, human psychology or the history of science. To be sure, some renegade followers of Popper-notori­ ously Imre Lakatos-tried to reinscribe a strong distinction between science as it is and ought to be by arguing that the history of science should be tested by normative accounts of scientific rationality, not the other way round! He felt, not unreasonably, that philosophers might then institute a self-correcting


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 47

mechanism in science. In effect, philosophy would provide the clearinghouse for scientists to learn from past mistakes and diversions, thereby expediting progress in the future ( Fuller 2000b, 295-304) . However, a more typical response was given by Larry Laudan, who in 1 986 convened a multitude of historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science, myself included, to present cases supporting or opposing an array of normative pronouncements that philosophers have made about the nature of science (Donovan, Laudan, and Laudan 1 988). The conference turned out to be a harbinger. It was held at Virginia Tech, where Laudan was the flagship philosopher in the first and still largest STS graduate program in the United States. Laudan's Progress and Its Problems ( 1 9 7 7 ) was the first philosophy book to take STS sufficiently seriously to devote a whole chapter to criticizing it. Indeed, Laudan raised a host of meth­ odological problems against the nascent STS, motivated largely by the need to distinguish his own instrumentalist version of antirealism from the relativist version dominant in STS. ( To anticipate the next chapter, Laudan registered the general problem of distinguishing positivism from postmodernism.) Nev­ ertheless, Laudan's critique had little impact on STS because his empirical project foundered: only the most elementary of inductive principles-insuffi­ cient even to cover Mill's canon-could be shown to have operated over a wide range of scientific cases. (For example: "If it works once, try it again." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.") Of course, STS has come to be quite comfortable with this sort of normative indeterminacy, but it effectively demonstrated that philosophy of science had little of interest to say that was generalizable across the sciences. Laudan had unwittingly provided the reductio ad absurdum of what happens when philosophers descend from their second-order privilege over defining the nature of science to compete alongside those who study science empirically: they are reduced to banalities. After the implosion of Laudan's project, younger philosophers of science gradually gave up all pretense to a normative scientific standpoint that tran­ scends the working standards of the sciences. They shifted from being legisla­ tors to underlaborers. Such a shift was perhaps understandable in the case of the original logical positivists, who dwelled in the political captivity of Cold War America ( Reisch 2005 ) . In the case of the younger generation, however, it marks a turn away from the design of institutions for decision-making (aka theory choice) to the codification of science's alleged "self-organization," which effectively granted epistemic legitimacy to any disciplinary practice that enjoys sustained prosperity (aka problem-solving effectiveness). This genera­ tional shift-from a unified to a disunitled view of science-has been the phi­ losophy of science's way of marking the transition from social democracy to neo-liberalism as knowledge-production policy. To be sure, STS has welcomed the shift for making it much easier to assimilate the philosopher into its own studiously non-normative framework (a benchmark anthology is Galison and Stump 1 996). A sign of the completeness of this assimilation is that the past


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two decades h ave witnessed the rise of "research ethics," a field whose existence requires that the cui bono of knowledge be outsourced to an inde­ pendent agency, separate from the mechanics of knowledge production itself. But from an STS standpoint, what exactly is at stake in the role of philo­ sophers as legislators and underlaborers? In most general terms, a philosophical legislator questions the presupposi­ tions of ongoing scientific research, whereas a philosophical underlaborer clarifies and defends them. In an underlaboring capacity, the philosopher assumes that the research produced by the discipline under which she labors is normally valid and reliable. Jerry Fodor ( 1 9 8 1 ) is normally credited with hav­ ing revived the seventeenth-century term "underlaborer" that John Locke had used to describe his own intellectual subservience to Newton. From the 1 9605 onward, Fodor has played Locke to Chomsky's Newton, first to Chomsky's specific theory of generative grammar in psycholinguistics and then to the entire neo- Cartesian ( "methodological solipsist") approach to cognitive science that Chomsky inspired. Fodor was trying quite self-consciously to dis­ tance himself from the legislative "overlaboring" role that the logical positiv­ ists had arrogated for themselves under the rubric of "unity of science." Although Fodor has not always given the most sympathetic philosophical ear to empirical research, he has been long attracted to the modularity of mental functions and the disunity of scientific disciplines, two views that resonate with characteristic STS research interests in the "situation variability" of epistemic practices. From that standpoint, the logical positivists appeared to be straitjacketing the natural course of inquiry into a "one-size-fits- all" conception of mind and science. Fodor's negative appraisal of the positivists' efforts makes sense just as long as the historical proliferation of discip lines with divergent domains of inquiry is taken to reflect a deeper understanding of reality's complexity rather than, say, an originally unitary knowledge enterprise that over the years has been captured by various locally powerful constituencies. (My own project of social epistemology is predicated on the latter judgment, which helps explain my lin­ gering sympathy for positivism. ) Thus, in its underlaboring capacity, philo­ sophical discourse tends toward ontological matters, specifically the sorts of entities that must exist for the discipline's research to be as valid and reliable as its researchers normally take it to be. In recent times philosophers have under­ labored for natural science disciplines where the research frontier continually throws up counter- intuitive findings. Believing that scientists have more important things to do than explicate their findings in relation to the larger body of scientific knowledge, these philosophers gladly take up the task. For example, they underlab o r to m ake recent developments in biomedical research compatible with the neo- Darwinian synthesis, even though such innovations, perhaps including the science of genetics itself, do not require this treatment for their survival. In the conclusion to this book, I elaborate on


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 49

this point-that philosophical services to Darwinism are not necessarily in the best interest of the biomedical sciences. Underlaboring amounts to what Kant would have recognized as philoso足 phizing in a "dogmatic" mode epitomized by Leibniz (more about below) , against which he developed his own "critical" philos ophy. Critique tends toward epistemological matters, that is, it does not assume the validity and reliability of a discipline's mode of inquiry. That point needs to be established by showing how methods used for acquiring knowledge satisfy one's reasons for pursuing knowledge. Thus, the critic would have knowledge producers address two questions: Which truths do you want? How true should they be? Critique can occur at two levels: on the one hand, strictly methodological criticism whereby the means of inquiry are tested against their purported ends; on the other, a more broadly gauged "axiological" (i.e., value-oriented) criticism whereby the ends of inquiry themselves are tested against other ends toward which they may serve as a means. These two levels may interact in interesting ways. For example, a discipline may reliably produce results that generalize over many types of cases. Nevertheless, the discipline may be sub足 j ect to critique because of the uses to which these results tend to be put. In terms of the previous chapter, this possibility captures how the sociology of knowledge foils naturalized epistemology. But as we also observed, it does not follow that sociologists are necessarily more "critical" than philosophers with respect to knowledge production. Indeed, we shall see that STS is critical only toward philosophers and other sociologists but generally quite accepting of whatever scientists do. 9. Philosophy by Sociological Means: STS as Fieldwork

STS fieldwork typically draws on the sociological method of "grounded theory," according to which the inquirer introduces a theoretical concept or perspective o nly if the agents under study also do so ( Glaser and Strauss 1 967). Grounded theory was originally developed as an inductivist response to the hypothetico-deductive method favored by the main school of u.S. sociol足 ogy, structural-functionalism, associated with Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton. In particular, structural-functionalists postulated that deviance is a well-defined role with specific functions in the social system. In contrast, grounded theorists argued that the deviant role, say, in the context of asylums and hospitals, must be constructed from moment to moment, as there is no clear observable difference between the behaviors of so-called normals and deviants. The groundbreaking, albeit perverse, insight of STS fieldwork is that this approach to deviance may be applied to people on the positive as well as the negative extreme of a normal distribution curve. Thus, in their daily labo足 ratory tasks, scientists do not sound or look especially different from people working in an industrial environment subject to an intensive division of labor. Nevertheless, scientists are socially constructed as exceptionally rational, producing knowledge that commands authority throughout society. How,


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then, do their thoughts, actions and outputs acquire such a superior status? According to STS, the general answer lies in the "made for export" language that scientists use to describe their activities and the specific distribution channels in which that language, as expressed in j ournal articles, preprints, and press releases, circulates. ( Still the best methodological introduction to this "discourse analytic" side of STS is Gilbert and Mulkay 1 9 8 4 . ) This produces a forward momentum, involving many other people, laboratories, interests, and so forth, that eventually turns a unique set of events into a uni­ versally recognizable fact (Latour and Woolgar 1 986, chap. 6 ) . At one level, STS's research orientation reveals a remarkable sympathy for the inquired: the burden of proof is always on the inquirer to demonstrate that she has not cut short the inquired by passing judgment on the latter's actions before their consequences are fully known. Such sympathy makes for a pecu­ liar but disciplined form of inquiry, one in principle willing to suspend judg­ ment indefinitely as the inquirer records the vicissitudes undergone by the inquired. This is the spirit in which to understand Bruno Latour's ( 1 987) injunction to "follow the actors." It is worth observing just how diametrically opposed this mode of inquiry is to the inquirer-centred approach championed by the hypothetico-deductive method (see Table 6). The broadly positivist philosophy associated with the hypothetico-deductive method would concentrate all the power (or "agency," to use the politically correct term) in the hypothesis-generating-and-testing inquirer and none in the inquired. The positivists were willing to treat the inquired as mere things, passive entities awaiting their natures to be revealed by active inquirers. Of course, the positivists themselves understood the matter in a more ethically flattering light: inquirers take full responsibility for their inquiries, in that if their theories turn out to be in error, then they have only themselves to blame. In contrast, in STS's moral universe, the locus of responsibility remains unclear because it is distributed among a plethora of agents in the sphere of inquiry. Indeed, the only clear responsibility the STS inquirer takes for her account is at the brute proprietary level that the account belongs to her and not to the inquired, a stance familiar from the annals of ethnomethodology, a hyper- scrupulous form of grounded theory that draws a clear distinction between the inquired's practices and the inquirer's writings about them, with­ out privileging the latter over the former (e.g., Sharrock 1 974). If philosophers with their explicit normative appeals to truth, rationality, and objectivity behave like legislators and judges, STS researchers act more like ventriloquists and impersonators. Thus, philosophers treat inquiry as a matter of upholding and meeting standards that may exceed ordinary scien­ tific behavior, whereas STS researchers emulate the view of inquiry they ascribe to the scientists they study, namely, the manufacture of endless prod­ ucts whose success or failure is determined by their intended consumers. Not surprisingly, when pushed back into philosophy, STS researchers instinctively convert epistemological issues to ontological ones. Epistemology p resupposes


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 5 1

Table 6 How S h o u l d Research be G ro u n ded?

Standpoint

Inquirer-based

Inquired-based

Frame of inquiry

Theory-laden observation

Object-centered sociality

Social epistemology

Sovereignty of inquirer's

Distribution of knowledge

standpoint Inquirer's default attitude Inquirer's philosophical position Goal of inquiry

Adaptive to the

environment

environment

Relationism (i.e., shift to

whatever is the

presumptive standpoint)

presumptive standpoint)

Reveal the limits of the

Reveal the extent of the

inquired's sphere of

inquired's sphere of

Expand the inquired's sphere of action

Inquirer's response to inquired's self-images Where the inquirer is rigid

Iconoclast (i.e., they are likely self-deceptive) Her own theoretical framework

Where the inquirer is flexible

Relativism (i.e., mirror

whatever is critical of the

action Overall normative goal

among the inquired

Resistant to the

Her own attitude to the inquired's situation

action Normalize the inquired's sphere of action Iconophile (i.e., they are likely self-empowering) Her adherence to the inquired's perspective Those who pay her to study the inquired's perspective

that reality sets a standard that is met to varying degrees by different modes of cognitive access, whereas o ntology presupposes that reality constitutes a domain with different kinds of objects that are encountered equally. In quantitative terms, knowledge is measured, while entities are counted. (In the medieval terms still used by logicians today, the former is concerned with the "intension" and the latter the "extension" of our words. ) Thus, it is standard practice among STS fieldworkers, having completed the study of one research site, not to test their findings for their generalizability to other research sites but to use the findings as a template to explore new sites, deviations from which then provide the basis for generating still more findings (Knorr-Cetina 1 999, 252). STS's broadly empiricist-"seeing is believing"-rhetoric tends to privilege methods involving face-to-face encounters with subjects in or around the sub足 j ects' native knowledge production sites. Encounters with subjects by more spatially and temporally mediated means-such as their writings in the archives, their behavior under experimental conditions, or statistics collected about them-are regarded with greater suspicion. It might have been expected that this radical empiricism would end in tears or at least skepticism, as STS researchers would have little reason to trust the reports of their colleagues


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without themselves having first inspected the research sites to check their observations. For example, the logical positivists quickly realized that such hyper-verificationism would render science impossible or at least impossibly slow. Consequently, they gravitated towards a "conventionalist" epistemology in which theories are initially imposed on reality ( as hypotheses) and then judged according to the consequences (predictions) they yield. In such a regime, as Karl Popper especially stressed, even error may turn out to be instructive and, in that sense, worth having been committed. In contrast, the general STS solution to the problem of verification is what Steven Shapin ( 1 994) has called "virtual witnessing:' a meta-method that he himself learned "retro - reflexively," so to speak, by imitating those he studied archivally, namely, such seventeenth -century-English experimentalists as Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton, who practiced virtual witnessing as a dis­ tinct rhetoric for persuading those absent from the laboratory that the experi­ menter's eyes provide a reliable lens through which to view the reported events. In practice, STS has been very, perhaps too, tolerant on matters of method, so long as philosophical queries are not raised about their comparative reli­ ability and validity. In particular, STS does not encourage the reanalysis of sci­ entific data or even the reinvestigation of a previously studied research site. Thus, STS not only refrains from checking the knowledge claims of those it studies-and hence refuses to participate in critique-but it also exempts its own researchers from scrutiny for error and bias. A research site or a data set is effectively owned by the researcher who manages to pass STS's gatekeepers. On the one hand, this practice reveals STS's professionalised indifference to the fates of those studied. More normatively committed positions are allowed only if their externality to STS's professional concerns is marked (Ashmore and Richards 1 996; cf. Fuller 2000b, 357-65) . On the other hand, the practice enables STS researchers to avoid thorny ethical and legal problems that have the potential to stymie empirical research altogether and, hence, disadvantage the livelihoods of future STS researchers. Needless to say, not everyone adheres to this strict sense of professionalism. Especially among social scientists outside the core STS countries ( U.S., UK, France, the Netherlands ) , there has been a greater willingness to incorporate STS within a more explicitly "critical" standpoint that takes inspiration from Alvin Gouldner, Jurgen Habermas, and Pierre Bourdieu. It is worth recalling that well into the 1 970s, just before the advent of STS as a distinct field of inquiry, a strand of ethnomethodology-Iargely associated with Aaron Cicourel's ( 1 964, 1 974) version of "cognitive sociology"-dis aggregated and decomposed data sets with explicitly critical intent. These typically dealt with health and crime statistics gathered in a policy context. While research of this sort continues to figure in STS work, it has usually been incorporated non-judgmentally (or "symmetrically") to make the simple epistemological point that empirical evidence can be given many, perhaps even contradictory,

/


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 53

interpretations, depending on the assumptions "one" brings to it. (This "one" includes the subjects of the STS narrative, not the STS inquirers themselves.) Indeed, the most authoritative STS-based treatment of ethnomethodology openly distances its use of the approach from Cicourel's critical intent (Lynch 1993, 1 50 ) . Nevertheless, good examples of the critical application of STS can be found in Scandinavia. A case in point is Eva Karfve, a sociologist at Lund University in Sweden, who has studied the social construction of hyperactivity (or "attention deficit disorder") in children. Karfve was able to obtain the original data sets from which medical researchers at Gothenburg University had drawn conclusions about the diag­ nosis of hyperactivity and the effectiveness of a particular amphetamine-based drug in its treatment. Karfve was at first accused of overstepping her scientific authority, as the medical researchers declared she was jumping to conclusions based on research that was still in progress. Nevertheless, Sweden's liberal Freedom of Information Act came to her aid, since the research, however ten­ tative, was the beneficiary of state funding. At issue were several matters famil­ iar from STS research: ( 1 ) the statistical customization of a "normal" group of children in comparison to whom hyperactivity is then identified, (2) the mar­ ginalization of competing researchers and alternative hypotheses, and (3) the role of pharmaceutical companies in funding and possibly biasing medical research. What distinguished this case was that an STS researcher took a lead­ ing role in consolidating the doctors, parents, and teachers who already had their own reasons for distrusting the medical findings. To summarize a series of arguments and counter-arguments that were reported in the mainstream Swedish media from 2000 to 2003, the ease with which medical researchers diagnosed hyperactivity as a brain malfunction, rather than as a more sys­ temic problem of social adjustment, placed children at risk of developing a drug dependency that in the long term could itself lead to quite serious brain malfunctions. The story commanded so much attention because a group of psychiatrists working for Sweden's National Social Health Board had proposed to admin­ ister the hyperactivity drug in question to over 1 00,000 children and adults. Nevertheless, Karfve's cause has not been embraced by mainstream STS researchers, let alone the field's main professional bodies ( though she was supported by the Swedish Sociological Association ) . In fact, the most easily accessible English source of information on this development is the website of the Church of Scientology, which has long suspected the medical estab­ lishment of aspiring to mass mind control. This point is indicative of the unexpected ways in which STS research can play outside the original context of inquiry. Even statements concerning the constructed character of the sampling procedure used to study hypcractivity-a commonplace in the STS literature-were immediately taken as charges of misconduct of which the medical researchers had to be cleared by their home institution. For many both in and out of STS, the popular tendency to equate "constructed" with


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"fabricated" is sufficient grounds for restricting STS research to professional circles, keeping it out of the public eye. Still more serious challenges to the civic-minded STS researcher surround subject confidentiality. As it turns out, the subjects in the hyperactivity research already had their own reasons for distrusting the medical researchers, and so Karfve's intervention was wel­ comed. However, scientific data that reside in the public domain can in principle be reanalyzed by anyone for any reason. Most research subjects are typically unaware of this potentially high level of scrutiny. One could easily imagine that a plethora of cases in which STS researchers reopened the "black box" of research done in other sciences could inhibit the full partici­ pation of subjects in empirical research more generally, out of fear that their personal details would be converted into ammunition for waging cross­ disciplinary warfare. Cross- disciplinary confrontation is inevitable when a field with as reso­ lutely constructivist a view of disciplinary boundaries as STS spills over into the public sphere. However, notwithstanding STS's self-regarding sense of caution, I would urge that this matter be seen as on a par with the allowance of political parties or religious groups to campaign for their causes. If a party or a religion-or a science, for that matter-makes claims that purport to apply to everyone, then it is not unreasonable for its members to feel compelled to spread the word. Yet, there have been three historical problems with this coun­ sel of universal proselytism: ( 1 ) The various proselytizers would not be equally empowered to spread the word. ( 2 ) The people would not be trustworthy to discriminate "appropriately" among the proselytizers. ( 3 ) Disagreements among the proselytizers would threaten the social order. In the case of science, ( 1 ) probably poses the most serious problem b ecause, in various of fields of inquiry, certain "paradigms," so to speak, already enjoy an effective state monopoly in terms of the allocation of research funding and textbook space. Thus, the difference between "dogma" and "heresy" is too clearly marked sociologically to enable a fair fight between contesting disciplinary perspec­ tives. In the Swedish case, it seemed that the only way a sociological treatment of hyperactivity could receive public, scientific recognition was by suggesting that the dominant neuropharmacological treatment rested on research mis­ conduct. This feature of the public controversy draws attention to the enor­ mous burden of proof that the sociological camp had to shift. In the last two chapters of this book, I discuss strategies for the "secularization of science" that aim to create a more level playing field for sciences to interrogate one another's knowledge claims. 1 0. STS Catches Philosophy by the Achilles' Heel: The Problem of Replication

The line of reasoning employed in the previous section takes deadly seriously the universalist pretensions of scientific knowledge. From that perspective, the idea of a science that is open to new converts, yet refrains from proselytism,


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 55

appears to be either a contradiction in terms or a counsel of hypocrisy. This perspective presupposes a sense of reflexivity, whereby knowledge of purport­ edly universal significance must ultimately command universal assent. This position is familiar from the histories of the great proselytizing religions, Christianity and Islam. However, a long-term and largely unnoticed conse­ quence of secularization in Western philosophy has been to dissociate the acquisition of knowledge from the sort of existential choice that proselytism has urged upon would-be converts. Thus, epistemologists tend to frown upon the locution, "decide to believe"-people either naturally believe those in authority or acquire by natural means the evidence needed to warrant belief ( Fuller 2003a, chaps. 1 0-1 1 ) . The idea of a knowledge that might systemati­ cally defy nature's default settings is treated as a non-starter. Lost in the pro­ cess, however, is the space for articulating a "constructivist universalism;' the project of forging and sustaining a community of knowers that, on purely normative grounds, aims to incorporate everyone as equal participants, regardless of any "unnaturalness." Positivism was one such project, which Auguste Comte, originally-and John Stuart Mill, subsequently-justified in terms of God's need for humans to complete creation (Fuller 2002c). My own project of social epistemology is sympathetic with this line of reasoning, but it is not characteristic of STS appeals to reflexivity. In STS, it is more common to avoid philosophy's historically vexed rela­ tionship with religion and, instead, to universalize not one's aspirations but one's findings. Thus, the peculiar sense of mutual trust that is bred among STS researchers concerning their work is ultimately born of a deep distrust of the normative self-understanding of the scientists who are the usual focus of STS inquiry. The STS community does not enforce stronger critical checks on its own research, nor does it demand them from others' research, due to its pro­ fessional skepticism about the replicability of results, itself an important find­ ing of STS research (Collins 1 985). Strictly speaking, so-called replications in laboratory experiments-the gold standard of scientific research-do not live up to the assertions that scientists make about them: they are not actual repeat performances of original events. STS researchers, then, offer additional argu­ ments-pertaining to the tacit dimension of laboratory practice-to explain the impossibility of articulating everything one would need to know to make a given experiment work in a proposed setting. At most one can learn how to perform a functionally equivalent laboratory event, typically after consulta­ tion-if not outright apprenticeship-with the original experimenter. In any case, this performance is most definitely not an "independent corroboration" of the original event. There are some quite deep and pervasive p hilosophical precedents for STS's anti-replicationism. They may be divided into "Platonic" and "Aristotelian" precedents. Platonic precedents say that a given case can be subsumed under any of a number of normative rules, empirical general­ izations, or universal principles. I ncluded here are such stalwarts of late


S6 • The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies

analytic philosophy as Quine's ( 1 960) underdetermination of theory choice by evidence (which is often taken to imply the impossibility of crucial exper­ iments in science) and Wittgenstein's skepticism about rule-following ( wh ereby there is n o unique s olution to the p attern exemplified in a sequence of numbers [ see Kripke 1 9 82 ] ) . I call these precedents "Platonic" because they involve imagining cases and rules as separate entities that relate to each other-if at all-in the inquirer's manipulation of logical space. On the other hand, Aristotelian non-replicationism treats the distinctiveness of cases as an unintended consequence of the attempt to reproduce the same concept or form over space and time. Individual identity is thus the by­ product of imperfect replication. This idea is perhaps most familiar from molecular genetics since the discovery of DNA. However, it has been also a staple in modern French philosophy since Henri Bergson, most notably Jacques D errida's and Gilles Deleuze's theses concerning the generation of, respectively, "difference as deferment" and "difference through repetition," concepts that n ow a d ays are a s s o ciated with t h e quasi-or p e r h a p s pseudo-emancipatory idea that social structures are always changed a s they are enacted or performed ( Descombes 1 98 0 ) . Of course, near the dawn of Western p hilosophy, that grandmaster of flux, Heraclitus, h a d already declared that one cannot step into the same river twice. So, too, STS follows these illustrious philosophical precedents to argue that one cannot avoid producing two different things when trying to produce two instances of the same thing. To be sure, logicians usually treat this "insight" as a sophism, since it would seem to collapse distinct logical types by confusing the two instances with the one thing of which they are instances. Of course, the logicians are correct-ifwe presume that we already know what the two instances are instances of. But suppose we do not presume this, and instead presume that there is no fact of the matter about the relationship between the two instances before it is socially constructed as a relationship of some sort. How, then, do I know that an earlier and a later event in the laboratory are replications of the same experiment and not simply two different experi­ ments? It depends on the outcomes of the two events, specifically what those in authority make of their relationship. The second event may be seen as either falsifying or confirming (which to a Popperian means merely "not falsifying") the first event. Moreover, while mutually exclusive, these two possibilities are not the only ones. In addition, one may count the second event as an incom­ petent experimental p erformance ( and hence j ustifiably discounted) or declare that the second event has revealed unexpected phenomena that do not falsify the first event but put it in a different light. We can formalize these four possibilities by drawing on Imre Lakatos' ( 1 976) rational reconstruction of the rediscovery of the method of proof and counter-example in early niineteenth-century mathematics, which David Bloor ( 1 979), armed with Mary Douglas' anthropology of risk management,


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 57

turned into a still-valuable normative sociology of the scientific method. The result is as follows (see Fuller and Collier 2004, chap. 7): 1.

Falsification: The hypothesis is rejected in toto in light of counter­

2.

Exception Barring: Counter-examples are rendered irrelevant to a

examples.

3. 4.

proper test of the hypothesis: This is what "empirical confirmation" looks like to, say, a Popperian who expects the ultimate falsification of all hypotheses. Monster Barring: The hypothesis is a normative standard that may be used to discount counter-examples as cases of scientific malpractice. Monster Adjustment: The normative depth of the hypothesis allows for a charitable reinterpretation of the counter-examples, so that they are rendered less contrary than they first seem.

Two polar normative conclusions may be drawn from the generalized non­ replicability of research results: 1.

2.

The Extreme Philosophical Response: Science's current gatekeeping practices are inadequate, which may help explain known cases of scien­ tific fraud, itself perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. Instead of having j ournal referees read colleagues' papers for their "face validity" ( is it reasonable to suppose that these results could have been reached by these means?) , it may be necessary to deploy referees-much in the spirit of United Nations arms inspectors-to investigate the alleged sites of knowledge production and to have the experiments conducted in their presence. Indeed, to save time and money, scientists planning to do a major experiment may need to request the presence of a jour­ nal's referees the first time round, perhaps requiring them to sign off on any publication that the scientists submit on the event. One conse­ quence of this change of procedure would be to disallow the publica­ tion of "serendipitous" discoveries that emerge by a means other than planned (and hence witnessed) experiments. In any case, the new pro­ cedure would p robably slow the pace of science but also permit more public access-journalists perhaps?-to experimental demonstrations. The Extreme Sociological Response: Science's current gatekeeping prac­ tices are fine, since science has obviously managed to thrive even with­ out strictly replicating its research. From this perspective, cases of research fraud should be understood as more about the researchers' moral psychology (Le., their intent to deceive) than their actual labora­ tory practice, since, strictly speaking, no research can be replicated. Ultimately at fault is how scientists think (or talk) about what they do, not the actions themselves. Science does as well as it does because its practitioners trust one another's competence and have been able to find one another's work useful and creative for their own efforts,


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which are in turn largely accorded the value they deserve by society at­ large (Collins and Pinch 1993). What more can be asked of scientists as members of society or of science as a social endeavor? Philosophical norms about replicability and other criteria of testability may turn out to be false empirical hypotheses about how science works, but that should not imp ugn the integrity of what s cientists no rmally do. Rather, scientists should never have relied on philosophers for legiti­ mation in the first place. Of course, the scientific community's normative response to lack of replica­ tion-what might be expected from an editorial in Science or Nature-falls between the philosopher's strongly regulatory posture and the sociologist's more laissez-faire attitude. This intermediate response is, empirically speak­ ing, a form of wishful thinking based on the assumption that all fraud is even­ tually caught through the normal scientific peer-review channels. If there is cause for concern about this self-correcting process, it pertains only to the time it takes for fraud to be caught. In the next chapter, when considering nor­ matively appropriate responses to the Sakal Hoax, I shall defend a version of ( 2 ) , though in Fuller ( 1 993) I was inclined to support ( 1 ) . In any case, the non-replicability of scientific findings needs to be taken seriously as a norma­ tive problem, since that is one of the main reasons why non-scientists believe that science provides a superior form of knowledge. 1 1 . What Is Living and Undead in Actor-Network Theory

Throughout this book I remark on STS's various, often unwitting, debts to positivism. The same applies no less to actor-network theory, the Paris-based school of STS that over the past twenty years has been the field's leading research orientati on. The so- called theory-strictly speaking, closer to a method-is associated with Bruno Latour ( a philosopher who acts like an anthropologist), Michel Callon (an engineer who acts like an economist) , and John Law (a sociologist who acts like a metaphysician) . Actor-network theory is specifically indebted to positivism as a scientific metaphysics. In terms of the next chapter, I intend the second-generation positivism represented by Ernst Mach that Bertrand Russell repackaged as "neutral monism" in such works as The Analysis ofMind ( 1 92 1 ) and The Analysis ofMatter ( 1927) to lay the foun­ dations of the Vienna Circle's third -generation positivism. According to Russell, common sense is philosophically unreliable because it depends on dualisms, such as mind-body, that are atavisms of a scientifically superseded religious culture. Instead, one should regard as mind and body as alternative "structurings" of the same set of sense data arranged by universal principles of logic. Russell and his Viennese followers were mainly concerned with how one might interpret minds and bodies as "logical constructions" to provide secure foundations for the natural-or at least naturalizable-sciences. However, in France, this general perspective proved interesting for its own metaphysical presuppositions. Neutral monism implies that structuring as a


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activity precedes the construction of particular subjects and objects. Jean Piaget's "genetic epistemology," empirically driven by his studies of the cogni­ tive development of children, ushered an era of "structuralism" in the human sciences in the 1 920s that reached its peak in the Anglophone world nearly a half-century later (Piaget 1 970). The structuralists loosened Russell's princi­ pled emphasis on mathematical logic as the medium of construction, settling for a "narrative logic" based on psychologically satisfying patterns of practical inference common to primitive myths and modern novels. As more ambitious structuralists tried to turn this "logic" into the foundations of the "human sci­ ences," the word "semiotics" came to be used very broadly to mean significa­ tion in a sense indifferent to whether the narrated text "signifies" more text or a reality beyond the text. Indeed, the metaphysical breakdown of this distinc­ tion heralded the advent of "deconstruction" (Macksey and Donato 1 970), the philosophical stance most characteristic of the postmodern condition in which STS flourishes (Fuller 2000b, 355-57). Latour's ( 1 993) We Have Never Been Modern, the most popular philosophi­ cal work in STS, should be read as a clever reappropriation of the above lin­ eage fo r thos � -typically yo unger or philosophically naive readers o r both-who were not exposed t o i t the first time round. Those with a taste for the cunning of reason in history will relish that, in terms of the pernicious dualisms that allegedly plague our times, Latour has replaced Russell's demon­ ization of religious superstition with a demonization of the scientific moder­ nity for which Russell himself stood. As too often happens, philosophers were quick to identify Russell's talk of "sense data" as a logical extension of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, while ignoring the new spin that the then-recent behav­ iorist revolution in scientific psychology gave to his conception of a sense datum. Similarly lost on today's philosophers is Latour's reliance on strucu­ tralism's semiotic revolution to ground his focus on "inscriptions" as interface entities simultaneously generating the existence of an inscriber and an inscribed on either side of the inscription. Consequently, Russell and Latour have been stereotyped as subjectivists by philosophers who still take their intellectual marching orders from Descartes. Yet, both have been very clear that their metaphysical revisionism implies the interpenetration of tradition­ ally mental and physical properties. For Russell, behaviorist psychology and quantum physics combined to produce a more body-like mind and a mind­ like body. Although Latour prefers ethnography to experiment and complexity to indeterminacy, he too aims to justify these mind-body "hybrids': Russell and Latour share a common philosophical ancestor, the early mod­ ern rationalist Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Both are intrigued by Leibniz's revival of the old scholastic principle of sufficient reason, which states that there is nothing superfluous in nature. There are two ways of reading this principle, which correspond to what might be called the "English" and the " French" Leibniz. ( Leibniz, a German, normally wrote in what was then secular Europe's international language, French-just as Latour is French but


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publishes, if not writes, in Europe's current international language, English. ) The English Leibniz i s the celebrated opponent of Locke who defended with baroque ingenuity the doctrines of innate ideas and cosmic teleology. "Suffi­ cient reason" thus signifies, for Russell, a return to the original cause, plan, or atomic constituents (what Leibniz called "monads") capable of revealing the logical necessity of all we experience. In contrast, the French Leibniz is the philosopher of "pure difference" who boldly challenged Newton's piety for proposing that the divine order can be captured by three simple laws and a universal principle that reduced the panoply of experience to endlessly repeat­ able events. Especially in the appendix "Irreductions" to Latour ( l 988b), Leibniz is thus read not as the ultimate apriorist but as the originator of the inquired-based social inquiry discussed earlier in this chapter that underwrites STS fieldwork. Latour uses Leibniz to justify the following argument for the legitimacy of STS: if everything is meaningful as it is ( and not-as Newton impiously suggests-a disguise for something else), then there is an endless opening for interpreters whose own inscriptions become the basis for others to interpret. These inquiries will eventuate not in the overthrow of a world that enslaves us with deceptive appearances but the acceptance of the world we have helped to create through our participation in those very inquiries. Isabelle Stengers (2000), the Belgian philosopher who is actor-network the­ ory's most intellectually agile defender, has observed that this is where Latour establishes common cause with British STS colleagues (e.g., Bloor 1 976) who urge philosophers, in terms of the late Wittgenstein, to "leave the world alone" by adopting a more anthropological perspective that takes exotic forms of life at face value as loci of alternative rationalities. Stengers cleverly invokes Leibniz's original diplomatic efforts in the religious wars of seventeenth-century Europe as a model of conduct for today's Science Wars. She conveniently omits Leibniz's reputation for opportunism and equivocation, a point as relevant now as in Leibniz's day. (For some knowing and, for those who know, damning remarks about STS's diplomatic mission, see Latour 2004, 209-1 7.) However, at most Stengers can be accused of concealing counter-evidence to enhance Latour's philosophical respectability. More egregious are the philosophical errors normally committed by Science Warriors looking to score easy points against Latour. When philosophers want to reduce the complexity of the Science Wars to a scholastic debating point guaranteed to intimidate impressionable undergrad­ uates, they recall Alan Sokal's alleged refutation of Bruno Latour's Third Rule of Method, which reads: "Since the settlement of a controversy is the cause of Nature's representation, not the consequence, we can never use the out­ come-Nature-to explain how and why a controversy has been settled (Latour 1 987, 99)." Sokal's refutation runs as follows. We obviously have here a profound confusion between "Nature's repre­ sentation" and "Nature," that is, between our theories about the world and the world itself. D epending on how one resolves the ambiguity


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(using twice "Nature's representation" or "Nature"), one can obtain the truism that our scientific theories are the result of a social process (as the so-called traditional sociology of science had demonstrated perfectly well ) ; or the radically idealist claim that the external world is created by scientists' negotiations; or again the truism that the outcome of a scien­ tific controversy cannot be explained solely by the state of the world; or else the radically constructivist claim that the state of the world can play no role when one explains how and why a controversy has been settled (Le Monde, 3 1 January 1 997; full version in Sokal and Bricmont 1 998, 85-86). Sokal follows closely, if silently, in the footsteps of John Searle's ( 1 983) highly publicized alleged refutation of Culler ( 1 982), which had attempted to convert Nietzsche's philosophy-by-genealogy into deconstruction's methodology. But is Sokal's and Searle's the secure path of reason? I am afraid not. Read in context, the Third Rule of Method denies o nly a specific and extreme form of scientific realism, what philosophers call "inference to the best explanation" ( Lipton 1 99 1 ) . It says that the best explanation for the robust acceptance of a scientific theory-say, Newtonian mechanics over the last 300 years-is that the theory is substantially true and hence likely to remain true in the foreseeable future, if not forever. This inference is associ­ ated with what Kantians call "transcendental arguments" and pragmatists and other naturalists call "abduction." The strength of the inference depends on the lack of alternative explanations b ecause the phenomenon to b e explained, while empirically well founded, i s nevertheless highly improba­ ble. The paradigm case of such a phenomenon is the very presence of cosmic order whose "irreducible complexity" is supposedly explainable only as the product of a creative deity (Dembski 1998). Indeed, "best explanationism" is a secular hangover of the arguments put forth by theologically inclined phi10sophers in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including Leibniz (the model for Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide), William Paley (whose argu­ ment from design was targeted by Darwin ) , and William Whewell (who coined the word "scientist" for someone like Newton who interpreted dis­ parate phenomena as converging on the same image of reality) . Not surpris­ ingly, the original argument against best explanationism was that the history of science (or humanity or perhaps the entire universe) does not manifest a pattern sufficiently edifying to warrant a design-based or, its secular variant, a truth-oriented explanation. It is possible to deny the radical thesis of inference to the best explanation and still hold that most of our accepted scientific theories are indeed true. One could simply claim that what makes these theories true and what makes them accepted as true require significantly different explanations. When pressed in debate, Latour has tended to draw this distinction to legitimize STS as a second-order inquiry autonomous of the practice of science itself: STS studies the processes that cause a theory to b e accepted as true, whereas science


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studies the processes that cause a theory to be true. Sometimes these causal trajectories coincide, sometimes not. This is a matter to be resolved by empir­ ical investigation. Now, who could object to that? Indeed, some epistemologists routinely entertain just this divergence of causal paths. But when they do, they descend into skepticism and not become immersed in STS fieldwork. In contrast, scientists typically assume that what makes their theories worthy of belief constitutes knowledge of what makes them true. Thus, when a scientist accepts a theory as true, she does not think she is simply reflecting a prior bias toward that theory or responding to a restricted set of options in terms of which that theory clearly excels. There seems to be something else-something specifically "truth-oriented"-that points beyond the decision context and guides her theory choice. Philosophers typically call this missing factor "evidence," though its exact nature remains surprisingly mysterious, considering its pivotal role. Nevertheless, if I cannot specify that factor correctly, then I am embroiled in what epistemologists call the Gettier Problem, namely, the possession of a justified true belief that does not count as knowledge because my belief is based on a false understanding of how that belief has come to be the one I possess. Thus, I may think that I believe a scientific theory because it best explains the phenomena that interest me, but it may be simply because that belief is the o nly one to which I was exposed or that it is the one I find most convenient to hold. After all, when I settle upon a theory as true, who says I already considered all relevant alternatives? While much of philosophical skepticism's demythologizing sensibility remains in STS today, there is also a more positive side to anti-best-explana­ tionism. It is associated with contemporary postmodernism: suppose one holds that, in principle, any number of mutually incompatible theories could be shown true, but it turns out historically that only one or a few of these the­ ories come to be accepted as true. Someone sensitive to the contingency of sci­ entific theory choice, perhaps with an eye to what economic historians call the "path dependent" character of scientific and technological progress, would conclude that science could have developed quite differently, with outcomes whose legatees would have then quite legitimately regarded as true. In other words, left to its own devices, nature may be much more tolerant of alternative representations than either philosophers or scientists had realized. In that case, the primary responsibility for the construction and maintenance of a particular representation lies with a self-constituting social order. The prob­ lem of providing adequate foundations for science then shifts from discerning inviolate natural laws to designing enduring institutions. The final chapter of this book takes up this challenge, which is otherwise left underdeveloped by actor-network theory. I say "underdeveloped" because actor-network theory prefers a somewhat different approach to resolving nature's inherent indeterminacy. Latour's sci­ entific heroes are not the philosophers' favorites, Galileo and D arwin, who


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generated controversy with their findings, but Pasteur and Einstein whose findings resolved controversy. For Latour, a mark of successful science is its ability to take to the next level Clausewitz's maxim that politics is war by other means-namely, science is politics by still other, subtler means. So instead of the residual forms of coercion involved in, say, binding the populace to electoral outcomes or enforcing the legislation passed by the politicians so elected, Latour is fascinated by the seemingly spontaneous ("action at a dis足 tance") assent that can be commanded by those appropriately situated to invoke science. Science turns out to be the most politic form of politics, some足 thing that Latour treats (inexplicably) as a self-evident good, as in this famous account: Pasteur adds to all the forces that composed French society at the time a new force for which he is the only credible spokesman-the microbe. You cannot build economic relations without this tertium quid since the microbe, if unknown, can bitter your beer, spoil your wine, make the mother of your vinegar sterile, bring back cholera with your goods, kill your factotum sent to India . . . . If you reveal microbes as essential actors in all social relations, then you need to make room for them and for the people who sow them and can eliminate them. Indeed, the more you want to get rid of the microbes, the more room you should grant Pasteurians (Latour 1 983, 1 57). However, for a clearer sense of the means and ends of the displacement of politics by science, we need to turn to Latour ( l 988a), his notorious semiotic analysis of Einstein's 1 920 popularization of relativity theory. On the surface, Latour wants to show that Einsteinian relativity marks a revolutionary advance over the space-time "relativism" put forward, in some足 what different forms, by Ernst Mach and Henri Poincare in what became the twilight of Newtonian mechanics. This point is a commonplace in the histori足 ography of science, the subject of several academically domesticated accounts shorn of Latour's own metatheoretical ambitions, even among those who know better (e.g., Galison 2003 ) . These ambitions pertain to the analogy Latour implies between Einstein's relationship to the late Newtonians and Latour's relationship to the original STS relativists, David Bloor, Barry Barnes, and Harry Collins. But what exactly is at stake? Take Einstein's example: a stone dropped in a moving train appears to fall in a straight line to the person dropping it, whereas the person standing on the embankment sees a parabola. To the old-style relativist, the only way to resolve this difference in perception is through a "convention" j ustified purely in terms of the interests of the convenor, who is introduced as the deus ex machina. This, of course, exposes the resolution to the charge of "arbitrariness." Not surprisingly, old- style relativists confess, denying the possibility of a "real" resolution. In contrast, by presuming an absolute speed of light, Einstein was able to provide a mathematical framework for


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translating the two perspectives so that they appear to have equal access to reality. Einstein did not impose his own perspective on the other two for which he might then be held accountable, but simply demonstrated their equivalence. Indeed, insofar as Einstein had a perspective at all, it emerged only from whatever it took to render the others equivalent. Latour recog­ nizes Einstein's resolution as a brilliant strategy to accrue power without taking responsibility, a "super-relativism" that generates a new kind of abso­ lutism. The strategy requires simply that the would-be resolver have nO stake other than the peaceful resolution of the apparent differences. Social scien­ tists used to call this perspective "neutral," but post-Latour, it is called "sym­ metrical." Instead of referring to the inquirer's relationship to the inquired, one noW refers to th_e interrelations among the inquired that the inquirer then renders transparent. We might wonder about the normative implications of Latour's Einsteinian revolution in STS. Consider the following self-deconstructive moment in which Latour recodes relativity theory in terms of political economy: What appears confusing in Einstein's text, as well as in the opposition between relativism and relativity, is this apparent paradox: if there exist many points of view each claiming to be privileged, nO One of them can get an edge over all the others; if On the contrary, there are no privileged points of view, this means that there is nothing to prevent one of them getting an edge over all the others. We are, in our daily practice, quite clever at handling this seeming paradox-not in physics, to be sure, but in economics. It is the same paradox as that of liberalism. As long as any movement of goods, money or people is interrupted by many local fran­ chises, protections, tariffs, feudal systems, particular regulations, tradi­ tions, irreducible cultures, it is impossible to capitalize on any large scale. Laissez-faire laissez-passer is a necessary precondition for large­ scale capitalization. Of course there is a price to pay-abandonment of protection, of tariffs, of special ad hoc regulations-but the payoff is worth it for those who can profit from the weakening of others' barriers (Latour 1 988a, 1 5) . So, who exactly are the "those" who stand to profit from the Latour's Einstein­ inflected strategy? The two most obvious candidates are ( 1 ) those whose busi­ ness is to analyze the overall situation and ( 2 ) those whose power base does not depend on the state. On the one hand, Latour is simply alluding to himself and his colleagues who have benefited from the global economic pressures that in the 1 980s have forced France to weaken its protectionist policies across many sectors of society (Fuller 2000b, 3 65-78). On the other hand, Latour is alluding to first-order traders who stand to gain the most from the deregula­ tion o f markets. Although Latour sometimes portrays deregulation as enabling the weak to become stronger, "weak" means something like "distance from politically sanctioned sources of power." Such "weak" parties could


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include whatever private and foreign sources of power (i.e., multinational cor­ p orations) happen to be unleashed on an unprotected market. In a sense, Latour and his colleagues may also be counted among these beneficiaries, as their Parisian ascendancy has followed, not preceded, their success in the Anglophone markets that propel globalization. The result envisaged by Latour might be compatible with Social Darwinism but not the liberalism of classical political economy, which regarded "large­ scale capitalization" as a systemic property of free trade (i.e., the overall pros­ perity of the commonwealth) , not the property of particular traders who opportunistically benefit from the removal of restrictions. I mean here the tra­ dition that j oins Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, rather than to Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Hayek. The former are distinguished from the latter legatees of Smith by their belief that the mere removal of barriers to free trade is insufficient to realize the systemic goals of liberalism. Specifically, the voluntary delegation of power from one individual to another for pur­ poses of maximizing the advantage of both-as stipulated in, say, principal­ agent theory in economics or actor-network theory in STS-will never achieve the desired results without prior education or revolution. And both of these may require some independent agency-a political party or an elaborated state-dedicated to enabling people to realize and have recognized their dig­ nity as human beings. For those who regard the distinctly human dignity of traders as unnecessary to one's freedom to trade, Mill's and Marx's sympathy for the systemic redistribution of resources would appear to reflect an unhealthy interest in applied theology, a point on which Spencer, Hayek, and Latour could concur. For this trio, the only "market failure" is the failure to have a market. Perhaps unsurprisingly, despite their easygoing intellectual manner, both Latour and his principal collaborator, Michel CalIon, bridle at being called "capitalists;' a term they believe was invented by those who wished to demon­ ize market-based activities by homogenizing them ( Latour 1 99 3 , 1 1 5-27; Barry and Slater 2002, 297). As it happened, however, "capitalism"-rather as the word suggests-was coined to capture the marketization of parts of society traditionally not governed by market forces ( Grundmann and Stehr 200 1 ) . This epitomizes the meaning o f "politicization" in the Newspeak o f actor­ network theory: If you consider emerging groups and social identities that are created or performed by [market] overflows, you will have a very different account of social identities and groups from those who are put on stage by John Rawls or Habermas . . . . Consider, for example, patients suffering from muscular dystrophy. They are created by the way markets function. As you know, they consider themselves orphan groups because, as they are so few in numbers, they are not considered profitable . . . . The only way for them to participate in a public debate . . . is to come with their disabled bodies, and transform themselves from being monsters hidden


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in private life into human beings who have to be considered as human beings . . . You have to display what must be veiled in John Rawls' philosophy. . . . And remember Hannah Arendt's point about the necessity for citizens to leave economic worries at home in order to be free to speak in the public sphere. What I recommend is exactly the opposite. Your, body, your economic activities, your worries about subsistence and so on-because all these matters are disputable they must be debated in the public sphere (CalIon, in Barry and Slater 2002, 303-304). This perverse misreading of the Western political tradition nevertheless caters to today's version of political correctness. It defines politics as an unintended consequence of market failure. If we shift the claim from "politics" to "the state," we have a familiar move in neo-classical economics. However, CalIon refuses to invoke the state, given its historical associations with centrally planned modes of governance, because he imagines politics as itself in the business of constructing markets where they would not otherwise exist. The difference is arresting. Instead of supporting the usual means by which states persuade or coerce citizens to expand the horizon of their concerns (e.g., education, taxation), CalIon valorizes the grassroots efforts of ignored suffer­ ers to repackage their disabilities in ways that make them more attractive (i.e., "cuddly") to politicians and funders. Without diminishing the actual achieve­ ments of disabilities groups, there are two political lessons that one might draw from them. On the one hand, these achievements may be regretted as the last resort in a society lacking the vivid political imagination that Rawls ( 1 97 1 ) tried to capture with his "veil o f ignorance." I n other words, where people can­ not easily countenance what it would be like-or how it might have been-to find themselves in a radically different social position, then you need to grab them at a more visceral level that does not require them to recalibrate their prejudices. On the other hand, these achievements may simply demonstrate that politics is nothing but marketing, with the selling of suffering an instance of inducing consumer demand. The difference between these two lessons ulti­ mately turns on whether politics is, so to speak, a market leader or follower: does politics aim to set goals and standards that transcend and even counter­ act default tendencies in thought and action or does it aim simply to include within those tendencies what is currently excluded? The Western political tra­ dition has aspired to the former, while CalIon happily settles for the latter. CalIon also perversely misinterprets the point made by democratic theo­ rists in the civic republican tradition like Hannah Arendt (also Pettit 1 997, Fuller 2000a) about the need to be, in CalIon's terms, "disentangled" before entering the public sphere. In fact, the point speaks directly to the material conditions under which politics is genuinely possible. Here it is important to distinguish ancient republican from modern liberal forms of democratic engagement: the former is concerned with the freedom to speak one's mind with impunity (i.e., "the right to be wrong" ) , the latter with the freedom to speak out of self-interest. Civic republicans pursue politics in the spirit


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of experimentation and even gamesmanship to approximate the leisured preconditions of politics in Athens. The idea is to see how far people can move collectively beyond what they can accomplish individually. In contrast, liberals pursue politics as an attenuated form of self-defense, motivated by the fear that if you do not look out for your own interests, no one else will. Politics, for liberals, is thus the very means by which one's very survival is secured and maintained, not an activity that presupposes the material security of the par­ ticipants. To paraphrase the old German idealist slogan resurrected by Karl Popper ( 1 972, 122), civic republicans aspire to a polity in which our ideas can always die in our stead, whereas liberals are prepared to tie people's fates to their ideas. Only in the former situation can ideas be j udged on their own merits and not merely as symptoms of the interests of those who bear them. In short, then, actor-network theory promises a politics of science well suited to the neo-liberal sensibility of our times. 1 2. STS Fieldwork as a Reflection of the Shifting Material Conditions of Scientific Work

It would be hard to imagine another group of subjects who have reacted so violently to the sociologists studying them as scientists. Yet, the reaction has been by no means uniform across the scientific community. The purer the sci­ ence and the older the scientist, the greater her suspicion of sociologists, espe­ cially the social constructivist practitioners of STS who study scientists in their worksites. In contrast, for younger, typically client-centred, contract-based researchers who work in interdisciplinary and applied fields, sociological field­ work is often a bracing antidote to gerontocratic pretensions of a nostalgic golden age of inquiry that continue to dominate the bastions of scientific pro­ fessionalism. After all, a central conclusion of recent STS, backed by both his­ torical and ethnographic inquiries, is that science has been always implicated in wider social, political and economic processes. However, the legitimation of science has traditionally involved minimizing the attention drawn to these entanglements, usually with the help of philosophically inspired 'methodo­ logical' discourse that refers only to 'logic' and 'evidence' in the presence of complicated machinery and data sheets. This conclusion has seeped now even into European science-policy thinking, which proclaims a 'new production of knowledge' that is embodied in the younger generation of researchers, so­ called Mode 2 knowledge producers, for whom 'science' is tantamount to the entire technical infrastructure of contemporary social life, or simply 'techno­ science.' Accordingly, those older scientists who cling to the traditional mode of legitimating science are relegated to 'Mode l' (Gibbons et al. 1 994) . In the introduction to this book, I proposed that the common understand­ ing of technoscience in STS today is a devolved, somewhat privatized version of the "military-industrial complex" in terms of which developments in sci­ ence and technology were seen during the Cold War. Once the Soviet Union declared its ambition to spread Communism worldwide, the U.S. adopted the


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old German policy of engaging in long-term strategic planning as if the nation were in a state of "permanent emergency" ( Fuller 2000b, 105). This created at once enormous problems and opportunities. Industrialists saw problems because it meant the restriction of free trade, but scientific leaders of the recent war effort such as Vannevar Bush and James Bryant Conant saw oppor­ tunities for indefinitely promoting scientific research at the high levels of war­ time funding. Moreover, since the threat posed by the Soviets was conceived as diffuse and uncertain, more a matter of deterring or containing warfare than actually fighting and winning a war, the character of the required research shifted from "just in time" to "just in case." This, too, suited the long-term basic research orientation of the scientists more than the short-term market­ driven mentality of the industrialists. The military-industrial complex was forged once the American government agreed to contract U.S. -based indus­ tries to manufacture the national defense systems the scientists designed, regardless of their ultimate utility. This decision made the Pentagon the big­ gest single investor in U.S. science and industry in the third quarter of the twentieth century. One relatively unnoticed consequence of this arrangement is that, against conventional economic wisdom, the industrialists-and the general pub­ lic-came to believe that the sheer stockpiling of advanced weapons was ipso facto a sign of strength, not weakness. Of course, if one's model of achieve­ ment were a full, albeit unused, library, rather than a cleared warehouse, then it made good sense. In this respect, endless technoscientific expansion became both the means and the ends of the Cold War. Moreover, this policy has con­ tinued largely unabated with the fall of the Soviet Union. The only difference is that the state no longer occupies the role of central planner and coordinator. Nevertheless, the cross-national metrics of techno scientific achievement devised in the Cold War remain in place, most notably the Science Citation Index, only now enhanced by related measures of intellectual property. Yet, as in the Cold War, there remains an enormous gap between counting articles, patents, and citations, on the one hand, and measuring the effectiveness of these quantities vis-a-vis their target realities, on the other ( Fuller 2002a, chap. l ) . Only the most sociologically naive academic administrator or science policy manager would presume that there is some straightforward connection between such counts and measures. Luckily, at least for the employment prospects of STS researchers, sociological naivete is never in short supply (e.g., Etzkowitz et al. 1 998) . Ever diplomatic about its own skepticism toward the interests of the field's potential clients, STS prefers to focus its theoretical energies on the implica­ tions of the politically devolved character of technoscience. In this context, two distinct concepts are often confused, especially-and ironically-by STS researchers who appear oblivious to the difference geography makes to the general perception of state meltdown. In particular, the German discussion stresses risk, the French uncertainty (Barry and Slater 2002, 289). Risk implies


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 69

that you know enough about the probabilities of what you're dealing that you can insure against the worst outcomes. Uncertainty implies that you don't even know that much, and so insurance is not an appropriate response. One simply prepares to live in a world inhabited by different agents. The German discussion begins with the fiscal collapse of the save-it-all welfare state, whereas the French discussion begins with the break down of trust in the know-it-all technocratic state. The former is handled by various stakeholder­ led groups occupying the space left open by the welfare state's departure, whereas the latter is dealt with by organizing new forms of p articipation among groups that in the past had no recognition whatever in the state appa­ ratus. Not surprisingly, where Ulrich Beck ( 1 992) sees crises requiring global solutions of the sort promoted by Greenpeace, Michel Callon sees endless opportunities-at least for consultancies-in a market receptive to new forms of identity politics. Judged simply in terms of normative clarity, Cold War techno science was preferable to its post-Cold War variants in the STS era: there was at least the virtue of transparency in scientists' defending Mode 1 ideals that blatantly deviated from the Cold War reality they faced. In contrast, Mode 2 knowledge production is marked by scientific ideals much better adapted to expected reality, and hence less likely to provoke criticism or discontent. This transition marks a sea change in the social legitimation of science. Mode 1 found it unseemly to j ustify research in terms of the income streams it generates, let alone the costs generated by its very pursuit. If any­ thing, the material bases of research had been regarded as inversely related to its epistemic merit. The idea goes back to Aristotle and Newton: science aims to explain the most by the least. In science's heroic age, one clever experiment or one neat proof could lay to rest a host of uncertainties and controversies. In the case of more naturalistic research whose painstaking character required concentrated effort over long periods, the expectation was that it would be undertaken only by p eople like Charles Darwin whose inherited wealth afforded them adequate leisure. Darwin rushed Origin of the Species into print in 1 859 after a 'mere' twenty years of effort, not because a desperate funder had pestered him for 'outputs' but because he feared being scooped by Alfred Russel Wallace in their highbrow gentlemen's game to explain organic evolu­ tion. In D arwin's day, lab ored efforts that required the indulgence of funders-be they private or public-raised suspicions of researcher incompe­ tence or, perhaps worse, researchers interested more in lucrative applications than edifying insights. Traditionally the persuasiveness of state support for so­ called curiosity-driven science has been that the level of m aterial sup­ port-specifically, the time and equipment-required for its conduct would be minimal relative to its long-term returns. However, as the entry costs for sustaining such curiosity have risen, so too has the desire for the returns to be larger and appear sooner.


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Science has been traditionally justified as a somewhat other-worldly enter­ prise very clearly distinguished from technology. The philosophically sancti­ fied discourses of obj e ctivity and rationality that continue to prevail in scientific journal articles may be understood-and certainly was by the early STS fieldworkers-as a symbolic recoding of the fairly p edestrian set of routines that constitute "laboratory life" (Latour and Woolgar 1 986, Knorr­ Cetina 1 9 8 1 ) . As the fieldworkers saw it, scientists write about enchanted realms of "quarks" and "alleles," hidden causes-the source of the blurry traces found in photographic plates and Petri dishes-whose subtle effects can be found throughout the material world. Readers of such fieldwork would be forgiven for being reminded of a shaman's divination of a bird's entrails. Indeed, one of the original ethnographers (Lynch 1988) provocatively, but no less usefully, compared the divergence between science's traditional, and still official, descriptions of its laboratory practices and how things appear to the observant fieldworker to an agnostic's perception of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, whereby the priest (scientist) claims to convert ordinary bread and wine (technically mediated samples) to the body and blood oE Jesus (scientifically real entities) in the Holy Mass (an experiment). However, as scientists have been increasingly forced to justify themselves in terms of the sheer material character of their activities, they have come to look more favorably upon the fieldworker's perspective. In this Mode 2 state, a greater proportion of a senior scientist's effort is spent on activities that would have been previously regarded as peripheral or auxiliary to "science as such." These include incessant grant-writing, the day-to-day management and coor­ dination of a non-trivial number of specialized researchers, not to mention conference presentations to potential funders, as well as colleagues. These are no longer seen as regrettable-but-necessary means to a nobler end, such as a Nobel Prize-winning discovery. Rather, the perpetuation of the research pro­ gram-more precisely, the livelihoods of the major stakeholders in the research team-has become an end in itself. As suits the fieldworker whose eyes are firmly "on the ground;' the working aim of science is self-mainte­ nance not self-transcendence. Thus, the magical, philosophical discourse that traditionally legitimated science metamorphoses into an expertise in rheto­ ric-one typically possessed by the senior scientist herself, given her responsi­ bility for launching the rese arch program, promoting its virtues and, hopefully, boosting its fortunes. She knows how to assemble speech and writ­ ing to organize the lab's disparate activities into a quantum of credible new knowledge. This involves both the selection of an appropriate set of theoretical and empirical precedents in which to embed the team's findings and the con­ struction of an appropriate, typically mathematical, representation of the team's data that reveals a good-but not suspiciously too good-fit with the hypotheses under consideration. Knorr-Cetina ( 1 98 1 ) and Latour and Woolgar ( 1 986) accessed this rhetori­ cal dimension by alternative means. The former examined successive drafts of


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 7 1

a single research article intended for publication, while the latter followed the streamlining of a published finding as it came to frame the basis on which subsequent researchers constructed their findings. Whereas Knorr-Cetina chased the paper trail back to the researchers' rubbish bin, Latour and Woolgar turned to the serials section of the university library. Together they provide two crucial dimensions for fathoming the social construction of a scientific fact. In terms of developmental biology, Knorr-Cetina studied the 'ontogene­ sis,' and Latour and Woolgar the 'phylogenesis' of that peculiar species of sci­ entific life, the fact. The overall image one gets of this process is that regardless of what actually transpires at the laboratory site, the scientist's prime rhetori­ cal objective is to convey the impression that she has made the most of her sit­ uation. Knorr-Cetina termed this the 'logic of opportunism,' but it is most naturally interpreted as an aethic ofproductivity. The best advertisement for the continuation of one's research program is the demonstration that the time and money spent in the lab were optimal for the results. Thus, as much as pos­ sible, one tries to minimize the appearance of waste or idleness. Again, the contrast with more traditional scientific modes of justification is striking. Per­ haps the last great defense of a Mode 1 political economy for science, Polanyi ( 1 957), explicitly tied free inquiry to the ability to waste resources with impu­ nity, since if natural reality is truly independent of human designs, then there is no reason to think that it will conform to scientists' work patterns, let alone deadlines. At most, through their disciplinary training, scientists can mentally prepare themselves in case a glimpse of reality should come their way as a 'dis­ covery.' On this traditional view, knowledge is more a matter of being receptive than productive. (For a critique, see Fuller 2002a, 1 6-20; Fuller and Collier 2004, 229-30). Here is a good way to epitomize the difference in mentalities between sci­ ence in Mode 1 and Mode 2 in terms of the conduct of laboratory life: Mode 1 scientists seek prizes, that is, recognition for specific achievements that imply nothing about the material conditions under which they were made. In con­ trast, Mode 2 scientists seek grants, that is, extended licenses to the material conditions of knowledge production before any achievements have been made (Fuller 2002a, chap. 1 ) . The contrast in mentalities also parallels the two main empirical methodologies of STS, archival history and ethnographic fieldwork. A prize- centered study of science typically works backwards to explain an achievement, whereas a grant- centered study typically follows the flow of action and documents its consequences. The former studies science already made, the latter science in the making. An old scholastic distinction comes in handy at this point. In Mode 1 the order of knowing reverses the order of being, whereas in Mode 2 the order of knowing corresponds to the order of being (see Fuller 1 993, 95-96) . The implied epistemological distinction is real­ ist versus constructivist. From a social epistemological standpoint, the most interesting feature of this set of transitions is that constructivism's vaunted 'anti-establishment' view of science tracks the emergence of the neo-liberal


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political economy in which science is increasingly embedded. In other words, constructivism breaks with more rationalist and realist philosophies of science not because they are insufficiently critical of science but, on the contrary, because they fail to reflect the current state of science. Thus, constructivism provides ideological support for the emerging scientific orthodm.--y as it criti­ cizes the old philosophical orthodoxy (Fuller and Collier 2004, xiii-xiv). 1 3 . New Horizons for Laboratory Life: Science as a Site of Generational Conflict and Jurisdictional Ambiguity

The STS researcher entering a scientific work site steps into a scene of smol­ dering confl ict, what Marxists used to call a 'structural contradiction.' Whether the origins of this conflict are traced to the end of the Cold War or the fiscal crisis of the welfare state, both in the 1980s, the effects are manifest. The conflict constitutes a generational gap in how scientists relate to one another and their work. (As science has lost its lifelong 'vocational' character, the differences in generations no l onger correspond so n eatly with age cohorts. Generational membership begins with receipt of the terminal aca­ demic degree.) Roughly speaking, the more institutionally secure scientists explain their work in terms of the logic of a research program that is justified on intellectual grounds, as evidenced in peer-reviewed journal publications. For them, the primary 'users and beneficiaries' of their work are people very much like themselves, though they expect that eventually the work will con­ tribute to public enlightenment and practical applications. However, these are distinctly non-scientific activities, usually better performed by others. In con­ trast, less institutionally secure scientists explain their work in terms of a more diffuse set of market attractors that, to be sure, still include scientific col­ leagues but also more openly address the needs of 'users and beneficiaries' outside the professional community. These others, though euphemistically called 'the public: are often more accurately described as 'stakeholders,' 'con­ sumers: or, more brutally, 'clients.' In short, from a political economy stand­ point, the younger scientists see their 'manufacture of knowledge' in the laboratory as closer to service delivery than capital development. It would seem, then, that the transition from Mode 1 to Mode 2 tracks this generational shift. Of special interest here is the tendency of members of the younger genera­ tion to identify their 'freedom' and even 'autonomy' with the relative ease with which they can shift research orientation, rather than an ability to follow through a line of research to its logical conclusion. This point of difference raises profound questions of interpretation for the STS fieldworker. Older sci­ entists may resent that their work is increasingly evaluated at the point of delivery, forcing them to produce results 'just in time' instead of 'just in case.' Yet, their younger colleagues appreciate the more tangible rewards, both in terms of recognition and remuneration, that such direct exposure to the mar­ ket brings. For them the professional autonomy strenuously defended by their


Philosophy In, Of,

and Beyond the Scientific Field

Site . 73

elders looks like an 'old boys' club' shrouded in mystique, reminiscent of the worst features of trade guilds. To the elders, of course, the juniors appear to be 'selling out' or at least lowering their professional aspirations. Given this vast difference in perspectives, it would seem that the distinctive sense of 'free inquiry' invoked across generations of scientists may be identified in two con­ tradictory ways: either a certain sort of steadfastness (the older view) or a cer­ tain sort of flexibility (the younger view) . Do these two interpretations offer alternative contextualizations of the same norm (say 'research autonomy' ), or, rather, signal a subtle but fundamental shift in the normative structure of sci­ ence itself? The alternative contextualizations view is supported by Thomas Kuhn's ( 1 970) understanding of the sources of incommensurability in the scientific enterprise. According to Kuhn, the normative features of science most clearly linked to its knowledge-producing functions-empirical breadth, conceptual depth, simplicity, fecundity, intelligibility, novelty, etc.-are not expressed the same way across different paradigms. For example, what one paradigm counts as the simpler hypothesis may appear the more complex from the standpoint of another paradigm with different background theories and interests. This divergence in interpretations renders the paradigms incommensurable. Kuhn's deepest, and least appreciated, insight is that the history of the natural sciences ( as opposed to, say, the history of politics or even of the humanities or social sciences) can be easily told as one of continuous progress only because those disciplines have maintained a fairly fixed normative repertoire, typically expressed in terms of what philosophers call a 'logic of justification,' in the face of the ever-changing research conditions in which the repertoire must be deployed (Doppelt 1 9 7 8 ) . This insight helps to explain Kuhn's continuing popularity with ethnomethodologists, despite the historical limitations of his model (Sharrock and Read 2002) . Nevertheless, it remains somewhat mysteri­ ous the sense in which science's normative repertoire exerts constraint over what scientists do if its effects can turn out to be so diffuse ( Fuller 1 9 9 3 , 1 9 1-207; Fuller and Collier 2004, 274-78) . I n contrast, the view that generational shift corresponds t o a fundamental normative shift is rooted in the classical sociology of knowledge, though the thesis was originally developed with political parties, not scientific paradigms, in mind (Mannheim 1 936, 1 952). According to this view, scientists are always trying to shore up the legitimacy of their position in a world over which they have limited control. Moreover, each new generation of scientists enters a world already populated by senior scientists who expect that their successors pay homage to their achievements, which themselves may have come to be part of why the larger society continues to support science. However, once the elders lose their grip over the juniors (through death, retirement, or institu­ tional displacement) , the juniors are free to adapt more directly to their world, which invariably requires a selective appropriation of the language that the elders had used to justify their position in an earlier time. But this is done


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more in the spirit of what evolutionary biologists call 'protective coloration' than 'showing one's true colours.' From the fieldworker's standpoint, the philosophically sanctified discourse of science's normative repertoire would thus appear as potentially diverting from the real causes of action, which may be linked to a reward structure that is maintained outside the scientific field. According to this view, to put it crudely but not inaccurately, philosophy simply is ideology, when it comes from the mouths of scientists. It is difficult to decide between these two accounts of the normative impli­ cations of generational change in science because the jurisdiction of the "scien­ tific community" supposedly constituted by the "normative structure of science" remains radically unclear. Indeed, this may be the most glaring con­ ceptual problem facing STS fieldworkers today. To be sure, talk of "scientific community" and the "normative structure of science" is now common par­ lance across several disciplines. Nevertheless, these two phrases came into use only in the 1 950s, as coinages associated with Michael Polanyi ( 1 957) and Robert Merton ( 1 977). From somewhat different ideological positions, they were concerned with protecting the autonomy of science from government interference in the Cold War era ( Hollinger 1 9 90; Fuller 2000b, 70-7 1 , 235-38) . Were it not for this external threat to scientific autonomy, "community" would not be the most obvious term in the sociological lexicon for capturing science's social dimension. The historic exemplar of scientific inquiry has tended to be a maverick and myth-destroyer like Galileo, who by the end of the nineteenth century had become a stock character in literature as, to quote the title of Ibsen's famous play, "an enemy of the people." Yet, the idea of com­ munity suggests a bounded region where mutually recognized members orga­ nize their activities into meaningful practices that serve to maintain the community's integrity across several generations. Communities tend to be held together by strong kin or kin-like bonds, as in the case of master-appren­ tice, which simulates features of the parent-child relationship. The strong sense of self-protection and self-perpetuation implied in community appears alien to the often self-sacrificing spirit of the exemplary scientist. Not surpris­ ingly, Karl Popper ( 1 98 1 ) insisted to his deathbed that the scientist was the ultimate "permanent revolutionary." Of course, with a little metaphorical extension, the "laboratory life" model of science favored by STS fieldworkers may be regarded as a community in the strict sociological sense, especially given the increasing use of the postdoctoral fellowship to stagger the entry of scientists into regular academic employment. The "postdoc" is a category of scientist who acquires additional professional training by engaging in frontline research. However, the role expectations of such a scientist are ill defined: Are they autonomous inquirers or glorified lab technicians? Do they bring skills otherwise absent from the lab or do they lack skills that only the lab can provide? In any case, the number of scientists in this category has increased markedly in the aftermath of the Cold War, as the


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 75

number of permanent academic posts has generally shrunk. When the u.s. Congress's old research arm, the Office of Technology Assessment, first recog­ nized the proliferation of postdocs, they were termed the "unfaculty," which invites comparison with the "undead" ( Fuller 2000a, 1 27) . In this potentially unsavory context of a changing labor market, communitarian rhetoric has functioned as protective coloration. Seen in the round, laboratory life pros­ thetically extends home life by creating new dependency relations between the lab director and the postdocs that reinforce relations of authority and defer­ ence long after the completion of formal academic requirements, indeed sometimes marking scientists as the spawn of the prestigious research envi­ ronments that typically sponsor postdoctoral fellowships (Fuller 2003, 65-67) . I n this respect, postdocs are "born again" scientists. Nevertheless, the laboratory does not exhaust-nor perhaps even epito­ mize-the social character of science. The point cuts in two opposing ways, which together define the terms of the ongoing Science Wars. On the one hand, it encourages fieldworkers to cast doubt on science's purported norma­ tive structure for its failure to capture the communal character of laboratory practice. On the other hand, scientists themselves appear to locate their nor­ mative structure outside the immediate environment. Their talk of what Mer­ ton identified as "communism," "organized skepticism;' "universalism," and "disinterestedness" refers to what in the Enlightenment was called the "repub­ lic of letters," a virtual community held together by regular correspondence, punctuated by a few life-defining, face-to-face encounters. In its original eigh­ teenth century incarnation, the sentiment pervading this republic often amounted to little more than "my enemy's enemy is my friend;' reflecting the common persecution by religious and civil authorities. Thus, when Voltaire famously said he would risk his life to defend his opponent's right to speak against him, he was implicitly acknowledging the threat of state censorship they shared. As science became more technologically enhanced and politically relevant, the republic of letters underwent mutation. Movements towards the internationalization of scientific communication, the unification of scientific knowledge, as well as the unionization of scientists themselves-all of which enjoyed their heyday from about 1 8 70 to 1 970-were safeguards against the pressures scientists faced to perform in patriotic and otherwise sectarian fash­ ions in an increasingly militarized global environment (Schroeder-Gudehus 1 990). An unintended consequence of the end of the Cold War has been a weaken­ ing of both the nation-states and global organizations that once grounded the dialectic of scientific jurisdiction. It would be easy, therefore, to conclude that the corresponding normative pulls traditionally exerted on the scientist would similarly diminish. However, this has not been the case. To be sure, today's partial replacement of military with commercial concerns has somewhat low­ ered the stakes of the struggle. Nevertheless, the struggle retains its original intensity, albeit expressed in less absolute terms. On the one hand, the call of


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worldwide movements typically infused with the grandiose philosophical ambitions of positivism or Marxism (or both) has been sublimated into the imperative to publish in internationally oriented, peer-reviewed journals. In effect, the republic of letters has lost its older imperial ambitions to become the template for societal transformation. Now it mainly worries about secur� ing its own borders from those who would corrupt the peer review process. On the other hand, the nationalist mentality prone to interpret scientists' cross-border associations as potential acts of espionage or treason has yielded to a less consistently stoked paranoia about unprotected intellectual property and unexploited economic opportunities. Although there is little clear rela­ tionship between the sheer acquisition of intellectual property rights and financial gain, the mere failure or reluctance to patent research can render a scientist an object of suspicion in the eyes of today's academic administrators and research managers. How might the fieldworker translate these tectonic shifts in the macro­ social context of scientific work into something that might be obtained from observing and interviewing scientists? An interesting angle into this question is to consider how principled disputes about the nature of jurisdiction are resolved by judges in particular cases. When a crime is committed, there are two ways of determining jurisdiction: by either the location of the crime or the nationality of the criminal. Common law countries favor the former criterion, civil law countries the latter. Moreover, differences in jurisdiction may exist cooperatively-as in mutual extradition treaties-or competitively-as in duties to family, religion or profession that are in conflict with those of the state. By analogy, the fieldworker might try to get the scientist to talk about situations in which local lab allegiances cut against wider normative commit­ ments and how these are resolved. The point would be to acquire a sense of science's exact jurisdiction over some prima facie scientific activity, since sci­ entists-as full-bodied human beings-are not always responding to what they regard as specifically "scientific" imperatives. The fieldworker might start by inquiring into the parameters of the scientist's sense of "scientific commu­ nity." Two distinct lines of inquiry are implied here: To what extent is this term indexed to the scientist's worksite? To what extent is this term indexed to a set of non-work activities? The first question addresses whether the scientist sees herself as primarily relating to the people she encounters every day in the lab or the people to whom she would like her work to make a difference. To be sure, the two groups may overlap but they are probably not identical. Differences between the two groups may explain, for example, why the scientist fears but does not respect the lab director, tolerates colleagues, but feels she comes into her own only in cyberspace or at conferences. However, the two groups may increase in overlap as disciplinary norms weaken and lab members see themselves as sealed in a common fate: e.g., an interdisciplinary research team (typically in environmental or biomedical science) in need of renewed funding to complete


Philosophy In, Of, and Beyond the Scientific Field Site . 77

a project that has taken them outside the mainstream of their respective disci­ plines for several years ( Lazenby 2002 ) . The second question concerns the depth of the scientist's conception of community: does a sense of community among scientists extend to, say, matters of politics and culture? The burgeon­ ing social capital literature suggests that the most productive communities are ones whose members have common interests outside the work environment, which then help to sustain work-based relations, especially through difficult times. When researching both questions, the fieldworker might find useful the model of a "community of faith" whose members struggle to uphold their beliefs against ambient local resistance (Wuthnow 1 9 89 ) . It might thus be worth asking a pointed question: To whom are you ultimately accountable for the quality ofyour research? For example, it would be interesting to see whether the lab director or whoever happens to be the scientist's paymaster figures in the answer. The idea that the scientific community might be constituted more like a religion than, say, a neighborhood or a tribe is supported by the free­ floating character of the Mertonian norms, which operate more as professions or justifications than as constraints on actual conduct. Something similar may also be said of recent philosophical attempts to incorporate science within the overall distribution of knowledge in society (e.g., Putnam 1975). Here science tends to function as an all-purpose arbiter of disagreements-be they seman­ tic or political-that manage to elude the local means of dispute resolution. The jurisprudential precedent for this sense of "normative structure" is, of course, natural law theory, which was historically invoked in just this fashion, especially before the Peace of Westphalia in 1 648 established the precedent of identifying jurisdiction with territorial sovereignty (Fuller 2004b) . More than a quarter-century has passed since the first ethnographies o f the laboratory were published. The intervening period has been marked by con­ siderable institutional and some intellectual growth for the STS field. How­ ever, the field remains largely anchored in its original anti-philosophical stance. This, in turn, has discouraged fieldworkers from asking foundational questions about how exactly the inquirer is to infer the "governance of sci­ ence" from the laboratory environment, especially in a time when laboratory life is embedded in environments that are at odds not merely with, say, posi­ tivist or functionalist understandings of science, but, more importantly, with the training and expectations of the scientists to whom the fieldworker is likely to encounter. That Merton's proposed "normative structure of science" does not capture what transpires on the ground is by now obvious, and it may mean, of course, that his theory is false. But equally it could mean that science today leads a fugitive existence, as its adherents live and work in a state of quasi-captivity. Future forays into the laboratory would do well to try to tell the difference.


IV

"Postmodern Positivism": STS by Another Name?

Positivism was the first social and intellectual movement that tried to learn from the mistakes of the Enlightenment project that eventuated, first, in the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution of 1 789, and second, in the irrationalism of the Weimar Republic following Germany's defeat in World War 1. While it has been customary to distinguish between the quasi-political movement called "positivism," originated by Auguste Comte in the 1 830s, and the more strictly philosophical movement called "logical positivism," asso­ ciated with the Vienna Circle of the 1 930s, both shared a common sensibility, namely, that the unchecked exercise of reason can have disastrous practical consequences (Kolakowski 1 972) . Thus, both held that reason needs "founda­ tions" to structure its subsequent development so as not to fall prey to a self­ destructive skepticism. In this respect, positivism incorporates a heretofore absent e mpiricist dimension into P lato nism's historically risk-averse orientation toward reality. The complexity of this history, typically forgotten by those who identify positivism with a vulgar scientism, is reviewed in the first half of this chapter. The rest of the chapter attempts to demonstrate that STS may be regarded as a postmodern version of positivism that especially updates the idea of "science" as a societal resource available to more than simply card­ carrying members in specific scientific disciplines. This expansive view of sci­ ence was challenged in the Science Wars, most pointedly in the so-called Sokal Hoax, the significance of which I then subject to scrutiny. I conclude that the hoax has usefully raised the self-consciousness of scientists as social agents, while unfortunately sending STS researchers to run for professional cover. However, in the end, perhaps the question left most open by this high water­ mark of the Science Wars is why, if at all, research fraud matters? 14. Platonism as Proto-Positivism

In terms of Western intellectual history, positivism inflects Plato's original philosophical motivation toward a secularized version of the Christian salva­ tion story in which Newton functions as the Christ figure and Francis Bacon

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his John the Baptist. This captures the spirit of Auguste Comte's original p roject and its residual effects in 2 0th century logical p ositivism, which dropped the overt historicism of Comte's project, while retaining the fixation on Newton as the model for what it means to express oneself scientifically-as well as a vague belief that greater scientific knowledge will deliver salvation. Indeed, positivism's core conceptual problem has been to define a scientific vanguard capable both of offering guidance to the unenlightened as well as changing itself in light of further evidence and reflection. Its Platonic roots are worth recalling. Plato was deeply affected by the volatile political environment created by the public dialectical encounters of Socrates and the other Sophists who men­ tored the leaders of his Athenian youth. Thus, after the fall of Athens, Plato was keen to restrict the dialectic to a cloistered setting, only to be unleashed to the larger society once initiates were sufficiently secure in their own knowl­ edge and judgment that they would not be un duly swayed by popular demands. Where Plato had hoped to produce implacable philosopher-kings who would rule as absolute monarchs, positivists have typically envisaged a more differentiated but no less authoritative (authoritarian?) rule by experts, each an oligarch over his or her domain of knowledge. In this respect, positiv­ ism is bureaucracy's philosophical fellow-traveller. Not surprisingly, positivism's relationship to democracy has been check­ ered. Like Plato, positivists have feared protracted public disagreement most of all and, hence, have tended to demonize it as "irrational" and "non­ cognitive." Their image of "plural" authority presumes non-overlapping competencies, such that legislative questions are reduced to judicial ones concerning the expertise to which one should defer. This is in sharp contrast to most civic republican conceptions of democracy, which base representation on interest groups, each invested with a competence appropriate to the promotion of its interests but typically about matters in which other interest groups might also have competence (Fuller 2002a, chap. 4 ) . Since matters of public policy typically affect several such groups at once, collective decisions do not turn on identifying the right group whose judgment should hold sway. Rather, it is expected that public debate will issue in a solution that transcends all the groups' starting points but nevertheless manages to serve their respective interests. Thus, there is a fundamental ambiguity in positivism's appeal to organized reason, or "science," in the public sphere. Sometimes this ambiguity is finessed by saying that positivists regard science as the main source of political unity. At the very least, this implies that it is in the interest of all members of society to pursue their ends by scientific means, as that may enable them to econo­ mize on effort and havemore time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Ernst Mach, to be discussed below, came closest to defending this position in its pure form. It fits comfortably with the libertarian idea that democratic regimes should enable maximum self-empowerment.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 81

However, many positivists have drawn a further conclusion that can thwart this libertarian impulse. From Comte onward, it has been common to argue that science can unify the polity by resolving, containing, or circumventing social conflict. Here a well-established procedure or a decisive set of facts replaces more "primitive" and volatile forms of conflict resolution, such as warfare and even, sometimes, open debate-both of which supposedly compromise the integrity of opposing viewpoints in the spirit of expedience. Accordingly, a scientific politics should not merely satisfy the parties con足 cerned: it should arrive at the "correct" solution. To be sure, even this mentality admits of a democratic interpretation, as positivist social researchers have been in the forefront of presenting "data" from parties whose voices are unlikely to be heard in an open assembly. Typi足 cally, this has occurred in surveys designed to represent the full empirical range of a target population. Nevertheless, the question remains of exactly who reaps the political benefits of these newly articulated voices: the people under investigation, the investigators themselves, or the investigators' clients? Moreover, once a target population has been empirically registered, do its members remain "objects of inquiry" or are they promoted to full-fledged inquirers capable of challenging the original investigators' findings and meth足 ods? Probably the most sophisticated treatment of these questions in the context of positivistically inspired u. s . social policy research is to be found in Campbell ( 1 98 8 ) , perhaps the most profound social scientific legacy of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. These delicate questions arise because ultimately positivism turns Plato on his side by converting a static hierarchy into a temporal order. Where Plato imagined that authority flowed downward from the philosopher-king in a caste-based social structure, positivists have envisaged that all of humanity may pass (at a variable rate) through a sequence of stages-theological, metaphysical, and scientific-that retrace the socio-epistemic journey from captivity to autonomy. In the positivist utopia, it is possible for everyone to be an expert over her own domain. Moreover, there is a recipe for the conversion of Platonism to positivism. It proceeds by isolating a domain of inquiry from the contingencies surrounding its manifestations so that its essential nature may be fathomed. Whereas Plato reserved such inquiry to philosopher-kings, positivists have more often turned to state-licensed professional bodies. And instead of Plato's intellectual intuition ( nous) , positivists attempt to gain epistemic access by comparative historical and experimental methods. The history of positivism can be neatly captured as a Hegelian dialectic, the three moments of which are epitomized by the work of Auguste Comte (thesis) , Ernst Mach (antithesis), and the Vienna Circle (synthesis). However, these moments have historically overlapped, occasionally coming together in figures such as Otto Neurath. The career trajectories of positivism's standard足 bearers help explain the direction taken by their thought. Comte ( 1 798-1857) was an early graduate of the E cole Polytechnique wh o believed that its


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Napoleonic mission to render research a vehicle for societal transformation had been betrayed, once he himself failed to achieve a permanent academic post. Mach ( 1 838- 1 9 1 6 ) was a politically active physicist on the losing side of so many of the leading scientific debates of his day that his famous chair in Vienna, from which the logical positivists sprang, was awarded on the strength of his critical-historical studies, not his experimental work. Finally, the intel­ lectual leader of the Vienna Circle, Rudolf Carnap ( 1 89 1-1970), had to aban­ don physics for philosophy because his doctoral dissertation topic was seen as too metatheoretical for a properly empirical discipline. For Carnap and others who came of age in World War 1, physics had devolved into another special­ ized field of study, rather than-as it had still been for Einstein-natural phi­ losophy pursued by more exact means. 1 5. The Dialectical History of Positivism

Auguste Comte coined the word "positivism" to refer to the positive side of the Enlightenment's essentially destructive approach to traditional social and intellectual orders. Comte agreed with the Enlightenment wits that scientific rationality is the model of social rationality, the exemplar of which is Newto­ nian mechanics. However, according to Comte, the French Revolution had refuted the wits' belief that people's "natural reason" would come to light once they were freed from their captivity to religion and other traditional forms of authority. Comte thus designed positivism to replace both the church and the sovereign with scientific experts who together would function as a secular priesthood for modern society. " Sociology," another of Comte's coinages, referred at once to this political vision and the scientific project that would render it a legitimate form of authority. In this basic sense, positivism has remained the philosophy underwriting science as a specialized profession of "scientists" with an identifiable order of merit and career structure. Ironically, none of the movement's first-phase protagonists-including Comte himself, J ohn Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer-ever called a university home. Nevertheless, they all earned their living from producing knowledge ( some would call it "ideology" ) , unlike those for whom the pursuit of knowledge was a refined way of consuming wealth. In this important respect, positivism was aligned with the ascendant bourgeoisie and hostile to such aristocratic forms of learning as the gentle­ man-scientist and the academic humanist. Comte arrived at this position from his mentorship under Count Henri de Saint-Simon, a spiritual godfather of today's management gurus, who at the dawn of the industrial age anticipated that organized knowledge would be the principal factor of economic produc­ tion and political control in what Daniel Bell ( 1 973) would call, 1 50 years later, "post-industrial society." Given its explicitly anti-clerical posture, positivism was more often found in medical schools and polytechnic institutes than traditional universities. (French universities did not become fully secular institutions until the Third


"Postmodern Positivism" . 83

Republic in 1 8 7 0 . ) The m e dical interest is notewor thy because, in the nineteenth century, positivism was used to legitimize everything from phreno­ logical and psychosomatic research to the experimental approach to medicine championed by Claude Bernard. What all shared was the recognition that physical constitution plays a significant role in defining psychic, or spiritual, life. This basic assumption was sufficient to challenge religion's ministerial monopoly. More generally, positivism's anticlericalism has been among its most pow­ erful export values, especially in Latin America (where Comte's motto "Order and Progress" remains emblazo ned on the B razilian flag) . Without a thoroughgoing Protestant Reformation, Latin Americans found Comte's secu­ larized version of Catholicism much less utopian than did European. To be sure, background cultural allegiances divided positivist loyalties, with Franco­ phile Latin Americans (e.g., Brazil) preferring Comte, and Anglophile ones (e.g., Argentina) Spencer. Regardless, positivism was as likely to justify author­ itarian regimes as it was to bolster democratic ones (Zea 1 963). Perhaps the most lasting intellectual residue of positivism's Comtean ori­ gins has been the association that social scientists make between reliable knowledge and statistically significant empirical correlations (Turner 1 986). Hempel ( 1 942), the canonical positivist account of historical explanation, placed the Vienna Circle's distinctive stamp on this point. Nowadays its import is easily lost in methodological discussions that trivialize correlations as deficient accounts of causation, proof that positivism owes too much to Francis Bacon. However, following Karl Pearson, the mathematician who in the 1 880s had become the first self-declared positivist to hold a professorship in Britain, the appeal to correlations served at least four distinct functions. First, correlations enabled an economy of thought by summarizing obser­ vations already made. This would decrease the likelihood of "re-inventing the wheel," thereby expediting overall human progress. Second, correlations forced investigators to look beyond the singular striking success to more gen­ eralizable, albeit mundane, tendencies. Here the positivism helped to moder­ ate the hype surrounding new inventions and discoveries. Third, the focus on correlations implied that scientific work could be mechanized by treating indi­ vidual experiences as instances of more general types. This helped dispel the idea that scientists must have a special "genius" for finding hidden causes beneath the welter of data. Fourth, and probably most significant in Pearson's own context, the appeal to correlations echoed the "uniformitarian" approach to natural history championed by Darwin whose theory of evolution presup­ posed that all biological change has occurred by principles that remain in effect today. Thus, there was no need for either a divine creator behind the scenes whose actions transcend observed correlations or a mystification of sta­ tistically extraordinary events as "miracles." Ernst Mach symbolized the second moment of positivism's dialectic: he gave the movement a dose of its own medicine, namely, a scientific sense of


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science's limitations. Mach's counsel emerged from the ironic, perhaps self­ defeating, fin de siecle Viennese culture, wherefrom Karl Kraus's quip that psychoanalysis is the disease for which it is the cure was incorporated into positivist lore as Wittgenstein's dark saying that philosophy is the ladder that must be climbed in order to be discarded ( Janik and Toulmin 1 974). In the long term, this sense of scientific self-restraint has made its strongest impression in the dual doctrines of "value neutrality" and "academic freedom," which are most closely associated in the social sciences with Max Weber (Proctor 1 9 9 1 , chap. 10). Although these doctrines are normally treated as separate, it is difficult to motivate either without examining their historical interconnection. The missing link is the idea that, absent further empirical demonstration, the value of theoretical discourse-the m o s t obvious epistemic marker distinguishing experts from the lay public-is purely heuris­ tic. Theory enables those who already know something to know much more; however, it obscures the vision of those who have yet to know anything. Thus, the various Mach-inspired, positivist projects to "reduce" theoretical discourse to its empirical bases have been motivated by a keen sense of the contingency of when and where new scientific insights arise. The distinction that H ans Reichenbach and Karl Popper drew in the 1 930s between the contexts of discovery and justification canonized this point for contemporary philosophy of science ( Fuller 2003a, chap. 1 6 ) . The unique means by which a discovery is made is neither necessary nor sufficient for demonstrating its validity. Elementary logic textbooks demonize the failure to abide by this point as the "genetic fallacy." For Mach, the contingent nature of discovery places a special burden on scientists to render their insights as widely as possi­ ble, without denying themselves the right to follow it up in their own way. The Vienna Circle positivists may be seen as having compromised this legacy by limiting the context of justification to the received canons of inductive and deductive reasoning. But perhaps they had good reason. Mach may have been too keen to let the lay public draw whatever conclusions they wished from their studies of science. The second moment of positivism enabled the conver-< sion of scientific knowledge into a pure instrument detached from any prior theoretical or normative commitment. In practice, this "neutral" stance made science available to the highest bidder, who in turn could hold a monopoly over its use (or non-use) . Consider the fate of the "law of diminishing mar­ ginal utility" (LDMU), which states that if there is enough of a good to satisfy a basic level of need, then each additional increment of the good satisfies the need less than the previous increment. LDMU first appeared in John Stuart Mill's normative political economy, the source of modern welfare economics. The German translation of Mill's System ofLogic in 1 849 had introduced the first phase of positivism to Mach and such contemporaries as Wilhelm Wundt and Wilhelm Dilthey, initiating the longstanding debates over the reducibility of the methods of the Gei­ steswissenschaften (Dilthey's rendering of Mill's "moral sciences") to those of


"Postmodern Positivism" . 85

the Naturwissenschaften. While Mill's later work, On Liberty, would inspire Mach's views linking academic freedom to the right of dissent, Mach refused to follow Mill in drawing normative conclusions from putatively scientific facts, even though Mill's aim of removing the accumulated advantage of the rich was close to Mach's own heart. Mill treated LDMU as a scientific basis for redistributionist social policies. He inferred that, beyond a certain level of wealth, the rich would be harmed less and the poor benefited more by the transfer to the poor of each additional increment of income earned by the rich. Mill presumed a common standard of interpersonal utility, and the idea that different interpersonal endowments could be explained as reversible historical accidents. Moreover, he modeled LDMU on an interpretation of Newton's laws that holds them to be true in an ideal physical medium but not in actual physical reality. Thus, Mill made the ideality of the scientific laboratory stand for the normative basis of social reform. What is now called the "marginalist revolution" in economics reinter­ preted the Newtonian precedent for LDMU in the value-neutral terms that captured the social situation of Mach and other second -generation positivists who were ensconced in universities. In the 1 8705, Mill's academic nemesis, William Stanley Jevons, had begun interpreting LDMU as the emergent product of interactions between agents whose respective utilities are in principle incalculable-that is, an empirically stable resolution of unknowable constitutive forces. Jevons's triumph over Mill marks the passage of political economy from a radical social philosophy to the modern discipline of economics in Britain (Proctor 1 99 1 , chap. 1 3 ) . Today economists say that LDMU is a macro-level market effect in which the param­ eters of the relevant market are left unspecified. Thus, cases that fail to con­ form to LDMU do not force a difficult normative judgment about whether the law or the case is at fault; rather, one casts around for an appropriately defined market to which LDMU might apply, since one may not have considered all the effects over a large enough scale, over a long enough period. Second generation positivists came to regard LDMU as holding no clear implications for social policy. This opened the door to the curious twentieth century "non-interventionist" policies that Milton Friedman ( 1 953) and others have used to oppose scientific j ustifications of the welfare state. Here positi­ vism's anti-theoretical and anti-normative stance is explicitly identified with the inductively self-organizing order of the so-called invisible hand. The shift from Jevons to Friedman is indicative of what logicians call the modal fallacy: the denial that X implies Y is interpreted to mean that X implies not Y-where X LDMU, and Y State-managed income redistribution. Thus, an eco­ nomic principle that was originally seen as not necessarily licensing a particu­ lar policy intervention came to be seen as an outcome that obviates the need for any policy intervention whatsoever. Nevertheless, the transition between the first two moments of positivism was neither smooth nor clearly separated from the third. Free market liberals =

=


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continued to invoke Comte's original sense of positivism to stigmatize large­ scale, usually Marx-inspired, social planning of the economy (e.g., Hayek 1 95 2 ) . A target of these studies was Vienna Circle-organizer Otto Neurath, who supposed that a specialist's understanding of the persistent underlying structures of political economy provides a better handle on social policy than the spontaneously aggregated experiences of individual producers and con­ sumers. While Neurath's Marxist orientation regarding social planning was close to Comte's privileging of expert over lay judgment, he also accepted the Machian view that useful knowledge should be spread as widely as possible. In that sense, Neurath's interest in designing an ideographic language ("Isotype") to enable the populace to understand capitalism's inequities was born of the same impulse as his debates with Rudolf Carnap over the construction of the "protocol statements" that constitute the fundamental language of science (Sassower 1 985). Here the second moment of positivism naturally shades into the third. The Vienna Circle was started by Moritz Schlick, another physics-trained philosopher who succeeded Mach to the chair of the history of inductive sci­ ences at the University of Vienna. Much has been made of the Vienna Circle's preoccupations with the conceptual and empirical foundations of science, the demarcation of science from non-science, and the unification of the special sciences under a single metaphysical or methodological rubric. Less has been said to explain the circle's partial return to positivism's communitarian and authoritarian origins, especially after Mach had made positivism virtually syn­ onymous with the liberalization of epistemic authority. Nevertheless, there were few true liberals in the Vienna Circle: Schlick and Wittgenstein were conservatives, Carnap and Neurath socialists. Popper, the circle associate whose politics were closest to Mach's, was not easily accepted into the fold. This anti-liberal turn can be explained by changes in science's social relations in the German-speaking world over the first quarter of the twentieth century. At first, the circle recoiled from Machian positivism because of the ease with which Mach's neutral instrumentalism allowed scien­ tists, especially chemists, to harness their knowledge for aggressive military­ industrial ends (Fuller 2000b, chap. 2 ) . Consequently, Germany's humiliating defeat in World War I paved the way for the anti-scientific backlash of Weimar culture that formed the backdrop to the circle's meetings. In recognizably Pla­ tonic fashion, the circle forged a philosophy that protected science from this backlash, while divesting it of potentially corrupting links to technology. The key was the idea that a genuine science must satisfy certain logical and empiri­ cal criteria relating to the public testability of knowledge claims. The model for this requirement was ongoing debates over the foundations of mathemat­ ics, which Carnap and Reichenbach had already transferred to debates over the presuppositions of relativity and quantum theory (Collins 1 998, chap. 1 3) . However, one decidedly anti-Platonic insight that t h e Vienna Circle retained from Mach, which increased in importance over the years, was that


"Postmodern Positivism" . 87

esoteric forms of knowledge must be "reducible" to their core "cognitive" components so as to facilitate both their evaluation and utilization. Specifi­ cally, the Vienna Circle aimed to demystify "metaphysical" j argon that encoded prejudice without extending insight. (Carnap famously cited Heideg­ ger in this respect.) At the peak of its popularity in the 1 940s, logical positiv­ ism was linked with such American best sellers of the "general semantics movement" as Stuart Chase's The Tyran ny of Words ( 1 93 8 ) and S. I. Hay­ akawa's Language, Thought, and Action ( 1 939) . Here the foe had shifted from Heidegger to Hitler, with the positivists arguing against the irrationalism of mass propaganda. Perhaps the most famous single work of the positivist movement, A. J. Ayer's Language, Truth, and Logic ( 1 936), written by the British observer at the Vienna Circle, can be seen as a transitional work between these two phases. This history sheds an ironic light on logical positivism's role in the highly publicized Positivismusstreit that transpired in 1 96 1-68 between Karl Popper and Frankfurt School doyen Theodor Adorno (Adorno 1 976) . It turns out that both Popper and Adorno demonized "positivism" in social science for the same ills as the logical positivists had demonized Heidegger and Hitler a quarter-century earlier, namely, a "jargon of authenticity" and its contribution to an "authoritarian personality" (two relevant Adornian phrases) . Moreover, the two antagonists presupposed the logical positivists' ideal of unified inquiry and the inadequacy of defining society as simply the totality of "social facts" ( Fuller 2003a, chaps. 1 3-14). Where Popper and Adorno clearly differed from the positivists was over the latter's promotion of a sharp fact-value distinc­ tion, whereby the presumed unity of factual knowledge offsets the irreducible plurality of value orientations. Here positivism courted a "relativism" that both antagonists strongly opposed. Nevertheless, the ascendancy of relativism, in the guise of "postmodernism," would render Popper and Adorno's wran­ glings over "critical reason" beside the point by the 1980s. In detecting positivism's latent relativism, Popper and Adorno not only anticipated the future; they also recalled the "value neutrality" that had origi­ nally turned Machian positivism into a vehicle of power politics. In the social sciences, Max Web er's distinction between charisma and bureaucracy as modes of legitimation enabled both politicians and scientists to turn a blind eye to each other's activities, as the two groups were supposedly driven by rad­ ically different normative orientations: the politician acts, while the scientist provides reasons. Similar criticisms have been made of other movements in the social sciences affiliated with positivism, most notably Hans Kelsen's legal positivism and B. F. Skinner's radical behaviorism. Even Neurath was happy to call his project "neutral Marxism" (Proctor 1 99 1 , chap. 9 ) . These cases are united by a refusal to blur the boundary between science and politics, which in practice has meant a susceptibility to more extreme political stances: either complete withdrawal or outright authoritarianism, the twin poles of what in the next chapter I call Gnostic scientism. Once again, positivism would seem to


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have fallen victim to the modal fallacy: because politics and science can con­ taminate each other, they inevitably will, and, hence, each must be left to its own devices. 1 6. Postmodernism as Positivism's Bastard Child

After the leading members of the Vienna Circle migrated to the U.S. in the 1930s, logical positivism seeded what became that country's analytic philoso­ phy establishment for the second half of the twentieth century. However, this is the only context in which positivism possibly dominated an established dis­ cipline. For the most part, positivism has been embraced by disciplines that have yet to achieve academic respectability, even in the natural sciences, where Mach found his strongest support among chemists, biomedical scientists, and psychologists-not his own fellow physicists. (It is often overlooked that posi­ tivism's reliance on Newtonian mechanics as the model for all science was not generally appreciated by a physics community jealous to guard its guild privi­ leges.) Unsurprisingly, positivism's most ardent supporters have been social scientists, not for the Comtean reason that sociology is the pinnacle of all sci­ ence but for the more mundane reason that positivism seemed to offer a strat­ egy for gaining the respect of other scientists. These matters came to a head with the publication of Kuhn ( 1 970) , which Carnap enthusiastically endorsed as the final installment of the logical positiv­ ists' International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. It provided an account of scientific change based largely on the history of physics that was quickly embraced by social scientists, as Kuhn stressed science's self-organization as a social unit over its larger societal impact. However, unlike previous positivist accounts, Kuhn's explicitly fixated on particular scientific disciplines (or "par­ adigms") , without presuming that science as a whole is heading toward a uni­ fied understanding of reality. By implication, then, all scientific standards are discipline-relative. Kuhn's approach suited what we now call the "postmodern condition," which the Positivismusstreit had desperately tried to stave off. In retrospect, the popularity of Kuhn ( 1 970) is better understood as signifying positivism's decadent phase than, as it was originally seen, a fundamental chal­ lenge to positivism. In this respect, postmodernism is the bastard child of pos­ itivism, for reasons that will emerge in the rest of this chapter. Ironically, the main witness for positivism's paternity is the events surrounding the Sokal Hoax, so far the high point in the ongoing Science Wars. In 1 996, the physicist Alan Sokal published an article in Social Text, the leading cultural studies journal in North America (SokaI 1 996a) . On its face, he was trying to derive politically progressive conclusions from the twentieth­ century revolutions in mathematics and physics, mainly by juxtaposing quotes and commentary that showed that postmodern critics and major scientists reinforced each other's claims. The argument consisted mostly of analogies between the ideas of the scientists and the critics, as well as some rudimentary STS-style explanations that showed the alignment of certain social interests


"Postmodern Positivism" . 89

with certain scientific ideas. This style in itself was unexceptional in postmod­ ernist circles and, indeed, was clearly presented by current standards. When Jean-Francois Lyotard ( 1 98 3 ) originally refashioned Bell's ( 1 97 3 ) insights into post-industrial society a s "the postmodern condition" for the Higher Education Council of Quebec, he too cited such developments as Einstein's theory of relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Gbdel's incompleteness theorem, and Mandelbrot's fractal geometry. However, Lyotard did not share Sokal's eagerness to implicate a wide range of humanistic schol­ ars in the emergent worldview. But because Sokal was a tenured professor of physics who revealed that he taught mathematics to the Nicaraguan Sandinis­ tas in the 1 980s, his mastery of the scientific sources and his political correct­ ness were taken for granted. As it turned out, Sokal included characterizations of texts in his own fields of expertise that any fellow practitioner would have recognized as erroneous, sometimes even nonsensical, though occasionally humorous to the cognoscenti. That Social Texts editors failed to have the arti­ cle vetted by a physicist or mathematician thus became the grounds on which Sokal declared that cultural studies lacked intellectual standards. The relationship between the Sokal affair and positivism may seem per­ fectly obvious: yet another exercise in linguistic therapy comparable to that performed by Carnap, Ayer, and the logical positivists in the 1 930s on "obscu­ rantist" metaphysicians such as Martin Heidegger and Henri Bergson. (The Marxist provenance of "obscurantism" was intended by the Left-leaning posi­ tivists.) Nevertheless, there is one largely unnoticed but very profound differ­ ence: if Heidegger and Bergson were trying to hide their knowledge claims from scientific scrutiny, it was because they distrusted science's capacity to get at the truth. However, the obscurantists targeted by Sokal-an assortment of French postmodern social theorists and their Anglophone emulators-appear to be hiding within science as intellectual free- riders whose ignorance is masked by a metaphorical appropriation of scientific language that aims to celebrate the larger relevance of scientific ideas. The difference in these two obscurantist strategies reveal that the offending postmodernists were simply using positivistically honed tools against science itself. In their search for criteria to demarcate science from non-science, the positivists had given the impression that any discipline could be converted into a science by following a simple recipe, notably to make one's knowledge claims "verifiable;' which amounts to reducing them to a procedure that is logically and empirically transparent, without requiring the mastery of a tech­ nical jargon for their comprehension and evaluation. To a certain extent, high­ lighted below, such a "recipe mentality" is true to the spirit of the movement. However, to understand the postmodern perversion of this mission, one should imagine the attitude of the Roman Catholic missionaries in the Carib­ bean who discovered that a mark of their "success" was that the natives had integrated the Christian message into traditional, African forms of ancestral worship. Whereas the missionaries, like the positivists, had thought that the


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Christian message reduced to its bare essentials would overwhelm native beliefs, in fact they had managed only to make the message easier to assimilate into the native worldview. Analogically speaking, then, p ostmodernism is scientific voodoo, the bastard child of positivism. In terms of Christian denominations, the Catholics were more tolerant than the Protestants of such bastards. In this respect, Sokal is a Scientific Puri­ tan, an expression I will elaborate in the next chapter. Here let me observe only that whatever else is entailed by the Puritan mentality in science, it is most definitely not the Enlightenment so closely associated with such eigh­ teenth-century-French wits as Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau. Though born into a puritanical Calvinist household, Rousseau converted to Catholicism. For their part, Voltaire and Diderot studied under the Jesuits, who acquainted them with the power of hybridizing one's message in a world where the only alternative-in the face of both Protestants and non- Christians-is often resistance and exclusion. In that respect, the Jesuits may be regarded as pre­ cursors of what social psychologists call the "inoculation theory" of influence, whereby the best way to secure assent is to show that assent would require the rejection of little of what one already believes-typically only the explanation for what one believes (Fuller 2004c). Seen in this light, the Enlightenment was able to break down dominant belief structures, not by demonstrating their fal­ sity but by casting them in sufficient doubt that it became respectable to hold alternative beliefs. Diderot's multi-authored L'Encyclopedie exemplified this strategy, with its cross-referenced entries that invited readers to resolve contra­ dictions for themselves, when no authoritative resolution was to be found. In this context, the natural sciences-especially under the influence of New­ ton-were presented as "modifying" views that would otherwise be accepted on the authority of the Bible or Aristotle_ However, because the natural sciences are now integral to social legitima­ tion, their invocation does not carry the sense of dissent it bore during the Enlightenment or, for that matter, even in the heyday of logical p ositivism. Thus, rather than forcing concerned citizens to rethink their epistervic com­ mitments, as the Enlightenment wits had designed L'Encyclopedie to do, the Sokal Hoax was registered as an especially creative moment in the scientific establishment's gatekeeping practices. Here it is worth recalling that the logical positivist campaign against philosophical obscurantism was pursued largely in response to the dangerous political associations that were made in the inter­ war years between the Geisteswissenschaften and certain forms of "authentic" German experience-what the Weimar historian Jeffrey Herf ( 1 984) has called "reactionary modernism"-in direct opposition to the values of objectivity and universality pursued by the Naturwissenschaften (the sciences of nature, where "nature" is understood as dead and mechnical ) . Philosophers not immediately caught up in the circumstances surrounding the demonization of the natural sciences-Germany's military humiliation-were typically more receptive to their geisteswissenchaftlich colleagues in Continental Europe.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 9 1

For example, the institutional champion of British ordinary language philoso­ phy, Gilbert Ryle, wrote a critical but appreciative review of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) in Mind when the book first appeared in 1 927. A more interesting and complex case is Karl Popper, who himself advanced a criterion for demarcating science from non-science-falsifiability-that eventually acquired wide interdisciplinary currency. According to Popper, the scientific mentality is marked by the willingness to subject one's knowledge claims to stringent empirical tests. Moreover, Popper ( 1 945, 202-203) admits having arrived at the idea of the "open society"-that is, a society open to fun­ damental reformation in accordance with the falsifiability principle-from a reading of a late work of Bergson's ( 1 9 3 5 ) , The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. Here Bergson had identified the "open society" as a periodically real­ ized impulse to return religion from institutional captivity to its roots in human experience of the divine. Bergson explained this tendency in terms of a revolutionary irtdividual-a "prophet" in Max Weber's sense-who intuits the need for reformation of the religious community. Keeping these "obscuran­ tist" roots in mind, much of Popper's methodological individualism and political liberalism can be reinterpreted as the search for people who function in a similarly catalytic role in science, so as to prevent it from becoming a tradition-bound, sectarian activity, as Kuhnian normal science had become, especially in the twentieth century (Fuller 2003a) . Moreover, Popper's affinities to Bergson went deeper, encompassing a belief in metaphysical indeterminism that made it likely that any natural regularities discovered by scientists would simply be hypotheses that had yet to be tested against the full range of experi­ ence (see Bricmont 1 996). To be sure, unlike Bergson, Popper held that pre­ cisely because reality offers no clear signs of its own ultimate nature, logic was of paramount importance as the artificial "rigid rod" against which knowledge claims could be judged. What hangs on the postmodern appropriations of scientific terms? In the first instance, they suggest just how successful positivism has been over the last half-century in converting the difficult and esoteric practices of the natural sciences into a mode of legitimation of wider cultural import. The key was to have "discovered" demarcation criteria that can be read off the language used to express knowledge claims without examining the social conditions under which those claims were generated. Often this point is made in connection with attempts by fundamentalist Christians in the United States to include creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in state school textbooks as a competing "scientific" explanation for the origins of life (Kitcher 1982). Whereas one hundred years ago, fundamentalists could appeal directly to the moral superiority of a divine over a simian provenance to justify the special creation of humans, nowadays they need simply to speak the language of "hypothesis testing" and "research programs" to get at least a hearing and occasionally carry the day. It may seem p erverse to hold the positivists responsible for the revival of creationism but it is unlikely that


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creationists would enjoy their current rhetorical leverage, had the positivists not regarded science as a publicly inspectable form of knowledge reducible to the most basic forms of experience and reasoning. In this way, the arcane promissory notes issued by experts in evolutionary explanations can be offset by immediately observable counterexamples in the fossil record and explicit probability-based appeals to the irreducible complexity of cell organization that allegedly provide evidence for the presence of intelligent design (Wood­ ward 2003) . What all this shows i s that, despite their youthful infatuation with the early-twentieth-century revolutions in physics, the positivists remained philosophers. They continued to define "science" as, in principle, a universally accessible form of knowledge. The training required to pursue technical scien­ tific subjects was for them only a roundabout, albeit reliable, way to acquire the competence to make the relevant basic observations and calculations needed to decide the truth of a knowledge claim. As best illustrated in their preoccupation with the unity of science, the positivists were suspicious of the long-term consequences of specialization and technification in the pursuit of knowledge ( Fuller 2002b) . Admittedly, the quest for a specifically "logical" unity to science often made the positivists appear to be themselves promoters of technification, especially given their own enthusiastic contributions to mathematical logic and probability theory. However, these developments were originally put in aid of finding a common denominator for the expression and evaluation of knowledge claims that remained unbiased toward any particular science. In short, they sought to lay the conceptual foundations of what today might be called a "science court" (as in the International Court of Justice in The Hague) that upholds a second-order value of free inquiry (human rights) that is neutral to differences in the social standing of the various disciplines (nation-states) . By legislating such methodological unity, the positivists hoped that science could then be mobilized to serve politically progressive ends. This sense of "neutrality"-one that does not automatically blur into the STS conception of "symmetry"-is worth promoting today. Unfortunately, once the Nazis forced most of the positivists to migrate to the United States, they abandoned what amounted to " constitutional" ambitions for the world­ wide scientific polity. Instead, they reverted to their more familiar focus on the development of pure logical and experimental technique, reflecting the post­ war American suspicion of explicitly politicized philosophies of science (Mirowski 2004). Positivists who continued to promote the movement's old political aspirations through interdisciplinary projects became academic mar­ ginals hounded by the FBI for alleged "Un-American" activities ( Reisch 2005). After all, as was observed by Philipp Frank ( 1 949) , the Harvard-based positiv­ ist who was subj ect to much of the surveillance, the logical positivists' two main rivals in terms of socio-epistemic ambitions-from which he generously acknowledged they could learn-were Thomism and dialectical materialism. Of course, they represented the two main historic threats to the sovereignty of


"Postmodern Positivism" . 93

the United States: the Roman Catholic Church, and world Communism. Unsurprisingly, J. Edgar Hoover was promptly on Frank's case. 17. Motivating the Science Wars: The Politics of Popularizing and

Esotericizing Science

Had the authors of Fashionable Nonsense ( Sokal and Bricmont 1 9 9 8 ) , that most systematic critique of postmodernism's scientific pretensions, lived in the nineteenth century, they would have written against nascent positivist ten­ dencies for corrupting the purity of the natural sciences. They would have bemoaned the hijacKing of physical concepts and their application to inappro­ priate domains, such psychic and social life-and perhaps even life as such. An observant contemporary of this counterfactual past might say that what really bothered them was the idea that the same scientific concepts could be used by people who had substantially deviated from canonical usage, persons who in a religious context would be called "heretics." This counterfactual critic would certainly have made good sense of such French theorists as Jacques Lacan, Gilles D eleuze, Julia Kristeva, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Serres, and Bruno Latour whose derivation of sociological or otherwise normative implications from scientific concepts and formulas simply follow in the footsteps of the founders of the social sciences, most of whom expressed some affinity with positivism. In that respect, Sokal and Bricmont were beaten to the punch by the redoubtable founder of the Harvard sociology dep artm ent, Pitirim Sorokin, whose systematic critique of such over-reliance on scientific meta­ phors is a classic of sociological invective ( Sorokin 1 92 8 ) . To put you in the right mood, consider these three examples: 1.

2.

David Hume's search for methods and laws comparable to Newton's but for the moral realm. Yet, in Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals ( 1 75 1 ) , he hedged his bets by noting that while his own knowl­ edge claims are ultimately grounded in the experimental method, all he could produce at the time were thought experiments, if not sheer spec­ ulation. Indeed, an important feature of the "human sciences" that characterized Enlightenment thought and which eventually provided the groundwork for the sciences of economics and psychology is their license of Newtonian-like principles ranging over the interaction of entities such as ideas and sensations, whose metaphysical statuses were sufficiently controversial to give these principles the appearance of spu­ rious precision even in their own day. Here one would include the work of such French theorists as La Mettrie, D'Holbach, Helvetius, and Condillac ( Fox, Porter and Wokler 1 995). Auguste Comte's equation of "sociology social physics;' as divided into social statics and social dynamics, was offered as a loose, naturalis­ tic basis for principles of order and progress. These were then con­ verted to the biological metaphors of anatomy versus physiology in the hands of the autodidact Herbert Spencer. Emile D urkheim then =


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founded sociology as a science by mixing scientific metaphors. Bor­ rowing from both Spencer and the experimental medicine of Claude Bernard at the macro-level, Durkheim defined society as an organism set apart from and in equilibrium with its environment ( Hirst 1 975). However, Newtonian mechanics reappeared as the micro-level expla­ nation of social action: society's normative order is like gravitational attraction that constrains the inertial egoism of individuals. This for­ mulation turns out to be influential on Talcott Parsons and all other norm-driven theories of the social (read "solar") system, not least Robert Merton's sociology of science, typically the professional scientist's favorite school. Merton defines science as governed by universal norms, and the scientist as caught in a state of "sociological ambivalence" as her impulses often run counter to the calling of science. Thus, we have a psychodynamic account of what Vilfredo Pareto had bloodlessly called the "resolution of the p arallelogram of forces." In our own day, this dead m etaphor from late nineteenth century theories of electromagnetism has b ecome even more anthropomorphized ( or buried) in Pierre Bourdieu's ( 1 975) definition of science as an agonistic "field" of play. According t o Mirowski ( 1 989), nineteenth-century political economy marked the culmination of three centuries of metaphorical play around the ideas of "value," "body," and "motion," namely, in the idea of a "closed system" tending toward equilibrium. The legacy of the closed system is probably stronger in various philosophically inspired "logics" of confirmation and explanation than any first-order sciences. However, initially, the semantic exchange between physicalistic and economistic ideas was mutually beneficial, especially around the anal­ ogy between "utility" and "potential energy," two terms that had suf­ fered from quasi-occult status in the eighteenth century. However, by 1 8605, the research program in physics used to frame this analogy, energetics, had already begun to be seen as conceptually incoherent and by the end of the century was abandoned in favor of statistical thermodynamics. Nevertheless, economists continued to press on with the analogy. Indeed, such was the basis for the Marginalist Revolution, which began a trend of engineers migrating to economics and the social sciences more generally (Pareto, again perhaps the most famous case in point) . Since engineers typically do not fret over foundational problems in physics unless they affect practical applications, it was per­ haps no surprise that economists have not queried their own contin­ ued use of concepts long discredited by the o riginating physics community. If neoclassical economists today unearthed the physicalis­ tic roots of their mathematical formalism, they might come to realize that their "deeper" theoretical debates are simply the product of con­ ceptual confusion.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 95

The pervasiveness of metaphorical malfeasance in the history of the human sciences, as surveyed above, invites the general question of why one might want to either promote or inhibit the spread of scientistic metaphors. Alterna­ tive answers are provided by popularizers and esotericizers of science. This question can be asked of both those who support and oppose the authority of contemporary natural science-the "establishmentarians" and "anti-establish­ mentarians;' to recall the Protestant dissenters' term of abuse for the Anglican Church's parliamentary privileges, which was revived by a new generation of all-round dissenters in the 1 960s. The result is the following matrix of aims for the logically possible regimes of metaphorical transfer Table 7) : One positivist who straddles our matrix is Ernst Mach whose career com­ bined an attitude of self-restraint toward the establishment's actions with a popularizer's interest in Enlightenment. Thus, Mach held that physics was prostituted by the power politics (Machtpolitik) perspective in turn-of-the­ century German foreign policy, which justified the inevitability of "total war" by arguing that the international arena lacked the equivalent of a universal force like gravity holding the inertial masses (i.e., imperialistic nation-states) in orbit so that they do not collide into each other. More recently, Mach's more populist sentiments have been carried forward by Paul Feyerabend ( 1 979), who interpreted the need for scientific self-restraint as a principle of tolerance of alternatives rather than a restriction on one's own utterances; that is, instead of minimizing the interpretive range accorded to scientific concepts and data, he allowed a thousand interpretations to bloom. Nevertheless, the intent is the same in both cases, namely, to circumscribe the authority of science so that sci­ entists are taken seriously in the domains where their expertise might well be relevant and not dismissed out of hand simply because they have talked non­ sense when they strayed beyond their specific expertise (Midgley 1992 ) . In our own day, and i n their own way, Steven Weinberg ( 1 992) and Lewis Wolpert ( 1 992) sustain the need for scientists to discipline themselves (Fuller 1 994) . But as with so many self-proclaimed puritanical movements, this one betrays an undertone of condescension toward the public whose decision-making Ta ble 7 Politics of Pop u l a rizi n g a n d Esotericizi n g Science

Pro-establishment Popularize

Make the public friendly to

Anti-establishment Dissipate science's authority

science, if not knowledgeable

(Enlightenment's aim of

(e.g., popular applications of

saving science from

chaos theory; Comtean

institutional solidification)

Catholicism) Esotericize

Concentrate science's authority through self- restraint (Value neutrality, it la Max Weber)

Become a kind of counter­ science (a legitimate target of Sokal and Bricmont but less threatening)


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powers they are trying not to preempt. Interestingly, Weinberg and Wolpert engage in diametrically opposed strategies to draw a sharp line between sci­ ence and the public, but in this case the interest seems to be primarily geared, not toward protecting people from authoritarian scientists but, rather, toward preventing scientists from assuming any larger sense of social responsibility. Weinberg's strategy is to write as if scientists virtually own science, though every so often they catch trespassers who try to extract cultural implications without first having acquired a proper scientific training; hence, the Sokal Hoax. In this case, good fences make good neighbors. On the other hand, Wolpert p ortrays scientists as modest toilers whose competence does not extend beyond the confines of the laboratory. Here one envisages scientists delivering a fully mapped human genome on the public's doorstep but then quickly moving on to their next megaproject without involving themselves in the political implications of what they have done. Here cleanliness (from the taint of political decisions) is next to godliness. In the current debate between popularizing and esotericizing science, it is often forgotten that the eighteenth-century Enlightenment was fundamentally a popularizing movement that operated on the assumption that most of the basic principles of science had been laid down by Newton. However, since the principles most relevant to the human condition-the nature of mind and life (together called "spirit")-had been largely excluded from Newton's world­ picture, it was important that the incontrovertible success of Newton in the non-human world not be dogmatically extended to the human realm, which would effectively convert Newtonianism into a secular religion. Indeed, given the traditional alignment of the universities and the church, the Enlighten­ ment wits worried that Newtonianism would simply be absorbed in its cur­ rent form as a "natural theology" that provided new legitimation for the ancien regime. The p oint of large scale projects of vulgarization, such as L'Encyclopedie, thus should be seen as efforts at preempting the solidification of Newtonianism into dogma by enabling people without either Newton's mathematical training or his followers' religious inclinations to make use of Newtonian concepts to their own ends, including ends that cut against those of the established authorities. The sheer integration of Newtonian terms in the non-technical polemics of the day was an important step in keeping Newtoni­ anism "public knowledge." In the eighteenth century, this discursive strategy was called " impolite learning" (Goldgar 1995), but nowadays it would proba­ bly be called "cultural studies" (sans disciplinary identity) . Far from being alien to the original spirit of the Enlightenment, much of the work in STS crit­ icized by scientists is very much keeping with that spirit. The alternative strategies behind inhibiting versus promoting science's sta­ tus as the new priesthood reveal the parallels between the fall of Athens in the Peloponnesian Wars (according to Thucydides and Plato) and the French Rev­ olution (according to Comte, also Gouldner 1 965). The parallels are portrayed in Table 8. To test the reader's sensibilities on these matters, consider the


"Postmodern Positivism" . 97

Table 8 The Tragedy of Reason in Ancient a n d Modern

Ti mes

Before the Fall (Reason on the open market)

After the Fall (Reason goes underground)

Ancient Greece

Sophists

Plato and the Academy

Modern France

Enlightenment

Positivism and academic disciplines

debates surrounding sociobiology, a field whose practitioners have been almost as busy promoting noble lies for the scientifically illiterate masses as esoteric truths for the scientific elites. Each side of the debate captures part of the positivist legacy. On the one hand, the canonizer of the field, E. O. Wilson ( 1 9 7 5 ) , harks back to the Comtean vision of unified knowledge in aid of societal transformation. On the other, Richard Lewontin opposes Wilson's grandiose scheme by drawing on p ositivism's more recent restriction of the bounds of science to discipline-specific criteria-the "planter" versus the "weeder" sides of positivism, in the words of Segerestrale (2000, chap. 3 ) , the authoritative historian o f the debate. E. O. Wilson is an entomologist, a natural historian whose research meth­ ods would have been familiar to D arwin. However, his vision of "consil­ ience"-the nineteenth- century term for collecting disparate phenomena under a common set of laws-aims to reduce sociology to genetics, in neither of which he is expert (Wilson 1 998). His main method, especially in popular works, consists of imaginative comparisons between animal and human behavior, from which certain reinforced patterns of interaction between the genetic makeup and environmental background of humans are then inferred. These then reinforce the speculations of the Oxford zoologist, Richard Dawk­ ins ( 1 976) . His "selfish gene" hypothesis is potentially more dangerous than anything today's purveyors of French "fashionable nonsense" might say, as it reactivates long-standing discourses of eugenics and racial hygiene. The differ­ ence now, of course, is that the available biotechnology is more sophisticated than when such ideas first flourished in the early twentieth century ( Paul 1 994). However, Dawkins ultimately gets his inspiration from theodicy, the branch of theology devoted to justifying evil in the world-which will be fur­ ther addressed in the next chapter. Fellow British biologist Brian Goodwin has drawn an interesting, if somewhat invidious, point-by-point comparison between the selfish gene concept and original sin in order to explain Dawkins's success at popularizing such a scientifically speculative and culturally unsa­ vory hypothesis (adapted from Brockman 1995, 88). The Hypothesis o f the Selfish Gene:

1. 2.

Organisms are constructed by groups o f genes, the primary purpose of which is to leave more copies of themselves. This gives rise to the metaphor of the hereditary material as inherently selfish.


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The inherently selfish quality of the hereditary material is reflected in competitive interactions between organisms, which result in survival of fitter variants generated by the more successful genes. Assuming constancy in the environment's "fitness landscape," these variants will proliferate, but they could become "overadapted" through unexpected changes to the environment, which themselves may be simply the byproduct of proliferation.

The Doctrine of Original Sin: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Humanity has been forced to reproduce itself many times over in atonement for Adam's willful disobedience of God. A s descendants o f Adam, we are endowed with his selfish inheritance. Humanity is therefore condemned to a life of conflict and perpetual toil. God willing (i.e., Providence), at least some of humanity will persevere through good works, but the difference between human achievement and God's Plan will always be marked by the unintended consequences of humanity's ineliminably hubristic tendencies.

1 8. The Elusive "Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists" Defended in the Science Wars

So, then, what exactly was the point of the Sokal Hoax? Was it intended as a gen­ eral expression of scientific puritanism, designed to discourage even the adept from leveraging their scientific knowledge for political purposes? Or was it meant simply as a warning to the inept that a science must be properly mas­ tered-i.e., as recognized by other masters-before its political import can be determined? In other words, was Sokal trying to protect science from contro­ versy or politics from incompetence? If the former, the point might have come across more clearly had Sokal published a straight critique of STS's postmodernist political pretensions. But then, all that would have been shown is that a physicist can become good enough in science criticism to criticize the critics by their own standards. Since such reflexive critiques are routine in STS and cultural studies more generally, Sokal's achievement would have attracted few headlines. His standing as a physicist might even have enhanced STS's credibility as a field whose sense of objectivity transcends disciplinary ideologies. Instead, the rhe�� torical power of Sokal's hoax depended on his blurring the boundary between the controversial and the incompetent. The blurring was made possible by Sokal's appeal, not to positivism but to a vulgar realist epistemology which enabled assumptions popularly associated with the conduct of the physical sciences to constitute the standard for evaluating STS work. The result made STS-style critiques of science appear entirely based on bad philosophy. In practice, the strategy worked by providing highly tendentious glosses of what STS researchers mean when they make certain counterintuitive claims about their work and its relationship to science. Table 9 illustrates some relevant moves.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 99

Table 9 A M a p of Misrea d i n g : How Scientists "Soc i a l l y Construct" STS

When STS Researchers Say...

Scientists (via Sokal) Hear...

Science is socially constructed.

Science is whatever enough people think

The validity of scientific claims must be

There is no distinction between reality

it is. judged from the claimant's perspective.

and how people represent it.

STS has its own aims and methods.

STS willfully ignores the aims and

Science is only one possible way of

Science is merely an interpretation that

methods of science. interpreting experience. Gravity is a concept scientists use to explain why we fall down, not up. There

distorts experience. Gravity exists only in our minds and, if we wanted, we could fall up, not down.

are other explanations. Scientists' accounts of activities are not

Scientists' account of their activities can

necessarily the best explanation for

be disregarded when explaining those

those activities.

activities.

However, as my use of the words "vulgar" and "popularly" suggests, Sokal's own grasp of the relevant philosophy of science was less than completely secure. Authoritative figures like Arthur Fine and Ronald Giere, otherwise known for their tolerant epistemic attitudes, drove home this point in vigor足 ous critique of Sokal at a makeshift lunch session at the 1 996 meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. In the first place, realism is-and has always been-a controversial position within philosophy. There continues to be much debate over whether there is a metaphysically significant distinction between reality and its representations, objects and our concepts of them, and so forth. The tendency to conflate epistemology and ontology is not an intellectual failure but, as I observed at the end of chapter 2, a philosophical standpoint nowadays called "antirealism," the most famous species of which is "verificationism," the house philosophy of logical positivism. Indeed, the revolutions in mathematics and physics in the twentieth century, which inspired the logical p ositivists and in whose lineage Sokal's theoretical work stands, were born of a rejection of realism and an acceptance of the ineliminably conventional and instrumental nature of scientific inquiry that is not so far from STS's own philosophical starting point. Through the phenomenological tradition and the later work of Wittgenstein, there are even common points of reference, which correspond to a genealogy of the term "constructivism:' Thus, as if defusing a historically loaded bomb, Sokal and his defenders have had to carefully disentangle the proto-postmodernist utterances of their great predecessors from the nuggets of "real science" they encase. Perhaps the best example comes from Steven Weinberg ( 1 996) whose highly publicized defense of his former student Sakal in The New York Review of Books features this gem: "Heisenberg was one of the great physicists of the twentieth century,


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but he could not always be counted to think carefully, as shown by his techni­ cal mistakes in the German nuclear weapons program ( 1 2)." Weinberg stands apart from other Science Warriors-not only Sokal and Bricmont but also Gross and Levitt, Wolpert, and indeed Richard Dawkins-for having peer rec­ ognition as a first-rate scientist. Weinberg shared the 1 9 7 9 Nobel Prize in physics for "electroweak theory," which explains the unity of electromagne­ tism and the weak nuclear force. He also stands out in having developed a body of reflection on the nature of the nature of science that does not entirely parasitize STS philosophical indiscretions and quite clearly cuts against the grain of the philosophical tradition to unite positivism and postmodernism ( Weinberg 1 99 2 , 2 00 1 ) . Indeed, the only philosophical sensibility that Weinberg shares with the positivists-or, for that matter, Thomas Kuhn-is the tendency to treat the history of physics as if it were the history of the entirety of science. In most general terms, Weinberg advocates an extreme form of what he calls "reductionism" that sharply distinguishes practicing scientists from posi­ tivist philosophers. A broad church of philosophers, not only positivists but also their phenomenological rivals, have longed for a common language of evidence and inference in which all the sciences would transact their epistemic claims. This project has been usually pursued in the spirit of metaphysical neutrality. In contrast, scientists like Weinberg interpret reductionism as implying a specific ontological commitment, namely, to the reality of funda­ mental physical particles and forces, out which reality is constructed. The nat­ ural antagonism between these two reductionist projects appears, for example, when Weinberg lumps professional historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science as "cultural adversaries" of science, simply because they refuse to take scientists' knowledge claims entirely at face value (Weinberg 200 1 ) . Weinberg's brand of reductionism has also served ideological functions, most famously to justify the ill-fated Superconducting Supercollider, which, had it not encountered cost overruns and a federal budget deficit, would have been the world's largest particle accelerator, the kind of machine needed to test the hypotheses generated by his version of the reductionist vision-which was to be, not to mention, conveniently located in Weinberg's Texas backyard (Weinberg 1992 ) . But at a subtler level, Weinberg's reductionism reintroduces crypto-theological themes that enable physics to serve as a general worldview or at least as a model of rationality for society at-large. Like a latter-day Leib­ niz, Weinberg invokes a version of the principle of sufficient reason to expli­ cate the goal of The Ultimate Theory of Everything in terms of the ability to show how each event in the universe had to be as it is and no other way. The kind of demonstration Weinberg has in mind is the simplest mathematical equation (or set of equations) that the data will permit (200 1 , 39). Moreover, he is willing to press this point about seeking "the beauty in nature's laws" quite far, including a qualified endorsement of the controversial "anthropic


"Postmodern Positivism" . 101

principle" in cosmology, whereby our very existence as observers of nature implies something deep about the constitution of nature itself (68). The word that best captures Weinberg's attitude toward the history and philosophy of science is one that he applies to himself: "philistine (43 ) ." When Matthew Arnold breathed new life into the old biblical word in the Victorian era, he had in mind the sort of person who knows a lot but can think about what he knows only in utilitarian terms. In Weinberg's case, the value o f knowing t h e history and philosophy of science comes mainly from the light-invariably flattering-it sheds on contemporary physics. To be sure, Weinberg concedes that sometimes past practitioners and interpreters of sci足 ence got it wrong. But he is conspicuously circumspect about the wild and erroneous views that have been instrumental in generating and even justifying the enduring contributions of his scientific heroes. This problem of epistemic "dirty hands" arises most acutely in the case of religious influences on science. Weinberg the devout atheist must reckon with the theological cast of Newton's and Faraday's physical inquiries. But instead of stressing the heuristic value of religious ideas, as a historian or philosopher of science might, Weinberg con足 cludes that religious skepticism took a long time for scientists to learn (26). Nevertheless, for Weinberg, the history of science (i.e., physics) is unique in its tending toward what is sometimes called "equifinality," namely, the idea that no matter where one starts, one ends up in the same place ( 1 37). Philosophers of science are most familiar with this position as "convergent realism" (Leplin 1 984). But Weinberg's restricted interpretation of science as physics means that he is only talking about the mathematical expressions of the laws of nature that are the products of organized inquiry. Although Weinberg clearly intends to be refuting the historical and cultural relativism associated with postmodernism, his opponents could easily grant that science so narrowly defined has just the qualities he suggests. But they would then wonder whether the different p aths to the agreed formulae involved assumptions sufficiently divergent as to call into question the epistemic depth of the current scientific consensus. After all, that physicists around the world manipulate the same equations and justify their inferences in the same technical language may be a superficial fact-pertaining to com足 mon training-that fails to address philosophical concerns about the mean足 ing, reference, and application of the equations. For all its many faults, a strength of Kuhn's theory of science was the insight that when science is in one of its "normal" phases, scientists have no incentive to probe into these matters. From that standpoint, the difference between Weinberg and his postmodern opponents in the Science Wars is that he would have science be always "normal," and hence completely divorced from the larger contextual issues typically probed by STS, whereas his opponents would have science be always "revolutionary" and hence infused with such issues. The interesting background question to all this is the source of Weinberg's intuition that science m oves in one, largely irreversible direction. Clearly the


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state's role in consohdatmg SCIence tunding in the twentieth century was cru­ cial in focusing research horizons and, unsurprisingly, came to be internalized as science's own teleology. Implied here is a larger philosophical point, namely, if authoritative science is the bulwark of rationality that Weinberg maintains, then what would happen were we to learn that such science acquired and maintains its authority by means that undermine precisely the sort of ratio­ nality that its practice is supposed to exemplify? More specifically, what if we learned that the kind of physics for which Weinberg won his Nobel Prize came to be pursued, not because it was epistemically superior to the relevant alter­ natives but because it could be more readily used for non-epistemic ends (e.g.. developing nuclear arms) . Even without meaning to cast aspersions on Wein­ berg's self-understanding of why he pursued a life in physics, future historians will marvel at his ability to combine a Platonist's interest in ideal truth with an obsession for building a singularly expensive piece of specialized machinery. Nevertheless, as Weinberg himself frequently incants, he aspires to speak only for science, not science policy. Without denying his effectiveness as a defender of what Louis Althusser would have called the "spontaneous philosophy of scientists," Weinberg has done little to secure the epistemic foundations of the scientific orthodoxy. Place Weinberg outside of Epistemology 1 0 1 and it is not clear when alterna­ tive trajectories for scientific research have been lined up and judged exclu­ sively on their epistemic merit. Contrary to the opinion of most professional historians of science, Weinberg thinks that the history of science ought to be like military history in trying to explain why one such trajectory succeeded while another failed (Weinberg 1 996, 1 5 ) . The comparison is telling. Weinberg assumes that conflicts in the history of science have been mainly about deter­ mining the truth about a particular domain of reality, which is a bit like achieving dominion over a region whose identity is unaffected by the outcome of the conflict. However, scientific disputes have been just as much about determining the identity of the occupied as the occupier. Indeed, the same is true of sophisticated versions of military history in which the very identity of, say, the Sudetenland depended on whether Nazi Germany or Czechoslovakia exercised sovereignty over it. This broadly postmodern point has been stressed by STS in its constructivist sensibility toward reality. So influenced, historians are loath to incorporate today's scientific perspective into their accounts of past scientific disputes, so as not to inhibit thinking about how the develop­ ment of the science might have gone, had the losers won. Rather than presume equifinality, historians treat the words and things available to scientists as con­ tested and scarce resources out of which the future is contingently forged. 1 9. Does Research Fraud Matter? Reflections on the Sokal Hoax as a Social Experiment

No analysis of the Sokal Hoax would be complete without a discussion of Sokal's own public account of his activity as an "experiment" (SokaI 1 996b).


"Postmodern Positivism" . 103

Experimentation has always been a controversial method in the social sciences because of its necessarily deceptive character. Ethical standards for human­ subj ects research have had to tread a fine line b etween the integrity of individuals and science's collective search for truth. One traditionally impor­ tant criterion for determining the appropriateness of experimentation is that the knowledge be unobtainable by other means. By that criterion, Sokal's "experiment" on the editors of Social Text clearly fails, rendering its appeal to experimentation prima facie unethical. Yet, few commentators have taken this charge seriously, even though it featured prominently in a New York Times op-ed piece shortly after the hoax broke as a news story (Fish 1 996). This is in marked contrast with Peters and Ceci ( 1 982), the landmark experiment on the journal refereeing process. Two features of Peters and Ceci's research are of direct relevance here. First, it dealt with the "peer-reviewed" journals that Sokal's experiment was meant to champion. The ruse in the experiment involved journal editors unwittingly evaluating articles they had previously published, except this time the authors were listed as affiliated with much lower status universities than when their articles were first published. Few of the editors recognized that they had already published these pieces, but still more embarrassing was that many of the articles were now rejected, often with unanimous agreement among the referees. Second, Peters and Ceci's experiment was conducted both by and on experimental psychologists. Thus, the experimenters were accused of trying to sabotage the discipline, if not science more generally, by undermining the trust necessary for the smooth functioning of science. Nevertheless, Peters and Ceci countered that it was impossible to determine the extent and character of bias in the peer review process without proceeding in such a deceptive man­ ner. Despite the many anecdotes and suspicions about refereeing bias, until the experiment was conducted, there had been little systematically gathered evidence on the matter. Perhaps because Sokal presented himself as an outsider to the fields he hoaxed, few openly worried that he had invited only a more generalized dis­ trust in the veracity of research-yet the hoax arguably had just this effect, as we shall shortly see. Rather, the public's tolerance toward the dubious ethics of the Sokal Hoax suggests that cultural studies ( and STS) had already been sus­ pected of charlatanry, and Sokal did what had to be done to make it plain. Unfortunately, Sokal's targets were not trying to hide what he wanted to put on public display, namely, that many humanists have derived larger cultural significance from contemporary physics without having an insider's knowl­ edge of physics. Moreover, their reasons for doing so were well understood within the communities addressed by Social Text. In this important respect, the ethical status of Sokal's experiment differs radically from Peters and Ceci's: there was no scientific end to justify Sokal's deceptive means. Since Social Text and like-minded cultural studies journals had previously published articles like Sokal's, there was no reason to doubt that they would do so in his case.


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But, of course, by publicizing his hoax in media like The New York Times and the now-defunct academic gossip magazine, Lingua Franca, which themselves do not pretend to the standards of peer review, Sokal virtually guaranteed that his "achievement" was subject to mischievous interpretations, as lay readers made all sorts of inappropriate comparisons and connections-perhaps not unlike what Sokal thought the practitioners of cultural studies were doing when they, say, juxtaposed Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics and hermeneutical doctrines of textual indeterminacy. If Sokal's aims had been entirely mischievous, then at least one could appreciate the logic of his procedure. However, it is equally clear that Sokal ( 1 9 96b ) thought that something politically significant was at stake. Most immediately, he was concerned with a perceived distortion of intellectual stan­ dards in favor of what the "academic Left" regards as politically correct, which falls under the generic rubric of "postmodernism." The result compromised both the autonomy of scientific inquiry and the efficacy of a genuinely eman­ cipatory politics. Yet, in light of these political goals, the Sakal Hoax must be judged a failure as well, since neither the autonomy nor the efficacy of scien­ tific knowledge has benefited from this intervention. If anything, the opposite has happened, as universities have come under increasing scrutiny for foster­ ing just the sort of cross-disciplinary sniping that the Sokal Hoax itself exem­ plifies: "Why aren't these physicists and sociologists teaching our kids more useful things or getting external grants to fund their frivolous pursuits?" In short, the Sokal Hoax, following the more general pattern of the Science Wars, looks like yet another case of the political Left devouring itself to the glee of onlooking conservatives. Indeed, Sokal should have anticipated this perverse turn of events. A year before his hoax was hatched, the New York Academy of Sciences had already opened its doors to right-wing patronage in a highly publicized conference bearing the ominous title, "The Flight from Science and Reason." To his credit, Norman Levitt, the Rutgers mathematician who helped to organize it, recog­ nized at least half of the problem: Since most [ STS] practitioners and fans clearly identify themselves, in some fashion, with the political Left, it is exquisitely ironic that they seem to have found the politicians of their dreams in the new Republi­ can Congress (Gross, Levitt, and Lewis 1 997, 49). In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man may be king, but in the land of the one eyed, the inhabitants simply trip each other up. So it is with the Science Wars. The cyclopean Levitt was of course correct that the science-debunking tendencies of STS feed into the scientific philistinism of legislators looking for new budget-slashing targets. Unfortunately,- Levitt failed to see the glasshouse he was himself inhabiting, as the ultra-conservative John Olin Foundation funded his conference. Moreover, Levitt and his co-organizer Paul Gross have also periodically taken pains to advertise their own ("old" ) leftist credentials.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 105

The same applies to virtually every other scientific debunker of STS, both in the U.S. and UK. Political and cultural conservatives only seem to get involved in the Science Wars as suppliers and withholders of material resources but not as active participants. Perhaps defenders of science and STS should j oin together to fight against this third party-what the sociologist Georg Simmel would have recognized as a tertius gaudens-one who benefits from our mlsenes. To be sure, no science has been immune from high-profile frauds, not least Sokal's home discipline, physics. The most noted recent case concerned Hendrik Schon, a Wunderkind at the cutting edge of nanotechnology. Schon worked at Bell Laboratories, the research arm of the old conglomerate, American Telephone & Telegraph, and home to some of the most innovative inter­ disciplinary scientific research of the twentieth century. From 1 998 to 2002, he published a torrent of papers-some in the world's leading general science journals, Science and Nature-on path-breaking techniques he had developed: one involved injecting an electrical charge into organic crystals to turn insula­ tors into conductors; another enabled superconductivity to occur at much higher temperatures than previously imagined; and a third demonstrated how the building block of electronics, the transistor, could be created in a single molecule. However, in autumn 2002, this would-be Nobelist was found to have mathematically massaged his data beyond the usual allowances of "curve fitting" (i.e., the intuitive disposal of particular outcomes on grounds of suspected experimenter error, based on an overall pattern of results) , as well as to have presented the same data in different articles as if they came from dif­ ferent experiments. Moreover, Schon had conveniently lost his original data sheets-and the machines on which the data were recorded had been conve­ niently damaged. What stands out is how long it took to expose Schon's fraud. After all, he had passed the peer-review process in the most elite journals in some of the most competitive areas of contemporary science. Thus, given both the intel­ lectual and commercial stakes, there probably was considerable motivation to find error. Moreover, Schon managed to dupe twenty co-workers as well as his distinguished doctoral supervisor, all of whom defended him until nearly 1 00 labs around the world had failed to replicate Schon's findings. Debate still rages in the physics community over whether this episode should be treated as a failure or a success for the discipline's peer-review process. It might have taken four years, but Schon was eventually caught and fired. Of course, had Social Text's humanistic readers also enjoyed the luxury of four years, they to o might have raised some damning questions about Sokal's article. In any case, Sokal did not afford them that opportunity, since he went to Lingua Franca and The New York Times as soon as the issue of Social Text containing his arti­ cle hit the newsstands. There are many reasons for the commission of research fraud. For Peters and Ceci, it was the only way to test a controversial hypothesis. For Sokal, it


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was the only way to make a point about the politics of knowledge production. For Schon, it was the only way to stay ahead of the pack at the research fron­ tier. The ease with which fraud can be perpetrated by those with a modicum of competence and determination makes one wonder why it has not been the weapon of choice of disgruntled tenure-seekers in academia or others with a grievance against the peer-review system. After all, a sufficient number of high-profile frauds would probably bring the epistemic standing of a disci­ pline to its knees. That Schon's apparent multiple frauds failed to discredit nanotechnology simply reflects Schon's sincere desire to succeed according to the usual scientific criteria. He confessed to the crime soon after he was caught, blaming it on no more than the competitive environment in which he was forced to operate. Had Schon been of a more spiteful or mischievous dis­ position, he would have kept a diary that chronicled the unfolding of his frauds, which he could then publish to reveal his true identity as a crusader against intellectual corruption-specifically, of those either too stupid or too selfish to catch his dirty deeds. That would have made Schon's actions look more like Sokal's. And given the money involved in nanotechnology research, such a revelation would have-unlike the Sokal Hoax-generated calls for Judicial prosecution and legislative regulation at the highest levels of govern­ ment. From the standpoint of STS, this is an unlocked door waiting to be pushed open. So, why hasn't it happened yet? Perhaps most scientists are committed to upholding disciplinary standards of good practice, regardless of whether they think they would be otherwise caught. (If so, why? ) Perhaps research fraud routinely occurs, but no one is sufficiently competent or motivated to notice. And perhaps fraud occurs and is noticed, but no one cares. And if no one cares, could it be because it does not really matter? This chain of questions is familiar in the art world, where aestheticians routinely debate why, say, a technically brilliant forgery of a Rembrandt painting should not command as high a price nor be displayed in as prestigious a setting as the original. The easy answer available to aestheti­ cians-the appeal to the sheer origins of the forged work-does not transfer well to the scientific context, since it is expected that even the most sincere and competent scientists will commit major errors. At the very least, this asymme­ try suggests that the social epistemology implied in thinking that virtuous research practice enhances the production of valid knowledge is worthy of empirical investigation. After all, as we shall see below, had Schon sustained the courage of his convictions, and not confessed to fraud, he might have become what Galileo became for future generations. As a point of reference, the business world tends to be more casual about the significance of undetected fraud, since, in a market environment, the cus­ tomer is always right. From that standpoint, it is an open question just how problematic research fraud really is. Economically speaking, research fraud results from someone pretending to have done the work that would be nor­ mally required to reach a certain conclusion, assuming the conclusion is tr


"Postmodern Positivism" . 107

Thus, it is the researcher's pretense to effort-not the actual validity of her conclusion-that is mainly at issue here. Of course, the two issues are easily elided in the minds of the fraud-averse, usually by focusing on the knowledge claim's reliability, a quality in research that can be produced only at consider­ able cost, specifically of the sort typically circumvented in research fraud. Nev­ ertheless, if one considers the exact knowledge claims that tend to be faked, they are often ones that the researchers believe to be true, but they simply lack the time, money, or skill to produce an appropriate demonstration. At this point, a professional "knowledge manager" might attempt to cut this norma­ tive Gordian knot by throwing the matter open to the market: those caught in research fraud may be asserting truths or falsehoods, but why must this judg­ ment be based on how much the researchers have consumed (of their own time and effort, their professors' reputation and resources, etc.) rather than how much they and other researchers can produce on the basis of this fraud? Indeed, the prototype of this bold question was posed-vis-a-vis Galileo's improbably idealized experiments-by Alexandre Koyre ( 1 978) and Paul Feyerabend ( 1 975). To be sure, Koyre and Feyerabend had somewhat different aims in sight. Koyre wanted to reinforce the value of Platonism as a force in Western thought that has enabled the likes of Galileo to see ahead of the pack, while dragging the rest along with (faked) empirical demonstrations. For his part, Feyerabend wanted to ridicule modern philosophy of science's preoccupation with demar­ cation criteria and other declarations of methodological loyalty that would not be needed had charlatans (i.e., mystics, alchemists, and other purveyors of "magic") not hit on the truth so often-to be sure, by inscrutable and devious means. Nevertheless, both Koyre and Feyerabend appealed to a sense of over­ all efficiency in the history of science that is not captured by what might be regarded as the science system's normative expenditure at any given moment. Koyre's solution was to cast the Platonic tradition as a semi-protected black market for intellectual risk-seekers who periodically make strategic interven­ tions in the open market, whereas Feyerabend would simply open up scientific institutions to competitors whose very lack of the positional goods associated with academic employment and peer-reviewed publications promises a more innovative approach to knowledge production. From the standpoint shared by Koyre and Feyerabend-not to mention Adam Smith and the local knowledge management guru-cases of research fraud are treated too much as isolated events, deviations from norms that everyone is presumed to follow, rather than symptoms of alternative normative regimes for producing knowledge. These alternatives may make counter­ normative assumptions about, say, the epistemic superiority of reason to expe­ rience (a la Koyre) or risk-seeking to risk-avoidance (a la Feyerabend ) . But they need not be so exotic. For example, one may simply fake experiments every so often in the direction of the current research trajectory in order to stay within budget. The implied alternative norm of this practice would be


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that the consumers of scientific research should bear more of the risk entailed by accepting particular knowledge claims and, in that sense, share the burden of experimentation. Indeed, more explicit versions of this norm are familiar from the histories of medicine and technolo gy, which blur, if not erase entirely, the laboratory-based distinction between testing and applying knowl­ edge claims. The "social construction of technology" approach in STS is founded on just this insight (Bijker, Hughes, and Pinch 1987). 20. What Should Have Been Done About Sokal? What Can Be Done About Positivism?

Regardless where they stand on the Science Wars, most observers have come to believe that the best response the Social Text editors could have made to the Sokal Hoax was simply to acknowledge that Sokal had outfoxed them at their own game and pledge that in the future they would call upon the relevant experts as referees when articles are submitted that include substantial discus­ sions of specific technical developments in the natural sciences (e.g., Boghossian 1996). If nothing else, this bien pensant judgment points to the subsumption of editorial power in contemporary academia to a vaguely defined-but no less strongly felt-disciplinary groupthink. In the late-nineteenth and early­ twentieth centuries, disciplines were bounded by visionary j ournal editors often at odds with one another, not least by defending the publication of arti­ cles that their rivals would not touch. Nowadays the situation is the other way round: editors must submit to the discipline's collective will, as regularly mea­ sured by the "impact factors" of journals in the Science Citation Index. Why, then, did the editorial collective of Social Text not revert to the older practice and offer a principled defense of the publication of Sakal's article, in spite of the author's own denunciation? In other words, rather than belatedly follow the herd, why did they not try to set the standard? At the very least, such a strategy would have had the virtue of upholding the constructivist epistemol­ ogy that Sokal was attempting to discredit. Accordingly, the first mistake the editors made was to grant Sokal sover­ eignty over the meaning of his text and thereby concede that they had indeed been hoaxed. Instead, given that the author is only one of many possible voices that constrains how the text "speaks," the editors should have taken to heart their own constructivist tenet that the text's meaning is ultimately determined by the community of readers it attracts (Fish 1 980) . However, the editors need not have presented the situation as an authoritarian imposition of their will over Sokal's. Instead, they could have portrayed Social Text as an idealized market in which publication constitutes an opportunity to be heard, an exper­ iment to see if what the article says resonates with anyone. If no one ever refers to the piece, then all that would have been lost is the cost of printing the arti­ cle. If, on the other hand, some do refer to it, then that will have justified its publication. At least this way the journal's editorial judgment would be tested by its own readers rather than pre-empted by other disciplinary gatekeepers.


"Postmodern Positivism" . 109

Had the editors pursued this tack, then a fruitful discussion about the value of "peer-reviewed" academic publication might have ensued. After all, even if academic journals are supposed to exert strict control over their publication policies, they exert little control over how o ther journals populate the aca­ demic market. In that case, the argument that peer-reviewed journals prevent the "pollution of the literature" by substandard work is simply a non-starter: the sheer proliferation of high-quality, peer-reviewed journals, as such, pol­ lutes the literature, and the academic public responds appropriately by reading and citing little of it. Such a libertarian publication policy, which recognizes the "positional" value of knowledge (Hirsch 1 976; Fuller 2002a, chap. 3 ) , would be i n keeping with the spirit o f the actual communicative context of academic life. Sokal himself might have resorted to this libertarian defense of publication, had the editors of Social Text decided not to publish his article. Then, he could have said that he had met the standards of the field but that he was discriminated against on grounds that he was a physicist and not a profes­ sional cultural studies practitioner. In short, had Sokal been foiled in his attempt to catch the editors in intellectual sloppiness, he could have instead accused them of political correctness. In that sense, the hoax was an experi­ ment bound to succeed and hence incapable of falsifying its hypothesis: Pop­ per would not have been pleased! But the Social Text editors could have couched their judgment in still more substantive terms. They could have argued that competence in physics is not necessary for competence in the cultural implications of physics. (The con­ verse is also true-that a physics degree does not make one an expert in the culture of physics.) This is not because STS researchers lack standards but because the members of a culture need not fully grasp the technical content of scientific ideas that influence them. For a STS researcher, it is more important to understand the metaphorical associations that non-scientists-and often the scientists themselves-derive from scientific ideas than to understand the logical structure of scientific theories. Moreover, there may even be a "logic" to these seemingly loose metaphorical associations between the scientific and cultural domains. ( For example, Cohen [ 1 977] defends a form of inductive reasoning implicitly used in forensic legal proceedings, and arguably all ana­ logical reasoning, whereby many weak connections can add up to a strong overall verdict, contrary to the multiplication rule of classical probability the­ ory.) Scientists may wish to protest against such a methodology, but then they court the charge of hypocrisy. After all, practicing physicists are only a fraction of those who contribute to what physics is. The other contributors include engineers, scientists in other disciplines (including the social sciences) who model their own fields on physics, science policymakers, physics popularizers (including those who see Buddha and the Tao in quantum mechanics) , and their New Age readers-not to mention professional physicists such as Steven Hawking, Roger Penrose, and Paul Davies, who are best known for their meta­ physically inflected popular writings.


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Perhaps from a physicist's standpoint, colleagues aside, most of these peo­ ple would be deemed deficient in their understanding of the science. However, were the physics community to disown them, physics would quickly lose its social standing as a science. Why would democratic governments want to invest billions of dollars on activities from which only a few directly benefit? From a sociological standpoint, all of the misbegotten metaphors and half­ understandings that Science Warriors decry in STS and allies in cultural stud­ ies are what enable a broad spectrum of people to relate their own experiences and traditions to the elite and alien world of physics research. It is disingenu­ ous to say that popularizers simply make the practice of physics appear fasci­ nating. Rather, it is precisely the connections that popularizers make with the larger-and, positivistically speaking, objectionable-metaphysical issues that draw the readers and pack the lecture halls. That the current boom in science popularization has not led to increased enrollments in science degree programs suggests that greater knowledge of the technical content of science does not always serve to sustain the interest origi­ nally sparked by a science popularizer. As we shall see in the final two chapters of this book, this may imply that strategically cultivated ignorance-"noble lies" in Plato's sense-is essential to fostering what is euphemistically called "public understanding of science." A truly interesting experiment would be for the likes of Sokal and Bricmont to turn their efforts at remediation on admir­ ing New Agers, policy-makers, and social scientists whose misunderstandings of physics are often as egregious as those of STS researchers. An unintended consequence of their efforts, however, might be to persuade the admirers that their ardor was misplaced, possibly leading more physics research projects to meet the dismal fate of the Supercollider. The other side of this issue is whether humanists and social scientists who use scientific metaphors materially improve their own positions and advance a reformist agenda in the academy and society at large. My own support for a publication policy that would continue to license articles of the kind parodied by Sokal is based more on a Millian concern to protect people's "right to be wrong" in a world where anarchy is already the norm at the meta level (i.e., the endless proliferation of j ournals) , rather than to protect any personal belief in the ultimate efficacy of identifying metaphorical resonances between scientific and cultural concepts. Most of the French theorists who are role models for such metaphor mongering are less interested in deconstructing sci­ ence than in legitimating themselves through science. They are arguably legiti­ mate targets of Sokal and Bricmont's critique, but at the same time they are better criticized in print than prohibited from publication, which would potentially deprive others from deriving some benefit from their work. More generally, the Comtean character of the institutional setting in which this metaphor mongering occurs in France should not be underestimated. That the science on top of the positivist hierarchy is now quantum rather than Newtonian mechanics does not make the chain of epistemic command from


"Postmodern Positivism" . 1 1 1

natural to human sciences any different from before: physics and its immedi­ ate relatives still call the shots. Failure to appreciate the deeply scientistic char­ acter of French academic culture has led many an Anglophone humanist to project subversive motives on the use of words like "attractors" and "fractals," which at most challenge traditional conceptions of the human sciences but certainly not of the natural sciences. For example, Hayles ( 1 990), a U.S. lit­ erary critic prominent in the Society for Literature and Science, argues that such post-Newtonian fields of physical inquiry as chaos theory, non-linear dynamics, and quantum m echanics confer some relative advantage on humanistic fields that have traditionally struggled with problems of "indeter­ minacy" in interpretation. Yet, the fact that humanists have not yet halted the funding of the natural sciences, nor even managed to siphon off some of the funding for themselves, is sufficient evidence that we are nowhere near the dawn of a "new age" that levels the status differences between physics and literature departments. If the "academic Left" has been guilty of any kind of "idealism;' it is this perverse neglect of the material conditions that under­ write intellectual life. From their inception in the early- 1 990s, the Science Wars have witnessed a distinct contrast in the development of the two opposing sides. On the one hand, a wider range of scientific voices have been heard, many of them non-elite and sympathetic to STS concerns and findings. On the other hand, STS has increasingly hidden behind the image of an autonomous research community. The Sokal Hoax marked a pivotal transition. Before Sokal, STS researchers would routinely dismiss scientific criticism of their work as misrepresentations. After Sokal, it has become increasingly common for STS researchers whose intellectual roots go directly back to the Edinburgh School (e.g., Barnes 1 974, Bloor 1 976) to dismiss as interlopers fellow-travelers in cul­ tural studies and the postmodern humanities. This purification of the STS ranks revolves around the idea that particular case studies of "science in the making" constitute the core of the discipline. The field's characteristic philo­ sophical positions, arguments, and subsequent influence are then said to be little more than abstractions (and, in some cases, diversions) from that core body of empirical knowledge (Edge 1 996) . This is a desperate move that not only gets matters exactly backwards but also exposes STS to even more need­ less attacks. By downplaying its challenge to conventional norms of research, STS ironically renders itself most vulnerable. Specifically, the field invites the reanalysis of its cases in conventional terms, according to which what STS researchers treat as a methodological innovation can all too easily be diag­ nosed as an epistemological error. (Examples of just this treatment can be found in Gross, Levitt, and Lewis 1 997; Koertge 1998.) This point harks back to the dialectical origins of the appeal to case studies in STS, as discussed in the previous two chapters of this book-to falsify nor­ mative theories of science that took empiricism to be the decisive scientific methodology. Beyond that, there has been little development of case study


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methodology within STS. Indeed, to many theoretically minded sociologists outside of STS, the import of case studies continues to require defense (e.g., Collins 1 996). It may be more useful to understand the appeal to case studies in terms of its various rhetorical functions. In addition to refuting normative accounts of science, case studies provide a pretext for the participation of mul­ tiple perspectives in an episode that might otherwise not be seen. In this respect, the case study may be seen as a vehicle for empowering the politically disadvantaged. Yet, at the same time, a case study creates an intellectual enti­ tlement for the STS researcher, placing a burden on the potential critic to somehow repeat the work that went into the case study before been seen as lodging a legitimate criticism. This proprietary sensibility has been the source of endless friction between STS researchers and other social scientists. Finally, because case studies are typically evaluated in terms of their sheer descriptive adequacy ( Does it tell a good story?) , rather than any larger normative or the­ oretical context, they can be of potential use to a wide range of users, most notably those who do not share the STS researcher's personal commitments. In that respect, as was noted in the last chapter, the case study is well suited to the opportunism of the post-academic, contract-research culture in which most STS work is done today. In sum, the case study embodies the unresolved tensions implicit in the social role of the STS researcher: it constitutes the mol­ ten, not solid, core to the field. In conclusion, what exactly would it mean to win the Science Wars? Both scientists and STS researchers vary widely in their opinions on the matter. Some scientists are mainly concerned with stamping out sloppy scholarship in the academy, others with rescuing the Left from postmodern decadence. Some STS researchers are primarily interested in asserting the intellectual integrity of their own pursuits, while others ( myself included) wish to dispel the mysti­ fications that surround the pursuit of science, especially in relation to its larger legitimatory role in society. The differences are depicted in Table 10: The goals identified for each side are not incompatible, but they pull in dif­ ferent directions: the engaged response toward Enlightenment, the profes­ sional one toward positivism. In many respects, the Sokal Hoax exemplifies the problem of trying to address intellectual differences and political strategy simultaneously. Sokal justified his parody as a wake-up call to the academic Left (i.e., the engaged response) in which the questioning of intellectual standards (i.e., the professional responsel functioned as a means to that larger Table 1 0 Mapping the Multiple Science Wars

Engaged Response

Professional Response

Science

STS is undermining the Left

STS lacks standards

STS

Science must renegotiate its

STS has its own standards

social contract


"Postmodern Positivism" . 1 1 3

end. However, Sokal's hoax has opened the door to much generalized bashing of higher education, something that neither science nor STS wanted to encourage. (Sokal, a theoretical physicist, is himself someone who would have considerable difficulty justifying his professional activities simply by referring to their likely practical benefits.) Seen as a cross-disciplinary squabble within academia, the Science Wars present public-opinion makers and policy makers an easy strategy by which to "divide and conquer," whereby academics are made to feel obliged to "clean up their own house:' "close ranks," and so forth. However, a more productive debate would realign the parties so that scientists and STS researchers who wish to protect the academy from the rest of society could stand on one side, while those who wish to use the academy as a vehicle for reforming society could stand on the other-and then resume fighting. In other words, the debate would not reproduce default disciplinary divisions within the academy, but would instead force academics to seek constituencies outside academia for whom alternative conceptions of the social role of aca足 demics could make a difference to their own activities. In that way, the Science Wars, which may end up engulfing most academics in some way, could become a catalyst for a multiply registered discussion of the production and distribution of knowledge in society. At the very least, it would get us to realize that the images of science promoted by the Enlightenment and positivism pull in quite different directions. Finally, if positivism has a future, it lies in rekindling a sense of science that transcends the boundaries of particular scientific disciplines. This is how Comte originally thought about the discipline he called "sociology." He argued that it was the last to develop, not simply because of the complexity of its human subject matter but, more importantly, because it had to reconstitute the (natural) sciences that historically preceded it. Too often the history of positivism's quest for unified science has been interpreted as exclusively a mat足 ter of applying the methods of physics to less developed sciences. The recipro足 cal movement is really more important, namely, the application of sociological findings to the future direction of science as a whole. Such interdisciplinary projects as the "science of science" (De Mey 1 982) and, more recently, "social epistemology" ( Fuller 1 98 8 ) have tried to fulfill this side of the Comtean promise, which may be redeemed as the present intellectual climate changes. It is to these changes-and the role SIS plays in them-that we now turn in the last two chapters of this book.


v

Re-enchanting Science: Beyond Puritans and Gnostics

This chapter and the next provide, respectively, a theoretical and practical guide to a substantive philosophy of science for the STS era. This chapter focuses on the salient social fact about science in our times, namely, its devo足 lution from state control, while largely retaining widespread public support. I regard this "secularization of science" as akin to the decline of the state as the monopoly shareholder of religious authority with the onset of the Protestant Reformation. The secularization analogy suggests the need for science to solicit public supp ort directly through a kind of evangelism or pastoral mission that effectively "re- enchants" ordinary people's relationship with science. In this respect, the ascendancy of the biomedical sciences, with their promises of customized forms of gene-based technologies and treatments, is emblematic of our times. But there are also ideological vehicles for re足 enchantment-notably the invisible hand and evolution by natural selection. They provide secular analogues to "theodicy;' the theological explanation for the distribution of goods and ills in the world. A pressing concern, however, is to find the relevant institutional vehicles for this re-enchantment. Here I observe a disturbing development, a tendency for defenders of science-especially some leading popularizers of the sociobiological sciences-to decry both dem足 ocratic politics and social science research in favor of what I dub "Gnostic" solutions that veer between fatalism and authoritarianism. In the end, I pro足 pose that, contrary to its postmodern scruples, STS needs to re-engage with Enlightenment narratives of human emancipation to stave off the rise of Gnostic scientism. 2 1 . The Science Wars as Signaling the End of Scientific Puritanism

Someone who follows the recent Science Wars only through hearsay and journalism might reasonably conclude that natural and social scientists align themselves as follows: the natural scientists are keen on reaffirming and perhaps even extending the social authority of their disciplines, whereas the social scientists wish to restrict that influence. However, in reality, the

1 15


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positions are almost reversed. For the most part, the natural scientists have been concerned to protect the integrity of their knowledge claims from extrapolations into realms where they feel that, at best, they have metaphor­ ical relevance. In contrast, the history of the use of the term "postmodern" tracks the inspiration that humanists and social scientists have drawn from the various scientific revolutions in physics and mathematics in the twentieth century, with Lyotard ( 1 983) and Hayles ( 1 9 9 8 ) epitomizing negative and positive extrapolations, respectively: Lyotard declares that the grand narra­ tives of the Enlightenment are dead, whereas Hayles hails the dawning era of post-humanity. If these postmodern visions demystify the natural sciences, it is only at the level of sociology, not epistemology. The natural sciences are still the bench­ mark of overall intellectual progress. Postmodernism's twist on positivism is simply to say that science does not speak with one voice, which then opens the door to various constituencies using the theories and findings of science as they see fit. The focus is, in the first instance, on application, not validation. (Of course, as more people are allowed to apply previously esoteric ideas, modes of validating them are bound to change, but postmodernism tends to be ambivalent on these "downstream" effects.) As we saw in the last chapter, postmodernism is not "anti-science" in the usual sense. On the contrary, it reflects a desire to integrate science into larger intellectual currents, institu­ tional practices, and personal lifestyles. This explains the convergence of dis­ parate interests that have been demonized as the "academic Left" in the Science Wars. For even within the STS community, there exists a "high" and "low" church constituency, the former concerned with anti-foundationalism and other recherche epistemological doctrines, the latter with a participatory politics that harkens back to more traditional forms of democratic populism (Fuller and Collier 2004, introd.). Though hardly natural bedfellows, both STS churches nevertheless refuse to see science as a body of knowledge about which only certified "scientists" can speak authoritatively. The totality of these developments is indicative of the secularization ofscience (Fuller 1 997, chap. 4; Fuller 2000a, chap. 6), a trend that should be generally welcomed but contains some normative challenges that will be considered in this chapter. The authoritative response of professional scientists to this broad church vision of STS can be summed up as a kind of scientific puritanism that reas­ serts the intrinsic value of technical proficiency and the need for self-restraint in its applications. In terms of the last chapter, it corresponds to the second moment of the positivist dialectic. In the British context, the neo-puritan response has been most striking among scientists whose work verges on genetic engineering. As chairman of the Royal Society's Committee on Public Understanding of Science, the embryologist Lewis Wolpert ( 1 992, chap. 6 ) stated that his fellow biologists are not qualified to contribute t o discussions on the implications for public policy of the Human Genome Project. Little surprise, then, that in March 1 999, at a Science Wars conference in London,


Re-enchanting Science . 1 1 7

I found myself telling Graham Bulfield, director o f Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, that he owed the public a positive, albeit contestable, account of how we should think about his laboratory"s cloning of Dolly the sheep, beyond pious condemnations o f state-mandated eugenics policies. After all, the social responsibility o f science extends beyond the simple demonstration that scientists are not monsters. Adeptness at gene-splicing should not disqualify scientists from commenting on the social uses to which that skill may be put. (As it turns out, Dolly died in 2003, aged six, of premature senescence, a by-product of the cloning process.) That Wolpert and Bulfield veer toward extreme puritanism may be suffi­ cient reason to require that natural scientists take STS courses as part of their professional training. In a more charitable light, Wolpert and Bulfield may be seen as sacrificing their own moral voices to save the epistemic status of sci­ ence itself-much as members of certain professions refuse to act �s expert witnesses in court out of fear that contradicting their colleagues would erode the overall authority of their professions. However, this strategic point tends to be masked in larger discussions of science in society, which often falsely presume that scientists are usurping the public's voice. On the contrary, a much bigger problem is the evacuation of any sense of overarching moral responsibility by either the state or the scientific community, which then reduces "the public" to self-regarding individuals and self-organizing interest groups who simply look after themselves in a relatively unregulated market environment. In that case, the normative "big picture" is simply lost. Under the circumstances, one cannot blame theologians for stepping into breach as members of bioethics panels and institutes. Interestingly, some Science Warriors have been acutely aware of this prob­ lem, though they tend to shift the blame back to the public distrust of scien­ tific authority, rather than to science's failure to cultivate and enforce its own authority. A striking example is Henry Greenberg, a leading medical scientist who presided over the New York Academy of Sciences in June 1 995, during "The Flight from Science and Reason" conference. Greenberg ( 1 997) correctly recognized the state's gradual loosening of its control over who is licensed to practice medicine. For most of the twentieth century, the state has given scien­ tifically trained physicians a virtual monopoly in the provision of health care. However, as the state has withdrawn this protection, medicine is quickly reverting to its traditional, market-driven character in which the primary con­ cern of the "health care provider" is to satisfy consumer demand with "cheap and effective" treatment, even if it jeopardizes the consumer's long-term pros­ pects for health. To his credit, Greenberg presents the social constructivism that underwrites this neo-liberalized environment for healthcare as a benefi­ ciary of larger political and economic trends over which the constructivists themselves do not have much control. Nevertheless, the reader is left with the impression that scientific medicine is incapable of proving its mettle without enjoying special political privilege.


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Curiously, Greenberg does not countenance that, even in a largely laissez­ faire environment for health provision, the state could still play an important role in compiling and distributing data on the track records of various forms of treatments, practitioners, etc. No doubt, the regular publication of this information would shape the fees that providers charge for their services, which would in turn cause people to think more systematically about the costs and benefits of various heath care options, as in Ralph Nader's Consumer Reports. Stated in most general terms, the state's role in the circulation of epistemic authority would then shift from that of concentrating authority (on professionals) in the name of protecting the public to that of delegating authority (to individuals) in the name of empowering the public. ( For a gen­ eral defense of the science policy strategy of privatizing the production and centralizing the distribution of knowledge, see Fuller 2000a, chap. 6.) This perspective is related to a viewpoint that the sociologist Randall Collins ( 1 979) originally proposed as "credential libertarianism." Consider the medical pro­ fession's concerns about the death rate of people who turn to New Age treat­ ments for cancer. Instead of scapegoating the media for glamorizing "alternative medicine" and longing for a time when people were not given a choice in health provision , Greenberg and other senior medical scientists should simply call for a full disclosure of track records, on the basis of which citizens can make their decisions and conduct their own experiments. Moreover, the neo-puritan retrenchment has sometimes come at the cost of undermining the credibility of distinguished scientific predecessors who uncannily anticipated many of the objectionable appropriations associated with the academic Left. Here the physicists take center stage. For example, Steven Weinberg ( 1 996) had no qualms asserting that Werner Heisenberg was out of his depth when he pronounced on the subjectivist epistemological implications of the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, while, Alan Sokal ( 1 996a) disowned the parallels Niels Bohr himself drew between the complementarity principle and the metaphysics of Taoism and Buddhism. It may have taken the Science Wars to bring these allegedly embarrassing pro­ nouncements into public view, but thirty years earlier Thomas Kuhn observed similar tendencies in the founders of quantum mechanics when trying to compile oral histories of their work ( Kuhn et al. 1 967). It would seem that Bohr, Heisenberg, and their contemporaries could not discuss the technical aspects of their research-about which, it turned out, their memories often seemed faulty-outside of the larger philosophical and cultural issues of the 1 9205. Like Weinberg and Sokal after him, Kuhn attributed this tendency to mental infirmity (presumably linked to the advanced age of, say, Bohr, who died during the interview period). Not Weinberg, Sokal nor Kuhn considered the possibility that technical and cultural matters were genuinely inseparable, even in quantum mechanics. Probably the most important rhetorical problem with the Science Warriors' neo-puritanism is that supporters and opponents of the puritanical conception


Re-enchanting Science . 1 19

of science do not neatly correspond to those trained and untrained in the nat­ ural sciences. A delicious irony of the Science Wars is that the sociologists of science most respectful of natural scientists and, in return, most highly esteemed by them-Robert Merton, Joseph Ben-David, Bernard Barber, and Stephen Cole-were not trained in the natural sciences. In fact, they are known for studies of science that defy the norms of empirical investigation by taking scientists' accounts of their activities at their word (or in their second­ order aggregation as grants approved, articles cited, etc.) without venturing into scientists' worksites or seeking some other source of independent corrob­ oration. In contrast, many of the sociologists regarded with most suspi­ cion-Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Andrew Pickering, Steven Shapin, and Steve Woolgar-had training in chemistry, psychology, physics, genetics, and engi­ neering, respectively. Are Merton et al. to be congratulated for bolstering disciplines in which they were not trained, whereas Barnes et al. are to con­ demned for criticizing those in which they were trained? The epistemology that would license affirmative answers to these two questions boggles the mind. It would seem, then, that the "constructivism" or "relativism" that Sokal and others have wanted to present as evidence of incompetence, on closer inspection, has turned out to be based on differences in interpretation or evaluation-not differences in basic competence in science. It is worth observing that such perverse mixtures of training and judgment are not new to the philosophy of science. To be sure, the logical positivists were typically trained in physics, albeit in the foundational branches most closely aligned with philosophy and, not incidentally, of little relevance to ordinary empirical research. Indeed, the positivists' conception of science's disciplinary structure was modeled on David Hilbert's 1 900 program to set mathematics on secure conceptual foundations by identifying outstanding problems that could be solved by using the axiomatic method, that is, by starting from first princi­ ples without recourse to the empirical assumptions of, say, engineering, phys­ ics, or even statistics ( Collins 1 99 8 , chap. 1 3 ) . Thus, as is most painfully obvious from the work of W. V. O. Quine, the u.S. observer at the Vienna Circle, debates over "theory choice" in twentieth-century analytic philosophy of science have been anchored in the selection of axioms for formal logical sys­ tems. Sigurdsson ( 1 992) has further suggested that the positivists-including Popper-tended to read the history of physics through Einstein's relativity the­ ory, an achievement that amounted to the construction of a revolutionary new theory on the basis of reinterpreting a few equations, which were then shown to yield accurate predictions. In other words, Einstein did the kind of science that a philosopher, in principle, could have done. However, Einstein turned out to be one of the last of a dying breed of physicists who theorized in the manner of proper "natural philosophers" like Newton and Maxwell. While we may wish to mystify this as the source of Einstein's "genius," a more historically realistic reason is that the conduct of physical inquiry has radically diversified with its escalation into "big science" (Buchwald 1 994).


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Setting aside Moritz Schlick, who founded the Vienna Circle after receiving his doctorate under Max Planck, Carnap and Reichenbach, the most philo­ sophically original of the logical positivists, were kicked out of PhD programs in physics because their dissertation proposals looked more like mathematics or philosophy than physics. The positivists' most visible ideologue, Otto Neurath, was himself a Marxist sociologist. That renegade positivist, Karl Popper, was largely an autodidact in the various sciences on which he pro­ nounced, having received his PhD in educational psychology. Even the man who turned logical POsilivism into a kind of "normal science;' Carl Hempel, after some early training in physics, did his PhD on typification in the social sciences and earned his early reputation for extending to the discipline of his­ tory the "covering law" model of explanation supposedly found in Newtonian mechanics (Hempel 1 942). Both Popper's and Hempel's credibility as methodologists rests largely on their popularization of putatively natural science models of inference in social science settings. The scientific knowledge of their followers was typically confined to frequent rehearsals of certain stylized examples, again mostly from the physical sciences, from which all sorts of empirically unwarranted general­ izations were then drawn about "the nature of science." The same applies with even greater force to the two unreconstructed humanists who imported logical positivism to Oxford and Cambridge, respectively: A. J. Ayer and 1. A. Richards. Practicing scientists tolerated this particular form of learned ignorance because the philosophers and humanists served the useful ideological function of forbidding the title "science" from attempts to coerce large numbers of people to do things that, absent any "higher" form of legitimation, they would be disinclined to do, often on conventional moral grounds. To varying degrees, from the 1 930s to the 1 9 50s, these positivistically inspired thinkers were caught up in the question of demarcating science from pseudoscience in order to enable the production of knowledge to subsist independently of any poli­ tical commitments to such self-proclaimed "world-historic" movements as Nazism and Communism. As for the actual content of contemporary natural scientific research, Hempel said nothing notable, and whenever Popper did (as in his critiques of evolution by natural selection and the instrumentalist interpretation of quan­ tum mechanics) he was treated only slightly more seriously than today's post­ modern th,inkers. The gap between training and judgment in science among scientific puritans grew once the logical positivists moved to the United States and their intellectual offspring became both the philosophy of science estab­ lishment and the philosophy of the science establishment. From the mid1 950s to the late- 1 9 70s, most philosophical defenders of what Fred Suppe ( 1 977) has called "the received view" on the nature of scientific confirmation and explanation were primarily trained in mathematical logic, probability theory and classical epistemology. In contrast, the main Anglo-American philosophical critics of the received view during that period were, like today's


Re-enchanting Science . l21

constructivist sociologists of science, originally trained in the physics of their day ( Fuller 2 000b, chap. 6 ) . These "historicists" include Stephen Toulmin, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, lmre Lakatos, and Larry Laudan. At the very least, this turn of events shows that the sheer possession of scientific expertise demands neither a puritanical nor even an especially sym­ pathetic attitude toward science as it is actually done. Conversely, some of science's most puritanical gatekeepers have possessed little technical scientific knowledge. They have acted very much like the guardian class in Plato's Republic who do not fully understand the ways of the dialectic but know enough to realize that social order depends on their protecting the philoso­ pher-kings from corruption. ( Gross et al. 1 997 contains statements by many who function in just this guardian capacity in the Science Wars, perhaps most prominently the philosopher Susan Haack.) The guardian mentality was first dressed in modern garb by seventeenth- century English Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon, though his own scientific puritanism extended to protecting science from the church, only to move it closer to the state, with his notional "House of Solomon" functioning as the first government-sponsored labora­ tory. More influential in the twentieth century has been the image of the "value-neutral" scientist promoted by sociologist Max Weber, which effec­ tively translated the Romantic humanistic ideal of the autonomous inquirer into an academic environment increasingly dominated by positivistic physical science (Proctor 1 9 9 1 , part 2; Fuller 2000b, chap. 2). Until the twentieth century, the puritanical conception of science was defensible on at least two grounds. First, the conduct of scientific work did not consume vast public resources; indeed, private funding was the norm. There­ fore, little was placed at risk in allowing an activity that may well turn up something of greater significance yet whose failure to do so would not incur much social cost. Second, for the most part, science had proven much better at explaining natural phenomena and human invention than at either predicting or producing them. Consequently, a puritanical attitude encouraged a climate of diminished expectations that shielded science from absorbing responsibility for solving the pressing social and intellectual problems of the day. However, as science has become integral to the workings of the state, industry, and med­ icine, the puritanical attitude has gradually lost credibility. A symbol of these times is the critical reception of The Golem: Everything You Need to Know About Science (Collins and Pinch 1 993), the first explicitly STS work to compete in the Anglophone science-popularization market. The book was written expressly to disarm those who regard STS as anti­ scientific. Its strategy was to reduce science's social significance to the craft practiced by a group of people working on esoteric topics, usually in a labo­ ratory. Absent from its p ages were s cares of nuclear war, environmental despoliation, invasive medical treatments, and all-round cultural imperial­ ism. The scientific craft was discussed so as to highlight its virtuosity and flexibility but not its capacity to control the world outside the laboratory.


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Yet, the book turned out to be one of the opening salvos in the Science Wars. How was that possible? Perhaps the Science Wars have caused scientists to rethink their commit­ ment to cultural puritanism and to rediscover their long-discredited roots in scientism, which in its simplest form is the doctrine that science can justify value commitments ( Sore11 1 99 1 ) . Thus, scientistic thinkers blur the bound­ aries between "is" and "ought," "fact" and "value," "natural" and "ratio­ nal"-typically by assimilating the latter term in each binary to the former. If postmodernists appear to be "antiscience;' it is only because scientists still harbor a puritanical attitude toward science that would drive a sharp wedge between these pairs of terms. However, as we saw in the last chapter, seen from a larger historical perspective, many postmodernists have participated in a revival of scientism that replaces earlier positivistic enthusiasms for the "New­ tonian worldview" with a fascination with quanta, relativity, and chaos. One constructive legacy of the Science Wars may be a revival of scientism as part of a re-enchantment of science (see Harrington 1 996 and Dusek 1 999 for provoc­ ative precedents in the German naturphilosophische tradition). But what is the relevant sense of re-enchantment? _

22. The Secularization of Science as a Precondition to its Re-enchantment

Scientism does not normally feature in histories of science. Consider the role assigned to, say, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Ernst Haeckel and Wilhelm Ostwald in histories of nineteenth- and early-twentienth-century science. These figures are often seen as embarrassments, even among historians who would otherwise go to great pains to contextualize their subjects (Hakfoort 1 99 5 cri­ tiques this tendency). The source of embarrassment is the explicitness with which these scientific thinkers assumed that science could answer the questions of morals and meaning originally posed by religion. To be sure, some, like Comte, mimicked the Catholics in envisaging science as a universal church gov­ erned by a distributed hierarchy of priestly experts. Others, like Spencer, resem­ bled the Protestant reformers in fostering a spirit of scientific amateurism that recalled the founders of the Royal Society, men of independent means and judg­ ment who distrusted the academic establishment of their day. Be they influenced by Catholicism or Protestantism, these ideologues of scientism presumed a continuity between the goals of science and religion that, in principle, exposed science to the kind of sectarianism that-in light of the Reformation�was to be expected of bodies of knowledge that claimed an ability to settle value disputes. In this spirit, the labels "positivist," "evolution­ ist," "monist," and "materialist" were all-purpose worldviews that used scien­ tific trends and findings to justify specific social policies. Thus, in an inversion of the terms of today's Science Wars, it was common in the early-twentieth century to find social scientists like Max Weber complaining about, say, Ostwald's attempt to translate the laws of thermodynamics into the social ethic of "energeticism" (Rabinbach 1 990, 1 54 ff) .


Re-enchanting Science . 123

Immanuel Kant set the precedent for today's embarrassed silence about scientism. His preference for a cool agnosticism on metaphysical matters over an impassioned scientism reflected life under the "benevolent despotism" of late-eighteenth-century Prussia, where free expression was tolerated so long as it did not threaten state religious doctrines (Fuller 2004b). However, it was not so different from the conditions under which England's Charles II was pre­ pared to grant a charter to the first modern scientific society, the Royal Society of London (Proctor 1 9 9 1 , part 1 ) . Vestiges of this original circumspection were carried into the twentieth century by neo-Kantian philosophers, espe­ cially Ernst Cassirer ( 1 950) and his "born again" neo-positivist successor, Michael Friedman (2000). The result is that many philosophers, intellectual historians, and natural scientists have come to think of such nineteenth-century movements as "vitalism" and "reductionism" more as the metaphysical b ases of scientific disciplines ( "pre-paradigms," in Kuhn's sense) than as they were regarded in their heyday, namely, general cultural sensibilities, often with substantial political investments, operating on several registers at once (Mendelsohn 1 964). Scientism's current disrepute has caused significant parts of the history of science to be discreetly rewritten or forgotten-much like the tendency to write out racist elements from historic defenses of the concept of culture (Fuller 2000c). In the end, this is symptomatic of the failure of science's pasto­ ral mission. Scientists would not be so ashamed of their scientistic past, if the natural sciences had developed analogues to religious institutions like the sac­ raments and the Sunday school, which were designed to enable the laity to participate in the confirmation, and sometimes even production, of sacred knowledge. The closest that the history of modern science has come to these practices is the public demonstration of experiments, championed by such radical Protestants as Joseph Priestley and Michael Faraday (Knight 1 986) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But even their practice betrayed the growing tension of the natural sciences' relationship to the larger society. The matter boiled down to whether one wished to stress the "public" or the "demonstration" side of public demonstrations. The "public" side emphasized science's empiricism ("seeing is believing") and its historic roots in amateur­ ism. Knowledge was therefore to be pursued-as the G reeks originally insisted-in the spirit of leisure, not labor. Anyone could participate, provided the time, money and, of,course, wit. On the other hand, the "demonstration" side moved science towards a more esoteric form of knowledge, an expertise, which can just as easily mystify as illuminate the masses. Science here is not a sophisticated form of play but hard work-so hard that one needs to be an adept (i.e., acquire academic credentials) to engage in it properly. This tension has deepened over the last 1 50 years. Observed from the lens of the sociology of religion, it has all the trappings of secularization-only in this case, science is itself the target rather than the agent of secularization. For purposes of what follows, it is important to recall that the process historically


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associated with "secularization" is most precisely rendered, in today's terms, as religion's loss of a state-protected market (Martin 1 978). In other words, secu­ larization does not correspond to a decline in religious belief as such but to a decline in the view that only one such belief is legitimate. By analogy, then, "science secularized" means that people continue to believe in science but now also believe that they have a choice as to which science they believe (Feyera­ bend 1 979). To see what I mean, consider that the average person lives in what Max Weber would regard as an "enchanted" world where both the human and nat­ ural realms are fraught with meaning and purpose. From that standpoint, the mark of the modern scientific mind is a disenchanted attitude to the natural realm and an enchanted attitude to the human realm, as epitomized by the belief in "progress." Consequently, nature appears passive or indifferent in relation to organized human activity. Postmodernists reverse this asymmetry by demystifying the idea of human progress, while re-enchanting the natural realm. Here the efficacy of human effort is local, fragmentary, and transient, when compared to the chaotic and complex workings of the non-human, which always just manage to elude scientific strictures. The locus classicus of the perspective is the work of Callon ( 1 986), who presents a species-symmet­ rical account of the struggle between scallops and their would be human cap­ tors. Gross and Levitt ( 1 994) are correct in seeing most STS researchers as allied with Francophile literary critics, New Age practitioners, creationists, environmentalists, and proponents of identity politics. In contemporary America, enchanted attitudes toward the human and the natural realms coexist, though characteristically they are upheld by such rather separate groups. Their juxtaposition has produced the climate of cultural unrest that forms the background to the Science Wars. The nature of the crisis is epitomized by the following two propositions, which arguably reflect the current state of thinking in the United States. 1.

2.

Two-thirds o f scientists who believe that our knowledge o f reality has radically changed over time also believe that science is getting closer to The Truth. Two-thirds of ordinary citizens (mostly non-scientists) who believe in the evolution of life on Earth also believe God is responsible for the process. I

Empirically speaking, ( 1 ) and (2) capture the beliefs of two constituencies normally at loggerheads-on the one hand, hard-headed naturalists and, on the other, soft-headed theists. Yet, the two positions are philosophical analogues. This fact alone signals a kind of institutionalized irrationality, since one should either accept or deny both propositions. In both cases, a contrast is implied between the surface contingency of history-be it of science ( 1 ) or nature (2)�and an underlying trajectory that supplies meaning to that contingency. One may believe that such attributions of meaning are in general genuine or


Re-enchanting Science . 125

spurious, but how can one justify an attribution in one case but not the other? In the STS jargon, the "asymmetry" of ( 1 ) and ( 2 ) poses a mystery in social epistemology. For example, ( 1 ) helps explain how it has been possible for scientists to find Shapin and Schaffer ( 1 985) and Latour ( 1 988) "delightful reads" that "enrich" their understanding of science. These STS classics are received as harmless diversions that do nothing to shake scientists' faith in the overall progress of their endeavors. The deflationary p icture of history presented by STS is completely lost on them. But, in principle, this response is no different from religiously motivated students who master evolutionary biology but regard it as the fine-grained detail of the Divine Plan, which in turn leads them to ques足 tion the explicit prohibition of "intelligent design" arguments from science classrooms. As for (2), it implies no conflict among science, folk beliefs, and democracy. But if most people find science and religion compatible, where does the conflict come from? There are two main sources: laws that demand a separation of church and state in the U.S. public school system, and academic disciplinary strictures-specifically, contemporary evolutionary biology's proscriptions against any appeals to cosmic design. Thus, in the right context (like a classroom) , the majority of people surveyed could stand accused of illegality and incompetence. In opposing ( 1 ) and ( 2 ) , respectively, STS researchers and evolutionary biologists would point out that their findings demonstrate that current epistemic and ecological regimes could have been quite other than they are. To speak of "progress" or "design" is unnecessary from the standpoint of Occam's razor and perhaps even misleading in terms of interpreting the significance of particular cases. Yet, in the United States, (2) is regarded as a national emer足 gency, whereas ( 1 ) passes unremarked and is often seen as quite reasonable. What accounts for this difference? An important part of the answer is that evolutionary biologists have virtually a state-licensed monopoly over instruc足 tion on the nature of life, whereas neither STS researchers nor even more traditional historians of science enjoy this degree of institutional control over explaining science's ascendancy. In at least this respect, science remains America's state religion. But is this status any more than nominal? One reason to think that America's devotion to science runs deep is that a publicly supported secondaw school in the U.S. is still more likely to teach the natural sciences than economics and perhaps even business studies. While capitalism allegedly commands the loyalty of most Americans, it is striking that academic subjects explicitly oriented toward wealth creation, such as economics and business, do not occupy a more central place in curricula. Perhaps this has something to do with the U.S. Constitution's original provi足 sion for patenting as a vehicle for wealth creation, which is attributed to the application of ingenuity to natural processes, rather than simply to the pursuit of self-interest, wherever it may lead. Here it is worth recalling that in the eighteenth century, "wealth creation" presupposed a "commonwealth,"


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whereby a natural injustice is committed whenever an individual acquires wealth at the expense of others' ability to do the same. Nature is available to build a flourishing life-at least in principle. The difference between liberals and socialists lies in how much the principle is taken to be violated in practice. On the other hand, a prima facie reason for querying the status of Amer­ ica's devotion to science is the occasional victories that creationists have scored in state and local educational systems. However, attention here should be focused less on the vocal minority who would see God and Darwin as mutu­ ally exclusive options for the classroom than on the vast majority of Ameri­ cans who would have both included. Not only is this sense of inclusiveness indicative of science's secularization, but it also points to a politically sane and historically grounded strategy for promoting the peaceful assimilation of reli­ gion in civil society-not a mean feat in a world most of whose modern wars continue to have a strong religious residue. Indeed, the birth of modern creationism as a view defined in explicit opposition to evolution dates specifi­ cally to the end of the First World War, in reaction to the unprecedented destructiveness science had unleashed in what was called at the time "The Great War." The previous half-century had been marked by many informed and imaginative attempts to reconcile Darwin and Christian theology in the U.S. and UK ( Livingstone 1 9 84). In this respect, modern creationism belongs to a set of backlashes that included the New Age tendencies of Weimar culture, the rise of anti-determinism in the natural sciences, and even logical positivism's own puritanical dissociation of scientific progress from more general-and now more dubio us-notions of so cial and technological progress (see Forman 1 9 7 1 ) . A g o o d guide to understanding the secularization o f science i s Peter Berger's ( 1 967) classic, The Sacred Canopy, which observed a curious rupture in the semantics of the word "religion" during secularization of Western Europe. On the one hand, "religion" refers to a mindlessly repeated set of sec­ tarian rituals, the paradigm case of unreflectively performed social action that Max Weber called "tradition." Examples include Catholics attending Mass every Sunday and Jews adhering to the dietary strictures of the Torah without connection to the wider cultural contexts that provide a rationale for these practices. On the other hand, "religion" also refers to a general sensibility about the meaning of life, set adrift from any sectarian moorings. In this sense, religion is said to be purely spiritual and even "personal." Here one would be hard-pressed to deduce specific courses of action from a belief that, say, Jesus Christ is one's personal savior. The semantic instability that Berger identified in 'religion' has also befallen 'science'. Concentrated support in fields like particle physics, and then molec­ ular biology, were originally responsible for the sanctification of "Big Science." But with the end of the Cold War, financial support for scientific research has been devolved from the public to the private sector-and hence "secularized;' in the sense of losing its state-protected status. Sociologically, this devolution


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is related to the downsizing of the welfare state, whereby public services are outsourced to private contractors on a competitive basis. Moreover, public servants have jumped to the private sector before being pushed, typically inspired by the idea (or ideology? ) that financial incentives quicken the pace and raise the quality of scientific work. This shift in sensibility has been dra­ matized in the race to map the human genome, which pitted maverick U.S.­ government-Iab-researcher-turned-venture-capitalist Craig Venter against a public-spirited team of academics in the UK led by John Sulston. The one sought int�llectual property rights, the other the Nobel Prize. In the end, both got what they wanted (Davies 200 1 ) . Consequently, akin t o what Berger identified as the bifurcation o f religion's identity, some now treat "science" as little more than the subject matter that must be mastered to acquire the credentials needed to succeed in life, while for others "science" means a generalized attitude to the world that may include weighting one's beliefs in proportion to the available evidence or adopting a critical or even skeptical approach to taken-for-granted beliefs. The first interpretation implies no deep spiritual commitment to scientific knowledge, only a pragmatic awareness of its function in the processes of social reproduction: once the exam is over, there is no expectation that the knowledge will ever need to be displayed again. This mode breeds "science agnostics" disinclined to participate in debates concerning the content of sci­ entific knowledge: They simply adopt whatever happens to be the received view when called upon to do so. Their respect for science extends no further than the yardsticks against which their own competence is measured. In contrast, the second interpretation invites a more participatory attitude toward science. In this mode, people regard scientific disputes as partisan affairs. Thus, they are quite prepared to doubt received scientific opinion for not conforming to their personal sense of what it means to be scientific. Many adherents to New Age science fall into this category, e.g., when they explain the dominance of allopathic over homeopathic medicine as the product of a state-licensed monopoly. These generalized believers in science are especially attracted to how science popularization blurs the line between the factual and futuristic, concrete and spiritual, and so on. Science is thus integral to both a political and a lifestyle choice. Such "citizen science," the subject of the next chapter, is best seen as a postmodern version of the civic republican science fostered by the U.S . founding fathers. At the fringes of this group are those who would turn the meltdown of the Cold War's scientific-political order into an opportunity for radical reformation. We shall now consider in more detail this movement to re-enchant science with a vengeance-what the U.S. rheto­ rician Thomas Lessl (2002 ) has evocatively dubbed "Gnostic scientism." 23. Re-enchanting Science with a Vengeance: Gnostic Scientism

The natural home of Gnostics is the heretical margins of the monotheistic religions. So, before turning specifically to Gnostic scientism, it is worth


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recalling what has traditionally led Gnosticism to be anathematized by a wide range of religious and political authorities. There are two general ways of thinking about the relationship between the ideal and the real, especially as it is played out in humans as "mind" and "matter." One is to suppose that each is incomplete without the other; alternatively, the two are irreconcilable opposites. In the former case, matter is necessary to realize the mind's capac­ ities; in the latter, it drags down or inhibits those capacities. The former way thus aims for an integration of mind and matter, whereas the latter way aims for the purification of mind from matter. Of the alternatives, the latter is the way of the Gnostic. In effect, Gnosticism is Puritanism taken to its logical extreme. Given the pejorative connotations of "Gnostic," there is considerable controversy over who counts as one. For example, in his early "humanist" writings influenced by Hegel's secularization of Christian eschatology, Marx was clearly not a Gnostic. However, as Marxists increasingly stressed the need for a revolutionary break with past political practice, their Gnostic tendencies came to the fore. Generally speaking, a rough-and-ready test for Gnosticism is to ask whether ordinary people can come to a radically different understand­ ing of the world without destroying it in the process. The Gnostic says no for three reasons: a literal belief in the power of ideas to change the world, such that truly revolutionary ideas contain the potential for mass destruction; a vivid sense of popular resistance to new ideas that combines contempt and awe of "the masses"; and an overriding distrust in the legitimacy of existing institutions. Gnostic-inspired revolutions historically have helped to establish just social orders in places lacking both rule of law and representative democ­ racy. However, once these two conditions are in place, their extension-say, the widening of suffrage-has done more than Gnostic threats-cum-hopes of revolution, and by more peaceful means, to empower people by dissipating the advantage enjoyed by dominant groups. Gnosticism is elusive also because it has licensed extreme responses on both ends of the political spectrum. For example, that consummate anti-dem­ ocrat Plato is reasonably counted as a Gnostic because he connected the fall of Athens to the corruption of civic virtue that came from the volatile intellectual climate fostered by the Sophists. Plato held that public displays of dialectical virtuosity cloud political judgment to such an extent that the dialectic must be cultivated esoterically until initiates have learned to be discriminating in its application, so as not to incite the masses unnecessarily. In our own day, this stance is most clearly upheld by the followers of Leo Strauss ( 1 9 5 2 ) who occupy top neo-conservative policy posts in the u.S. At the same time, how­ ever, self- styled revolutionaries of the modern period, ranging from the English Puritans to the French republicans and the Marxist party vanguard, have proceeded from Plato's Gnostic premises to conclusions that radically democratized the social order, precisely by inciting the masses to overturn established hierarchies.


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Whichever extreme they occupy, Gnostics do not work within the political establishment because they see themselves as accountable to a higher law to which only their party has access. This is the most damning charge that the conservative political theorist Eric Voegelin ( 1 952, 1 968) lodged against Gnos­ ticism in many profound historical studies of the phenomenon. It is also the main complaint that Lessl ( 2002 ) lodges against scientific Gnostics, namely, their "prohibition of questions" over fundamentals, which in turn reflects contempt for the intellectual standing of the public. Such prohibition may adopt the rhetoric of disparagement, demonization, or suppression, depend­ ing on the political means at the Gnostic's disposal. There is a well-established tradition in the historiography of early modern science that appeals to Gnostic elements. It is grounded in a "double-truth doctrine," which is to say, one for the Gnostic elite and the other for the con­ formist masses. The ideological stratification of Plato's Republic is the model for this sensibility, which is detectable in activities ranging from Galileo's fabrication of experiments for public consumption to Newton's secret forays into alchemy and divination. However, the anchor point for this tradition is the schism that arose in twelfth- century Islam between Baghdad's leading theologian, Al Ghazali, and the distinguished philosopher-jurist of Cordoba, Averroes (see Fuller 1 997, 1 1 4-2 1 ) . Al Ghazali and Averroes agreed that the Qur'an poses serious interpretive difficulties for the reader, both in terms of internal inconsistencies and contra­ dictions with facts known by other means. Averroes proposed the double­ truth doctrine as a way out, namely, that philosophers should secretly sort out truth from falsity in the Qur'an, while the Qur'an's validity continues to be promulgated as religious propaganda. AI Ghazali treated this proposal as blas­ phemous for placing human above divine intelligence: truth is one and for all. The fact that authorities are in conflict may mean that a higher-order integra­ tion of knowledge sources is needed or, in the worst case, that reality is ulti­ mately mysterious. It certainly does not imply that philosophy can adjudicate in private the truth of theological claims. Secular accounts of this debate today present Al Ghazali and Averroes as, respectively, the voice of religious fundamentalism and that of scientific modernity. As a retrospective judgment, there is some justification. Islam's sci­ entific contributions began to decline shortly after the schism, as Averroes's followers migrated to Western Europe, where they pursued philosophy free of theological strictures (but mainly because Christian authorities could not enforce their will as easily as Muslim ones). Averroists were responsible for the European rediscovery of the Aristotelian corpus (which injected materialism and empiricism into a philosophical culture heretofore dominated by Plato) and the idea that even God is bound by the laws of nature (and hence theology may be safely ignored in the conduct of science) . Averroism bore its most last­ ing fruit in the school of natural philosophers at the University of Padua who trained Galileo.


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However, some deeper questions may be asked about this episode that vin­ dicate concerns about a renascence of scientific Gnosticism in our times. Is it not strange to hold simultaneously that truth is universal yet graspable only by an elite? Even without Al Ghazali's interests in stabilizing the Muslim commu­ nity, there is a conceptual problem that the West has failed to address ade­ quately, as it has gradually recoiled from the Enlightenment project of integrating science into people's lives. Put the point in perspective: Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson lacked the problem of harmonizing scientific and religious concerns that came to haunt intellectuals after the French Revo­ lution of 1 78 9 . As we saw in the last chapter, the vexed history of positiv­ ism-a movement born of the failure of that revolt-has updated the history of Platonism for the modern period. Auguste Comte's vision of a clergy of sci­ entific experts would have replaced the Roman Catholic Church, just as Plato would have had specially trained philosopher-kings replace the ruling families of Athens. The deep problem here is epitomized in the observation that, by definition, "progress" can never occur all at once. The very concept implies that most people are out of step with the elite few. But whereas traditional elitists used this observation to justify perpetual rule by aristocratic deference, progressives would have the people come to match their "betters:' But how does one then proceed? Does one imagine, as Lenin did, a p arty vanguard that drags the backward masses kicking and screaming? Or does one engage in a subtler ver­ sion of the same strategy, say, through Platonic myth-making or even the sort of mass civic education that John Stuart Mill and John Dewey championed as a concomitant of democratic political participation? Or, finally, does one con­ clude, as Hegel-and the early Marx-did, that the very elite status of so­ called progressive truths is itself a sign that perhaps the truths themselves have yet to be completely realized and hence require more sustained open exposure to the rest of society? The Leninist option is pure Gnosticism. Mill's and Dewey's middle way, a democratized Platonism, is captured by the idea of state-funded public educa­ tion at the primary and secondary school levels. Hegel's fully anti-Gnostic solution was the modern (i.e., Humboldtian) university, which aspires to be the institution of universal enlightenment. Its much-vaunted (and periodically derided) ideal of the "scholar-teacher" is designed to remove the elite charac­ ter of new research by requiring its incorporation into the curriculum. I have called this the "creative destruction of social capital" (Fuller 2003b), since new knowledge, by virtue of its inherent revisionism, tends to empower different sorts of people and may even favor those who lack previous training in a field. Although the rhetoric surrounding the Humboldtian ideal has become banal, when taken seriously it has attracted vehement opposition. The modern university's defenders have struggled to show that the benefits of opening knowledge claims to wider scrutiny outweigh the worst Gnostic nightmares. If, in the past, traditionalists had feared that the free promulgation of new


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knowledge would destabilize the social order, nowadays "academic capitalists" allege that economic dynamism would be brought to a halt, given the lack of incentive to innovate in a completely free market for ideas. Both old (i.e., "communitarian") and new (i.e., "liberal") Gnostics share an interest in knowledge as a medium for concentrating, not distributing, power in society (see Fuller 2000a, chap. 1 ) . I f the university were to live up t o its Hegelian aspiration, there would be no question about whether intelligent design theory, evolution by natural selection, o r, for that matter, the genetic bases for social traits would be researched and taught. All of them would, on the principle that knowledge is dangerous only when a few are in a position to turn it to their advantage, be it by virtue of possessing a holy writ, a political mandate, a PhD, or a patent. Needless to say, it is much easier to pay lip service to this ideal than to uphold it in practice. In particular, the free movement of ideas in a university setting is bound to result in the interpenetration of po sitions who s e Gnostic power-for good or ill-have been previously tied to their spiritual purity or, to continue the economic metaphor, their protected markets. Thus, while I support the teaching and research of intelligent design theory in mainstream universities, it is not in the spirit of establishing departments of creation and Darwinian science in "separate but equal" facilities on opposite sides of the campus. Rather, I would want the cross-listing of courses and col­ laboration of faculty that one normally finds between any two intellectually overlapping disciplines. Among other things, I would hope that creationists come to see that some of their concerns are better addressed by Darwinists than if left to their own devices-and vice versa. There are good historical rea­ sons for hoping for such interpenetration. First, both positions have the argu­ ment from design for God's existence as their conceptual template. That is, they presuppose that there is an order to nature that needs to be explained somehow. Second, some leading developments in the neo-Darwinian synthe­ sis have been done by people inspired by fathoming the creativity of the divine intellect (e.g., Dobzhansky 1 967). Unfortunately, an important strand of contemporary science populariza­ tion resists this rapprochement. It bemoans the secularization of science described in this chapter. For them this process constitutes the instrumental­ ization of science, which they equate with trivialization. These latter-day Gnostics decry that politicians, policy makers, and the general public act as if science can be simply customized to meet pre-existing wants and needs, con­ ceived individually or collectively. Instead, so they think, science should pro­ vide a 'meta-governmental' framework, perhaps akin to the role of natural law in Europe prior to the defining moment of secularization, the Peace of West­ phalia of 1 648, which distributed the Catholic Church's free-ranging sover­ eignty to particular regions bound under locally recognized sets of civil laws ( Fuller 2004b ) . Such pre-Westphalian science popularizers would have our normative orientation to reflect what they regard as the emerging scientific


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consensus: a pan-Darwinist cosmology rendered increasingly rigorous by the mathematics of chaos and complexity theory. The telltale sign of their Gnostic scientism is the belief that a profoundly different understanding of reality necessitates a radically new political horizon: one cannot risk ideas without risking lives in the process. More than any of the celebrated authors he has promoted, the Anglo­ American literary agent John Brockman ( 1 995) has been for over a quarter­ century the driving force behind what he calls the "third culture;' his euphemism for Gnostic scientism. Brockman began his career in the height of the Cold War, when he championed the original cyborg anthropologist, Gregory Bateson ( 1 972, 1 979), for whom a cyborg (literally a "cybernetic organism;' an artificially enhanced human) was not Donna H araway's hopeful hybrid sprung from the pages of William Gibson's Neuromancer but u. s . Air Force Major Thomas Jefferson "King" Kong riding a nuclear warhead, bronco style, into the sunset of humanity at the end of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. ( The metamorphosis of the cyborg from Kubrick-Bateson's pessimistic satire to Gibson-Haraway's futurist romance marks the transition from inhalation to exhalation as the threat of nuclear confrontation came to pass: the cyborg that didn't kill us would now, fingers crossed, make us stronger. ) Brockman's impressive stable of current authors-including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, Lee Smolin, and Stuart Kauffman-are displayed on a website (http://www. edge.org) that is, in equal measures, wishful scientific thinking and astute book marketing. Brockman's use of the expression "third culture" for his brand of Gnostic scientism is very telling. At the most obvious level, it alludes to the "two cul­ tures" problem raised by C. P. Snow ( 1 959) about the increasingly divergent mindsets of people trained in the humanities and the natural sciences (Fuller 2000b, 3 2 5-2 6 ) . However, as a positive assignation, "third culture" was originally used to refer to the social sciences, fields that have historically seen themselves as retaining the best and eliminating the worst of the two other cultures (Lepenies 1 988). In particular, the social sciences retained the idea of something distinctive, perhaps even non-natural, about homo sapiens, without the elitism of the classical humanities, by adopting the natural sciences' open­ mindedness to the ful l range of empirical phenomena, including those generated by traditionally underprivileged humans. Largely as an extension of statecraft into welfare p rovision, social scientists developed modes of inquiry-from exp eriments and surveys to ethnographies and inter­ views-that require engagement with flesh-and-blood human beings across all sectors of society ( Fuller 2004d). Thus, social scientific research has often fed directly into political reforms that raised people's quality of life and sphere of action. In contrast, what characterizes the methods used in the research valorized by Brockman's version of the third culture is its disengagement from the whole socialized person, the potential citizen. Instead, one is treated to findings based on cross-species comparisons and prehistoric speculations-a


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high -tech, Darwinized version of the style of social inquiry prevalent in the period before the social sciences came into their own. In effect, evolutionary psychology and cognitive archaeology update the Just So Stories of animal morphology and the social contract that dominated our understanding of social life until about two centuries ago (Fuller 2000d) . Gnostic scientism is rife in times when doubts have been already raised about the ability of politicians to improve the wellbeing of their constituen­ cies. Not surprisingly, then, the tendency is to revert to a form of inquiry that does not require the authority or aspiration of the nation-state for its execution. This explains, for example, why Pinker (2002) takes Hobbes and Rousseau-rather than, say, Mill and Marx or Durkheim and Weber-as his foils when defending the idea of human nature. Pinker's third culture skepti­ cism about the power of the state has an elective affinity with past thinkers for whom the state had yet to be a mainstay in the reproduction of social life. To his credit, Peter Singer ( 1 999) has explicitly called for the Left to replace Marx with Darwin and thereby scale down its political exp ectations, in light of humanity's biologically limited capacity for change. Interestingly, Singer and Pinker demonize the Left as "utopian" in its aspirations, yet this very judgment is guided by the Gnostic's own utopian desire for science to have an immediate impact on politics. The normalized inconvenience of ordinary politics-such as regularly scheduled elections that allow a party to implement policies that invariably b enefit some more than others-is itself taken as symptomatic of a deep problem in the human condition. Attempts by self-proclaimed possessors of superior knowledge to acquire power are hardly new. Plato's Republic is the model here: political authority is based on knowledge that requires special training and experience unavailable to ordinary mortals, while the relevance of such knowledge transcends any­ thing that the uninitiated would likely acquire in the normal course of their lives. A key strategy in establishing this authority is to shift the locus of politi­ cal questions from first- to second-order issues. For example, rather than addressing particular rapes, one addresses rape "as such." This gathering together of what might otherwise appear to be quite different cases biases one's inquiries toward a "deep" explanation that retains the collected character of the cases while eliminating their "surface" differences. Plato himself had pioneered this strategy to explain persistent social conflicts in terms of inelim­ inable genetic differences. The esoteric nature of Gnostic scientism thus appeals to a privileged cross-cultural and even cross-species database that "to the naked eye" would seem eccentric. 24. Prolegomena to the Hidden History of Gnostic Biology

Gnostic scientism in the Darwinian ranks runs deeper than those eager to silence creationist opponents. I refer here to Darwinists such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, who have been keen to discredit and per­ haps even prohibit research in the broad areas covered by "sociobiology" and


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"evolutionary psychology." Sometimes these Gnostic D arwinists suggest alternative lines of research that would deal more effectively with, say, racial, gender, and other significant human differences than projects specifically oriented to genetic differences. But often they resort to conjuring up the spec­ ter of Nazi eugenics as sufficient grounds for discouraging a deepening of our knowledge of the relationship between human inheritance and achievement (Segerstrale 2000, 35-52). The Gnostic presumption here is that the temptations of forbidden genetic knowledge are so great that even citizens of scientifically literate liberal democracies-and even with the benefit of hindsight from the Nazi experi­ ence-will be prone to repeat the mistakes of the past. Better, then, that these matters be left to esoteric specialists in the relevant branches of biology, who will ultimately provide an account of the genetic basis of humanity that is fit for popular and policy consumption. In the hands of Gould and his occasional co-author, Niles Eldredge, this retreat to esoterica occurs as they argue that evolution acts on multiple ontological levels, ranging from the sub-cellular to the superorganic. Each requires its own distinct expertise, an account of which must be provided in any comprehensive theory of evolution. Moreover, these levels are presumed to be of potentially equal causal significance and hence not reducible to "unstable packages of genetic information;' as Eldredge says derogatorily of Richard Dawkins's "selfish gene" hypothesis (Segerstrale 2000, 1 3 7-4 1 ) . It would b e difficult t o overestimate the impact that this version o f Gnostic Darwinism has had on the social sciences (e.g., Rose and Rose 2000). Sociol­ ogy textbooks regularly define the realm of "the social" as covering features of the human condition that are relatively untouched by biological causation, especially evolution, even though the most resilient forms of social life-rang­ ing from kinship ties to religious affiliation-have drawn on what can only be called "folk biology" to legitimate themselves. Moreover, sociologists of knowledge should question the ultimate validity of conferring metaphysical significance on the contingencies surrounding biology's institutionalization into multiple specialties ( Fuller 2000d). After all, the most persuasive case that there are multiple levels of biological reality is the presumption that the dis­ tinct methods and theories associated with biology's current subfields reflect modes of epistemic access appropriate to these levels. The impetus on both sides of the disciplinary divide for sociology to distinguish itself sharply from biology accelerated with the disasters associated with Nazi and Soviet eugenic policies. Indeed, it may have led Gould to become so cautious and qualified in his Darwinism that he unwittingly pro­ vided some of the best ammunition for creationism and its scientifically sophisticated offspring, intelligent design theory (Wright 1 999; Woodward 2003, chaps. 5-6 ) . In contrast, relative to the many boundary disputes that social scientists fought amongst themselves in the late-eighteenth and early­ twentieth centuries, the intellectual trade between sociology and biology


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remained relatively free and two-way. No less than Auguste Comte had origi­ nally argued for the necessity of a science of sociology by appealing to the emergent properties of that intellectually enhanced ape, homo sapiens. Some of this early openness remains among a minority in both disciplines: on the one hand, biologists who still find the idea of "group selection" a useful expla­ nation for human altruism (e.g., Sober and Wilson 1997); on the other hand, sociologists who associate the persistence of classes and castes with the manip­ ulation of breeding patterns to harden naturally occurring genetic variation into species-like races (e.g., Dickens 2000) . One benchmark for any genealogy of Gnostic science must be that the biol­ ogists most opposed to an interpenetration of biology and theology have tended to specialize in invertebrates and other "lower organisms." Such researchers are bound to be more open-minded about attributions relating to life such as sentience, intelligence, will, and so forth. Both Darwin and Gould were masters of the mollusk. Darwin's leading German defender, Ernst Haeckel, worked on sea urchins, and E. O. Wilson was a distinguished ento­ mologist before founding sociobiology. Indeed, both "biology" and "inverte­ brate" were coined at the dawn of the nineteenth century by the first modern exponent of evolution, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Widely misunderstood and derided in his day, Lamarck argued for the continuity of the species to justify the transformation of lower into higher forms through the hereditary trans­ mission of traits acquired in one's lifetime. Even if the spirit of Lamarck's approach proves false ( though his case seems to get re-opened every other generation), it remains of interest that he regarded evolution as a bottom-up (i.e., successive attempts to learn from previous experience) rather than top­ down process (i.e., successive attempts to realize a plan ) . Indeed, Lamarck's true heirs may be flourishing at that Mecca for "self-organization" gurus, the Santa Fe Institute ( e.g., Kauffman 1 995) . Akin to the leveling of secular hierarchies promised by Gnostic revolu­ tionaries, Gnostic biologists propose a vision of species egalitarianism, such that differences between humans and non-humans are portrayed as matters of degree not kind. Monotheistic theology is a clear target here because of the privileged status it accords to humans as having been created in the image and likeness of God. A less noted consequence is that the secular successor of theology, the idea of a non-natural human science with its own theories and methods (i.e., a Geisteswissenschaft) , is equally out of place in the pan-Darwinian universe (Milbank 1 990). Despite their more publicized differences, both Gould and Wilson are united in treating the social sciences as little more than a repository of data to be explained by biology, the only question being what sort of biology: one that focuses on the selection of genes ( Wilson) or of organisms (Gould). To be sure, the latter permits much greater scope for the shaping of environmental contingencies but nothing sufficiently self-contained and regular to enable a science of the human to flourish.


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Still less remarked is the tendency of Gnostic biologists to be skeptical of the power of conventional politics to alter the course of evolutionary pro­ cesses. The tradition of scientific fatalism that flows from Thomas Malthus to Herbert Spencer and arises periodically as "Social Darwinism" captures this sensibility. In practice, many turn out to be anarcho-libertarians who mask their cynicism with strident defenses of unlimited "free trade" and "free inquiry," as in the case of Ernst Haeckel. Nowadays Haeckel is best known as the proponent of the developmental law, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," which has inspired everything from Nietzsche's "ontology recapitulates philol­ ogy" ( which Heidegger then turned into an exact, if obscure, science) to Piaget's "genetic epistemology" (cf., Gould 1 977, the great popularizer's most scientifically respected book) . However, at least until World War II, Haeckel was known as the author of the best-selling The Riddle of the Universe (Die Weltriitsel), first published in 1 899 and comparable to Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in its impact on the public understanding of science. This book, which inspired the rhetoric of the logical positivists, consisted of showing how a thoroughgoing s cientific materialism ( "monism" ) would either resolve or dissolve seven classic metaphysical conundra. For our pur­ poses, this book is interesting for its Gnostic explanation for the failure of nineteenth-century science to bring about a social revolution. Haeckel appeals to a conspiracy of reactionary clerics and lawyers, the remedy for which in the twentieth century would be the establishment of "free societies of monists," presumably free of any conventional political apparatus. Haeckel's public notoriety began with a debate over the teaching of evo­ lution in the recently unified German school system in 1 8 77 ( Robertoon 1 929, 327-9) . This debate occurred in the wake of socialist calls for insurrec­ tion in order to remove the artificial constraints that class divisions placed on natural selection, which, left to its own devices, would sweep away the stupid rich in favor of the clever poor. Thus spoke the co - founder of the German Social Democratic Party, August Bebel (Richards 1 987, 526-2 8 ) . However, Bebel moderated his position after a spell i n prison for treason. He then counseled his fellow socialists to work within the parliamentary system, which led the social democrats to become the single strongest party by the eve of World War 1. However, by that time, the Social Democrats were so integral to the German political establishment that, in evolutionary terms, they had become "overadapted" and thus incapable of realizing the Marxist goal of a truly classless society. This failure unleashed another round of Gnostic politics by, on the one hand, cynics like Roberto Michels whose 1 9 1 1 classic, Political Parties, asserted the eventuality of such co- optation, and on the other, revolutionaries like Lenin who, six years later, reasserted the need for violent overthrow. Interestingly, Bebel's views about the class system as an impediment to evo­ lutionary processes have been recently revived in British sociology, via the concept of "epigenetic landscapes," i.e., organized transformations of the


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physical environment that result in differential patterns of socially relevant traits, such as rates of reproduction and mo rtality: aka class inequality (Dickens 2000, 1 00-16). The very interesting source of this concept is Conrad Waddington, Professor of Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University. Waddington was a Marxist who advocated the creation of the "Science Studies Unit" that provided the first institutional and intellectual base for STS ( Fuller 2000b, 3 27-3 1 ) . As if to mark a generational shift in the Left's scientific center of gravity, shortly before his death, in 1 975, Waddington penned the enthusiastic review of E. O. Wilson's ( 1 975) Sociobiology in The New York Review of Books that unwittingly triggered a quarter-century of leftist backlash ( Segerstrale 2000, 1 8-24). Nevertheless, to return to the first generation of Darwinism, many argued that its explosive speculations should be kept out of the schools, at least until it had become empirically better grounded. Haeckel would have none of this, arguing that any powerful idea could be used by anyone interested in obtain足 ing power, a point he proved by explaining how Bismarck's fellow aristocrats might turn Darwinism to their advantage. However, Haeckel was no political conservative but was simply committed to the promotion of Darwinism under any political regime. In other words, he was indifferent to the prospect of sci足 entific disinterestedness shading into political opportunism (see Fuller 1 997, 66). In this respect, Haeckel's attitude toward the potential impact of science on politics was not unlike Bruno Latour's today (Barron 2003 ) . Haeckel co足 founded the Monist League whose Gnostic detachment from ordinary party politics eventually made it easy prey to Nazi co-optation, as illustrated in the career of the Nobel-Prize winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz (Richards 1987, 532-3 6 ) . Haeckelian apoliticism played out differently in the United States, where the Monist League spawned Open Court Press and various "rationalist" magazines of popular philosophy and public affairs, such as Reason and The

Skeptic. Absent from Haeckel's defense of Darwinism was any consideration of the social responsibility of the scientist, the normative concomitant of state足 licensed academic freedom. This is in striking contrast to Haeckel's principal opponent, the cellular pathologist Rudolf Virchow. In the 1 860s, Virchow first identified cancer as a significant biomedical research area (in which Germany remained the world leader until the end of World War II [Proctor 1 999, 1 8 ] ) . H e was also a founder o f the Progressive Party, which was i n the forefront of lab or reform and suffrage extension in the political minefield that was Bismarck's Germany. Moreover, Virchow was a big defender of the emerging social sciences as the "third culture" capable of rationalizing society. Indeed, Virchow had declared medicine the profoundest social science-one much superior to the law-because it was not content simply to draw a boundary between spontaneously occurring behavior that was permissible (i.e., trade) and prohibited (i.e., crime ) , which demarcation may itself change to follow the fashions of behavior. Rather, the medical scientist aimed to strengthen the


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body politic by improving its collective immunity (Fuller 2003c). Translated into his debate with Haeckel, Virchow held that radical scientific hypotheses like Darwinism should be introduced into the curriculum as one might a vaccine, namely, to inoculate the body politic against the worst effects of the foreign agent. In this respect, Virchow may be considered a progenitor of the fashionable proto-science of "memetics." For the next fifty years, Virchow's perspective provided the backdrop to eloquent defenses of academic responsibility-traveling under the unfortu­ nate name of "value-free inquiry"-by, among others, Ernst Mach and Max Weber, who were also active in the Liberal parties of, respectively, Austria and Germany ( Proctor 1 99 1 , part 2 ) . Accordingly, academics met their social responsibility for training the nation's youth by drawing a publicly clear dis­ tinction between theoretical hypotheses and established facts, submitting the former to the test of the latter, and encouraging students to draw their own conclusions. At the very least, this strategy staggered whatever politically destabilizing effects more radical hypotheses might otherwise have in the larger society. Despite recognizing more than a grain of truth in Darwinism or, for that matter, Marxism, German academics realized that if they failed to regulate their discourse, their guild privileges as free inquirers would be suspended by an authoritarian education ministry. With hindsight, German academics might have tried harder to resolve their theoretical differences to produce a unified sense of "class consciousness" with which to deal with edu­ cational authorities. In any case, the long-term failure of academics to agree on how to distinguish theory from data-now dignified as the "theory-laden" nature of data and especially the "underdetermination" of theory choice by data-reflects a lack of sufficiently common set of interests that continues to dog the guild privileges that academics try to defend. Since academics cannot agree on what is theory and what is data, it is left open for third parties-both in the public and the private spheres-to appropriate academic knowledge opportunistically. It was precisely this prospect that Virchow feared and Haeckel welcomed. In terms of research orientation and spiritual disposition, Virchow's career exemplifies the much more open boundary between biology and theology that has been promoted by medical scientists and naturalists working on verte­ brates, the animal phylum that includes humanity. For example, when the Scottish jurist Lord Monboddo and the French philosophe Jean-Jacques Rous­ seau famously proposed a "missing link" between apes and humans in the 1 760s, they had in mind a secular version of the biblical idea that animals "devolved" from humans but, like humans, could be redeemed through edu­ cation. Anthropomorphism could thus be epistemologically justified, if at least some species are corrupt, but perhaps corrigible, versions of the human template. Orangutans were a prime target for human repatriation because their normally solitary, reflective manner comported with Enlightenment expectations of "intelligent" beings (Ingold 1 994).


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Anthropomorphism continued to be pursued as a heuristic in animal psychology until the early twentieth century, when it was methodologically challenged by C. Lloyd Morgan and experimentally undermined by Edward Thorndike. But even then, the rejection of anthropomorphism did not imply that humans differed only in degree and not kind from other animals (Crist 1 999). Take Morgan's Canon, which enjoins the researcher not to postulate higher mental powers when lower ones would suffice to explain an animal's behavior. This was designed not to make humans appear more animal-like but to make it harder to attribute to animals properties that might turn out to be uniquely human. Not surprisingly, in later life Morgan originated the philoso足 phy of "emergent evolution." To be sure, behaviorism, understood as a research program for flattening the distinction between the mental powers of humans and non-humans, was an unintended beneficiary of Morgan's Canon. Thus, once behaviorism dominated experimental psychology, automatic response (especially in rats) came to be associated with intelligence, in striking contrast with the Enlightenment's fondness for more pensive apes. Thomas Henry Huxley merits consideration in this context as Morgan's mentor. Notwithstanding his deserved reputation as Darwin's bulldog, Huxley was also keen on reasserting the uniqueness of the human within the strictures of evolutionary theory (Richards 1987, 375-8 5 ) . Indeed, he refused to deny the relevance of theology to an otherwise biologically based understanding of the meaning of life. Huxley, a trained surgeon, had been a relatively late con足 vert to evolution, convinced by Darwin in a way he had not been by the earlier evolutionists, Lamarck and Spencer (Desmond 1994) . Huxley's widely trans足 lated essays and speeches were largely responsible for modern science's assumption of much of the pastoral and educational authority traditionally held by religion and theology (Desmond 1997). It is in this light that Huxley's famous confrontation with Bishop Wilberforce should be seen. Darwinism was originally accepted by broad church Christians but rejected by both high and low churchers who felt their epistemic authority was directly under fire (Ellegard 1988). Huxley's belief that science's social function was to counteract the worst inertial tendencies of evolution distinguishes him from such neo足 Darwinian popularizers as Gould and Dawkins. Just as medical science's understanding of the nature of disease is essential to prevention and cure, so too-Huxley held-knowledge of evolutionary biology is needed for drafting effective legislation. The analogy here was meant to be exact: legislation, like medical treatment, should design to reverse the state of the body (politic) . This normatively inspired delimitation of evolution led to a famous falling out between Huxley and Spencer that was memorialized in Huxley's 1 893 Romanes Lecture, "Evolution and Ethics;' a document that would repay close scrutiny today (Richards 1 987, 3 1 6- 1 9 ) . Huxley argued that to be human is neither to succumb to evolutionary forces (i.e., adaptationism) nor to wish them away (i.e., mysticism) . Rather, it is to systematically resist evolution, mainly through rule of law and application of science. Whereas Huxley's


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contemporaries puzzled over how humans could strive to do things against their nature, his examples make clear that what he had in mind was a reorga­ nization of the social and technical environment in which naturally occurring human behavior would be differentially selected. On the one hand, this vision may eventuate in B. F. Skinner's ( 1 971) much-demonized operant conditioning paradigm of behaviorism. On the other, the racial hygienists who provided a scientific basis for Nazism disparaged Huxley's position as "counter-selection" that a consistently Darwinist society would need to remedy by sterilization and euthanasia (Proctor 1988). I stress the profoundly anti -Gnostic cast of Huxley's approach to Darwin­ ism because of the studied distance that latter-day Darwinians have kept from him in recent years. Two examples stand out. The more publicized case is that of Stephen Jay Gould ( 1 999, chaps. 1-2 ) , who portrays Huxley as holding Gould's own view that science and religion are separate but equal sources of truth-except for the Romanes Lecture, which Gould dismisses for contra­ dicting Darwin's dicta. More problematic, however, is the case of the philoso­ pher Philip Kitcher, the former u.S. Congressional advisor to the Human Genome Project and perhaps the leading philosopher of science to provide explicit ideological support for the scientific orthodoxy (Mirowski 2004). Kitcher (200 1 , esp. chap. 1 2 ) criticizes Huxley precisely for holding a view close to the one I attribute positively to him here. Kitcher himself is what ana­ lytic philosophers call an "epistemic paternalist" who believes that public deliberation of scientific knowledge claims would do more harm than good in the current political climate, since the public lacks sufficient training to evaluate the competing knowledge claims appropriately. Kitcher even tries (in chap. 8) to secure the blessing of John Stuart Mill for his viewpoint by arguing that Mill would have prohibited, say, the publication of research purporting to demonstrate race-IQ correlations, given their potential for harm. Unfortu­ nately, Kitcher misses the point of On Liberty. For Mill, "free speech" is justifi­ ably curtailed only when statements are made about particular people who may then be subject to abuse by others, as in a newspaper's "name and shame" campaign. Science-even as conducted on and about human beings-differs in that its findings are presented in the most general terms. Actual subjects remain anonymous because they are meant to stand for a type of person, if not all persons. Moreover, scientific generalizations are hedged with ceteris paribus clauses that keep the exact policy implications open to further exami­ nation, since the "ceteris" never are "paribus." Indeed, the above points are fundamental to the ethical basis of scientific research generally. The need to regulate research on human subjects arises not from any inherently destructive tendencies in scientific research or its expres­ sion but from the ease with which scientific findings have been made the basis for public policy, especially when access to the relevant policy instruments is unevenly distributed across society. To be sure, scientists are equally impli­ cated with politicians in this p rocess, but it is best handled by instituting


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brakes in the passage from science to politics, which in turn means making it easier-not harder-for various scientific disciplines and interest groups to conduct and contest research, even in areas as politically sensitive as race, class, or gender. I shall return to address the mechanisms for institutionalizing this renewed sense of "citizen science" in the final chapter. 25. Distinguishing the Enchanted and Disenchanted Mind: The Mark of Theodicy

The so-called postmodern challenge to science in the Science Wars is best understood as reopening a question that Max Weber supposedly closed after Germany's humiliating defeat in World War 1. Weber argued persuasively, against the messianic tendencies of both nationalist and communist colleagues in the German academy, that the "scientific attitude" implies a disenchanted view of the world, specifically a recognition that the nature of reality cannot be captured by the strictures of any value system. Weber's disenchantment thesis may be stated in several ways. In terms Plato would have understood ( and opposed) , The True and The Good turn out not to converge in the mind of the sincere inquirer; in more theological terms, we have no reason to believe that the ultimate "Theory of Everything" will reveal the purpose of it all. While we should expect that good things will happen to bad people, and bad things to good people, we should not expect that there will be a theoretically interesting answer to why things happen that way. There will be only particular answers that relate to the emergent effects of the actions taken by many people in a finite world of which the actors have finite knowledge. Moreover, b ecause of the number and kind of factors invoked, these answers will not say anything especially revealing about the validity of any specific normative orientation to the world. Thus, to the Weberian scientist, reality is indifferent to human projects and offers at most hints as to whether particular projects conform to its stric足 tures-certainly not the other way around. Those who succeed in their projects may have managed to use these hints more to their advantage, but typically that is because they exploited the opportunities in situations largely not of their own making. Nietzsche, one of Weber's inspirations, was very alive to this complicating factor in any attribution of genius, one which Bernard Williams ( 1 9 8 1 ) subsequently christened "moral luck." Such luck often depends on the agent's ignorance of the conditions governing his or her situa足 tion: a more fully knowledgeable agent might have acted less decisively. What is called the "value-neutrality" of science generally refers to just this ambivalence toward the unbridgeable gap between what one knows and what one wants. For Weber, it had the methodologically salubrious consequence of enabling the fair test, and especially the falsification, of scientific hypotheses, since no strength of value commitment on the part of the scientist can ulti足 mately gainsay the dictates of reality. To be sure, Weber's doctrine of value足 neutrality has been challenged over the course of the twentieth century, but


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usually in a specific way. Critics generally concede the Kantian metaphysical point that lies behind the doctrine-that reality is indifferent to values-but they question whether scientists can ever distance themselves sufficiently from their value commitments to conduct something that Weber would have recog­ nized as a "fair test." Put in Freudian terms, where Weber saw science's disen­ chantment of the world as marking the ascendancy of the "reality principle," his critics see it as having opened the door to wishful thinking and related ego defense mechanisms. However, Weber's doctrine can be challenged on metaphysically deeper grounds that it begs the question of the relationship between how things are and o ught to be. Just because the relation ship is not a straightforward one-value categories clearly do not form a one-to-one correspondence with natural categories-it does not follow that there is no relationship whatsoever. That good things do indeed happen to bad people, and bad things to good people, may show that we need to distinguish between short- and long-term effects of causes or between local and global perspectives on reality ( Elster 1 980) . The postulation of multiple and even cross-cutting cognitive horizons has been essential to the now neglected branch of theology, theodicy, which is liter­ ally devoted to fathoming God's sense of justice. At least in the Christian tradi­ tion, theodicy has assumed that God acts in ways that may initially appear mysterious but are ultimately comprehensible from a large enough frame of reference, presumably one that approximates the standpoint of a being capa­ ble of capturing all of reality in a glance. In the next section, we shall see that theodicy survives in a partly disenchanted form in two different scientific 'master narratives' that have managed to weather the storms of postmodern­ ism: the invisible hand and evolution by natural selection. For Weber ( 1 965) , an attraction to theodicy is the mark of the "enchanted" mind. The period of Western disenchantment began when Newton's under­ study, Samuel Clarke, successfully fended off Leibniz's criticisms that the New­ tonian world-picture failed to provide a sufficiently normative ground for the physical universe (Toulmin 200 1 , chap. 4 ) . Two generations later, Kant coun­ tered latter-day Leibnizians by showing that theodicy was intractable by scien­ tific approaches. At that point, cosmology lost its ties to theology, and soon thereafter theology itself became a properly scientific inquiry ( Wissenschaft) divorced of specific doctrinal religious commitments. Hegel and his followers on the Left, most notably David Friedrich Strauss, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Karl Marx, were among the main legatees of this move. ( To be sure, they merely shifted the locus of enchantment from God to "humanity;' understood as either a biological species or an organized movement.) Eventually, after the usual period of retrenchment by religious authorities, all academic subjects were disenchanted, as the university came to be a wholly secular institution. In the most general philosophical terms, the disenchantment of theodicy removes teleology from accounts of nature. Theodicy is relevant to teleology


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because the clearest way to show that something has a purpose is by observing how it perseveres in the face of resistance from its natural environment. This resistance can be then seen as impeding the automatic realization of the thing's purpose. Examples of this process may include The Divine Plan work­ ing its way through imperfect humans or, less grandiosely, a genetically lim­ ited organism managing to reproduce itself under adverse conditions. Thus, what appear as obstacles to a goal at one level of reality turn out to be vehicles for an even greater achievement at a higher level. (In this respect, Freud's innovation was to internalize this conflict to the individual psyche under the rubric of "sublimation.") Theodicy's disenchantment has been generally accompanied by the conver­ sion of nature's resistance to a personal deficiency. In other words, nature no longer poses a specifically moral challenge to our will-that is, an opportunity for mind to overcome matter, good to overcome evil, etc. Instead, nature's resis­ tance is treated diagnostically as a symptom of our cognitive limitations, which as it happens, turns out to be adaptive when considered from a position that approximates God's standpoint. Although he would be the last to discuss mat­ ters this way, Herbert Simon's ( 1 977) concept of bounded rationality fits under such cognitivist appeals to disenchant theodicy (Fuller 1985). Among the scien­ tific doctrines that would fall under this category are emergentist theories of consciousness, Bohr's version of the complementarity principle in quantum mechanics, the anthropic principle in cosmology, and the Gaia hypothesis of Earth as superorganism. Like their more enchanted forebears, the scientific cre­ dentials of each of these ideas has been severely challenged, mainly for presum­ ing that the system under study-the human organism, a physics experiment, the physical universe, or the planet Earth-should be treated for scientific pur­ poses as closed under a set of laws. To do so would imply that everything sub­ sumed by the system serves the system's maintenance. A term for this situation that resonates across disciplinary boundaries is "functionalism:' To this the disenchanted mind immediately counters: the fact that the exact values of many physical parameters seem under-motivated by current physical theory may simply mean that we do not know enough physics, not that the universe has been designed so that we come to realize our place in it. Similarly, that it is very difficult to understand how our neural circuitry produces a sense of consciousness does not imply that the consciousness we have is the optimal output of some resolution of nerve endings. In other words, the disenchanted mind seriously entertains the possibility that, say, there is no humanly inter­ esting reason for the universe's physical parameters being as they are and there is no strictly scientific reason for believing that human consciousness is a suf­ ficiently robust feature of reality to be captured by laws of nature. In short, the final step from theodicy's disenchantment to its complete dissolution-the moment of Weberian disenchantment-comes when one slips from believing that, say, "the nature of consciousness" or "the meaning of life" is an intracta­ bly complex phenomenon to believing that it is a mere pseudo-phenomenon.


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To appreciate the difference between an enchanted and disenchanted account of reality, consider two types of ways of explaining the plight of Job, an ostensibly good man to whom many bad things happen for reasons that remain undisclosed, even at the end of the book of the Old Testament that bears his name. l.

2.

Enchanted: Job (or an ancestor) either did something bad in the past for which is he now being punished or he is being prepared for something much better that will happen to him (or his descendents) in the future. Disenchanted: Job either became the victim of natural events beyond his knowledge or control or he acted on the basis of imperfect informa­ tion which led him to do things that unwittingly undermined his own interests.

In ( 1 ) , Job's fate reflects an implicit judgment that either reality or God has passed over something he has done (or perhaps inherited), whereas in (2) no such judgment is reflected. ( 1 ) and (2) are based on opposed conceptions of cosmology, which the intellectual historian Alexandre Koyre ( 1 957) called "the closed world" and "the infinite universe;' respectively. In the closed world, reality has a moral center that is manifested by a natu­ ral order that tends toward equilibrium. In such a world, all wrongs are even­ tually made right. Thus, regardless of its complexity (as measured by, say, the inscrutability of God's motives), the world displays the sort of causal closure that enables, on the one hand, guilt and gratitude to be literally about relation­ ships between specific people that project from the present to the past and, on the other, revenge and providence to be about relationships that extend from the present into the future. The first pair of terms marks humanity as passive, the second pair as active. In each pair, the first term captures the negative emotion associated with the relationship, the second the positive emotion. Weber ( 1 965) identified the two past-oriented attitudes with karma, a com­ mon ingredient in the theodicies of the Eastern world-religions, and the two future-oriented ones with salvation, a feature shared by the theodicies of the Western world-religions. The cognitive character of these two sets of attitudes dropped out, as the cosmology of the closed world was replaced by a universe indefinitely open at all points. This change removed a fundamental condition of the moral nexus, namely, that at least in principle, the "doer" and "done-to" can recognize each other as such (Pettit 1993, 329-36). After the Koyrean tran­ sition, the temporal orientations associated with karma and salvation became "purely psychological" states without clear objective reference. But this is not to say that the moral nexus has been completely severed. Koyre's closed world remains alive today as a presupposition of courtroom proceedings, especially when the law endeavors to establish the cause of harm for purposes of redressing the damage done (Kelsen 1943). Tellingly, one refers to this presupposition as a "legal fiction." But what would it mean to reinvest such legal fictions with moral import? For Weber, it would mean the conversion


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of "science" to "politics." This is because th e imposition of ends other than where the free pursuit of truth naturally leads amounts to coercion-the essence of politics for Weber, child of Hobbes. But perhaps we should see the reinvestment of moral import in nature the other way round, namely, as put足 ting together two features of our understanding of reality that have been artifi足 ci ally s e v e r e d . As it t u r n s o u t , d e s p i t e t h e p r e v a l e n c e o f Web e r ' s disenchantment rhetoric, theodicy i s alive, i fn o t entirely well, i n the two most popular master narratives of our times. It is to these that I now turn. 26. Two Disenchanted Theodicies: Invisible Hand and Natural Selection

Consider the question of theodicy in boldest relief: why is the distribution of good in the world not proportional to the production of goodness? In short, why do good things happen to bad people, and bad things to good people? Depending on whether one has an optimistic or a pessimistic sense of divine justice, one might think the world displays a surplus or a deficit of goodness: more specifically, the entirety of the human condition is either more or less than the sum or what individual human agents do. The former is epitomized by invisible hand arguments and the latter by selectionist theories of biological

evolution. Invisible hand arguments answer the question: why is there more good than one would expect? The world's surplus good is attributed to the fact that ben足 efiting oneself need not disadvantage others and in fact requires unintention足 ally benefiting them. When first proposed in the eighteenth century, this argument provided a vivid foil to the zero-sum game of social order presented in Thomas Hobbes's "state of nature," whereby one's win always entails another's loss. In effect, the invisible hand disenchanted the Panglossian view that this is the best of all possible worlds, such that any appearance of evil or imperfection is merely symptomatic of the need for a sufficiently wide or long perspective from which to regard its significance. Indeed, the hand of God may have planted imperfections and other "suboptimalities" specifically to motiv<,lte finite beings to become all they can be (Elster 1 984). In spiritual terms, greater knowledge of the whole of creation is supposed to instill a greater appreciation of the Creator's goodness. But in secular guise, the invisible hand is marked by a dissociation of closure and order. In other words, the order that emerges from an invisible hand process is indefinitely open, leading to interpretations of endless pro ductivity and what John Maynard Keynes termed "multiplier effects." Thus, a classic corollary of the invisible hand is the existence of long-term "trickle down" benefits from wealthy enterprisers to the unemployed poor. Self-interestedness comes to be detached from mere selfishness, as entrepreneurs are compelled to do things that, in the fullness of time, benefit the poor, perhaps more so than the poor could have done for themselves. In that respect, seen in historical perspective, the invisible hand exhibits a karmic dimension, as the unwholesome features of personal motivation are


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gradually laundered through a system of interactions to produce a net gain for all concerned (see Fuller 2002c). The key difference is that the transmission of cause and effect in karma is much clearer than in the invisible hand. This largely reflects the closure of the former and the openness of the latter. Indeed, the workings of the invisible hand are typically so complex (or obscure?) that the recipients of advantage can rarely appreciate how they have benefited from the actions of others; hence, the obviation of any sense of gratitude. Indeed, this blockage of mutual recognition conditions easily breeds interpersonal or intergroup resentment. But likewise, the bestowers of advantage never know when they have done enough, which saddles them with an ever-present feeling of guilt for possibly not having done enough. This, in turn, creates the com­ pulsive productivity that, according to Weber, enabled the "Protestant Ethic" to evolve into the "Spirit of Capitalism." In this context, the welfare state can be seen as an attempt to socially engineer karmic closure by making the tax system the vehicle by which the poor's debt to the rich is partly commuted by placing the rich in debt to the state qua executor of the poor. This practice, in turn, is justified by assuming that exploitation enabled the rich to enjoy their current level of success. Not surprisingly, then, the philosophically deepest objection to the idea of the welfare state challenges the seemingly alchemical ability of distributive justice ( specifically, a tax scheme for redistributing income) to satisfy the demands of commutative justice in complex systems (Hayek 1 978). In contrast, natural selection arguments address the question: why is there less good in the world than one would expect? The general form the answer takes is that one's own maintenance and reproduction consume resources that unintentionally interfere with the capacity of others to maintain and repro­ duce themselves. Earlier versions of evolutionary theory, such as Lamarck's ( and indeed much of contemporary economic development theory) , largely accepted the invisible hand assumption that the increase of life on the planet would (perhaps even exponentially) increase the level of collective intelligence, which would in turn continually find new ways to provide the resources needed for sustaining future generations ( Fuller 2006, chap. 1 3 ) . Natural selection undermines these progressivist notions of evolution by observing that a world which, on the whole and in the long term, turns out bad-as Keynes famously put it, "In the long run, we are all dead." �is entirely compatible with the presence of delimited times and places in which life very much flour­ ishes. But from a theological standpoint, these moments of beneficence ulti­ mately reflect the wages of sin, or what economists call time-discounting, whereby people derive pleasure from the present by forfeiting their ability to enjoy still greater pleasures in the future (Ainslie 1 992; Price 1 99 3 ) . I have argued that modern conceptions of scientific progress trade on this notion, with the added twist that the goals of science are continually rewritten so that the current state of inquiry always turns out to be a way station that some suit­ ably trans-generational "we" have been always pursuing ( Fuller 1 997, chap. 5 ) .


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If the invisible hand disenchants Leibniz's doctrine that this is the best of all possible worlds, natural selection performs a similar move on Augustine's pes­ simistic reading of the doctrine of original sin, which condemns humanity to ultimate failure. However, as a disenchanted theodicy, natural selection loses the closure of the original Augustinian doctrine. Thus, there is no final reck­ oning, just endless cycles of generation and extinction: Darwin's endless strug­ gle for survival. Since the struggle never ends, there is no chance for revenge, since a species that is well-adapted to its environment will eventually become over-adapted and ultimately overcome by other species that are themselves destined to be overcome-unless, of course, the processes of natural selection (specifically, the interventions of humans) alter the fundamental physical con­ ditions of the planet so as to extinguish the propagation of life altogether. The moral nexus is further attenuated as species become more versatile in altering the selection environment, thereby affecting not only their own fate but also that of other species. It then becomes possible to do harm to others who will not be in a position either to defend themselves or even to recognize the harm-doers as such. This point is most apparent in counterfactual con­ texts, where it is easy to imagine that self-restraint would have enabled others to fl ourish. But of course, because these "others" have not been allowed to flourish, the sense of loss is mitigated. This perhaps explains the increasing urgency attached to E. O. Wilson's (2002 ) Gnostic politics of "biodiversity;' which largely drove the failed attempt by the Danish Research Council to cen­ sure Bjorn Lomborg's (200 1 ) anthropocentric assessment of the natural envi­ ronment (Fuller 2004a). The invisible hand and natural selection first came head-to-head in debates over the efficacy of free trade in early nineteenth- century Britain: How can depressions periodically occur in an economic system that supposedly pro­ motes the free exchange of goods and services? Should free trade not lead to ever-expanding wealth, as Adam Smith taught? Thus, the mismatch between intention and outcome that defines the problem of theodicy was rendered in a perfectly anthropocentric way. The invisible hand was represented by David Ricardo, the stockbroker who spoke for the emerging bourgeoisie; natural selection by Thomas Malthus (the main source of Darwin's own formulation), the parson whose interests coin­ cided with those of the declining gentry. Together they captured the range of concerns of what is now regarded as "classical political economy" ( Fuller 1 992; Sowell 1 972) . He argued that depressions pointed to a need to produce more, so that people have the means to acquire the available goods and services in exchange. He assumed that the economic pie could expand indefinitely, mainly because he thought that manufacturing would replace land as the principal source of economic value. Here Ricardo found a role for state inter­ vention in the economy that would be developed in our own century by Keynes. It consists of government assurances of high employment levels to enable free trade to engender an overall increase in wealth production. In this respect,


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individuals were manipulable in terms of a global utilitarian scheme designed (ironically) to enable the invisible hand to work. From an ecological stand­ point, Ricardo's policy constitutes a blatant instance of time-discounting, that is, a mortgaging of the future, as irreplaceable natural resources are absorbed in manufactures. His hope was that human ingenuity-the wellspring of eco­ nomic innovation-would find substitutes for those resources before they have been depleted. From a theological standpoint, Ricardo resonated with the idea that the taint of original sin ultimately can be removed through the com­ mission of good works. In contrast, Malthus believed that depressions called for a contraction of the economy, since people had already produced more than was sustainable for their collective existence; hence, the failure of goods to clear the market. This insight was linked to the traditional idea that land is the ultimate source of value. Accordingly, the value of manufactures is artificial and temporary, which is to say, parasitic on the finite natural resources consumed in their pro­ duction. The notorious Malthusian conclusion was simply to let people fend for themselves in this depraved state, which would result in the extinction of the surplus (aka unemployable poor) population-that is, until the economic system was restored to sustainable levels. For Malthus, a state-supported wel­ fare scheme would fail to respect individuals as agents complicit in their own fate (say, in their decisions to procreate). As for the Ricardian strategy of time­ discounting, it merely highlighted the vanity of humans who think they can either preempt or improve the course of nature. A devotee of the idea that nature heals itself without human intervention, Malthus held that no amount of good works could redeem humanity's overconsumption. Death is the ulti­ mate solution. Elements of the Ricardian and Malthusian solutions to capitalism's sys­ temic disorders were integrated in Karl Marx's dialectical materialist philoso­ phy of history. As disenchanted theodicies, the invisible hand and natural selection promised an endless stream of effects, be they endless production (Ricardo's beneficent resolution) or endless destruction (Malthus's maleficent resolution) . Marx tried to square the circle by arguing that revenge is ulti­ mately wreaked on the capitalists as they are overtaken as a class by people whose collective self-consciousness is an unintended consequence of the capi­ talists' rapaciousness. He argued that, contrary to the expectations of both dis­ enchanted theodicies, what the future holds is not simply a matter of indefinite production or indefinite destruction. Rather, self-interest pursued to the limit eventually turns into bad karma, courtesy of the proletariat whose increasing numbers are a direct result of capitalism's technical efficiency ren­ dering more of the labor force redundant. At the same time, Marx admitted that communists are in the capitalists' debt for having prepared the way for the revolution by providing the modes of production needed for implement­ ing a just social order-indeed, modes whose levels of efficiency in principle provide everyone a say in how they should be used.


Re-enchanting Science . 149

Two features of Marx's theory mark it as also a theodicy, albeit a partly disenchanted one. First, key Marxist concepts like "exploitation" do not merely explain how or why something is the case but, more importantly, why it is good (or bad) that it be that way. To argue that class-based income dispar­ ity is the product of exploitation is to imply that the situation being explained is bad and ought to be changed. Second, normative j udgments of what is "good" and "bad" are neither mutually exclusive nor based on criteria external to the theory; rather, they are mutually constitutive terms that are grounded in criteria specified by the theory. Thus, for Marx, capitalism is not an unmiti­ gated evil that would have been best avoided in an ideal world that lies beyond the scope of his theory. On the contrary, capitalism's unique strengths and weaknesses are necessary to realize communism as Marx himself defined it. 27. The Cost of Disenchantment: A Failed Scientific Defense of Human Freedom

We have seen that, contrary to the expectations ot the scientific puritans most visible in the Science Wars, the issues raised by theodicy have been disen­ chanted but by no means eliminated from scientific thought. Considering the , postmodern aversion to "master narratives," this alone is quite remarkable. Nevertheless, theodicy's disenchantment has not been trivial in its conse­ quences. However, here I wish to address a complementary problem, namely, the failure to incorporate fully a theodicy orientation into an account of nature that is intended to have normative import. Consequently, an otherwise admirable attempt to specify scientific grounds for human freedom remains insufficiently justified. I have in mind here Lifelines by Steven Rose ( 1997), the founding professor of biology at the Open University and Britain's leading leftist critic of the social policy pretensions of his discipline. Rose periodically invokes the Marxist motto "Men [sic] make history but in circumstances not of their own choosing" to capture his key concept of lifeline, a non-reductionist, autopoietic version of Richard Dawkins's "extended phe­ notype" (Dawkins 1 982). According to Rose, an organism's genetic and eco­ logical reso urces constrain the co urse of its development without fully determining it. The organism's actual trajectory is the result of multivariate interactions at several levels of organization , which together constitute the organism's ongoing struggle to construct a viable future from a fluctuating present. Despite his grounding in the biochemistry of nervous systems, Rose is sympathetic to the vitalist picture of organisms as actively seeking alternative means in an ever-changing environment to achieve ends that are, in some sense, independent of that environment. In light of this picture, Rose argues that at least some organisms-certainly humans-enjoy a significant measure of freedom. But does Rose's concept of lifeline actually live up to the Marxist motto? More generally, does it constitute an adequate conception of freedom? The paradoxical character of the theory of history epitomized in the Marxist motto is normally explained in terms of a central tenet of theodicy, one found


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in Hegel but traceable to Spinoza, Leibniz, and ultimately the Stoics: freedom IS the recognition of necessity. Rose ( 1 997, 1 8 ) takes this to mean that once we realize the exact extent of our constraints, we can act within our means to con­ struct a world worth inhabiting. However, this is a misleading or at least incomplete rendering of what Marx, Hegel, and their predecessors were trying to say. They also believed that the degree of freedom a person enjoys cannot be determined without looking at what follows from that person's actions. Free­ dom diminishes in a world where agents pursue many different courses of action, which then narrow the range of outcomes. When the present appears open to alternative futures, agents tend to regard the world solely in terms of the resources it provides to realize their ends. Rose's rhetoric sometimes veers this way. Yet, depending on the pattern of actual outcomes, the situation may be reversed-that our diverse actions are simply means to some other larger end. In that case, anything we do within the available set of options serves the larger end. Admittedly, this sounds like what Dawkins has called the "gene's-eye view of the world" in which biological diversity has no proper end other than the safe conveyance of genetic information. Yet, Marxists have also pointed to the proliferation of consumer choices in advanced capitalism as having this character. Consumers spend an increasing time and energy deliberating over possibilities, the ultimate consequences of which may be negligible for their own lives but latently serve to rejuvenate the circulation of capital. Because consumers are regularly presented with multiple options that force them to refine their wants more precisely than they might otherwise, they are unlikely, in the normal run of things, to discover just how over-determined their world really is. Thus, their subjective sense of freedom lacks an objective basis. This is what Herbert Marcuse originally called, in his Marxo - Freudian j argon, "repressive desublimation." Joined in their belief in the cunning of reason in history, Dawkins and Marx see this point much more vividly than Rose. For example, under the rubric of "reductionism;' Rose rejects more than simply a denial of the gene's­ eye view of the world. He also denies the very idea of a coherent systemic perspective from which the biological world can be regarded. To be sure, reductionism is not the only such perspective, but Rose throws out the baby with the bath water in his postmodern acceptance of the relative autonomy of the different levels of biological organization, a point we earlier associated with Lewontin, Gould, and Eldredge in their debates with the sociobiologists. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of theodicy, a systemic perspective is necessary to what followers of Hegel would consider a "gold standard" of objective freedom, whereby an agent inhabiting a world can be said literally "to know what one is doing." For the gold standard to be met in a given popu­ lation, the diversity of its members' actions must be matched by an equal or greater diversity of outcomes. In addition, these outcomes must generally correspond to what the members wanted, ideally in the terms they expected.


Re-enchanting Science . 1 5 1

If both conditions are satisfied, then there are good grounds for concluding that the population is objectively free. From a systemic perspective, such a population exerts significant control over its collective future. Even if this gold standard of objective freedom is ultimately unrealizable, it still enables us to distinguish between types of intervention one might make to improve the human condition. Specifically, the most convenient level of inter­ vention is not necessarily the most efficacious, if it turns out that once a cause is removed, its deleterious effects are largely reproduced by another factor either present or latent in the environment. The freedom exemplified by the intervention, then, would be merely subjective. Rose (305) p otentially falls foul of this critique in his discussion of lung cancer treatment. Tobacco com­ panies are currently major funders of research into the molecular biology of the lungs and the localization of "predisposing" genes for cancer. Rose regards this research as a strategic misdirection that capitalizes on the persuasiveness of reductionist rhetoric. A more direct route to cutting lung cancer, he states, is simply to restrict the sale of tobacco-based products, the use of which is known to be highly correlated with incidence of lung cancer. Before judging the adequacy of Rose's proposed intervention, we need to know its ultimate aim. What is the curtailment of tobacco sales meant to elim­ inate: lung cancer per se, premature death, excessive healthcare costs, a certain kind of lifestyle, or the unpleasantness of a smoke-filled environment? In some of these cases, the intervention would have the efficacious results Rose seeks. But in others, tobacco may simply be replaced by another set of prod­ ucts that engender largely the same or even worse effects. Which is which depends equally on a clarification of ends, the state of scientific knowledge, and the activation of political will. From the standpoint of theodicy, these three conditions must be integrated in a worldview that defines the conditions under which we can act so as to bring about the world we want or at least so as to recognize that such a world has not been brought about. Because Rose fails to provide such a systematic perspective, his conception of freedom does not have the objective character promised by his reliance on the Marxist motto. Before concluding this section, let me offer some general remarks about the interaction effects between the present and future that need to be incorpo­ rated in any adequate theory of objective freedom, especially in the context of arguments that actions taken now may limit our descendants' possibilities for action. This may help interested readers to bring Rose's admirable initiative to fruition. Here I draw upon the implications of time-discounting introduced in the previous section. Suppose we consider a perspective sufficiently long that the people affected by our actions are spatio-temporally detached from us: that is, we do not know their identities and they barely know ours. These descendants of ours are likely to have benefited from whatever we happened to have done, at least in the weak, formal sense of our having provided the conditions of their possi­ bilities for action. Even if we had imagined alternative futures for them, the


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actions we actually took will have rendered most of those possibilities implau­ sible for our descendants to pursue in their day. It would make sense to talk about our having harmed our descendants only if they were sufficiently close to us causally that we managed to change the living conditions of, say, the immediately next generation, since these people would have known a time when things were better. In that case, their harm would be motivated by a feel­ ing of "relative deprivation." Similarly, any strong sense that we substantially benefited them would also presuppose adequate publicity of ideas of an improved existence, only this time in relation to the deprived conditions of recent memory. 28. Conclusions: Meeting Weber's Challenge and Transcending the Science Wars

Max Weber ( 1 965) claimed that only those who surrender their scientific scruples to religious impulses could believe that the distribution of good and bad in the world can be systematically explained. Such people have, in Weber's terms, an "enchanted" view of reality. According to Weber, a properly "disen­ chanted" view sees the world as intractably complex and open-ended. Thus, neither the invisible hand nor natural selection promises the sort of closure that would allow fot definitive normative judgments. Indeed, outside the artificial strictures of the law, it is impossible to isolate clear causal paths that would enable the agent and the recipient of morally significant action to recognize each other as such. This failure of mutual recognition-or "accountability," to use the current term of art-effectively short-circuits the value nexus. Never­ theless, what the disenchanted worldview loses in terms of providing meaning in life, it gains by providing what Weber regarded as a "value-neutral" basis for scientific inquiry. Weber's perspective, in turn, has legitimized what I have characterized here as the 'neo-puritanical' attitude of the natural scientists who have been most vocal in their opposition to the "academic Left" in the Science Wars (Gross and Levitt 1 994) . In conclusion I want to drive home the main point of this chapter-that the disenchanted view seriously misrepre­ sents the spirit that has motivated the conduct of scientific inquiry, which is epitomized by "scientism;' a recurrent yet repressed theme in the history of science. It is here that the interests of science and religion merge, especially in the arena of theodicy. A full return to an enchanted science would target the heartland of the sci­ entific method, what Stephen Toulmin ( 1 95 3 ) called the "ideal of natural order" that a scientific theory presumes. This consists of the theory's simplest concepts or models, out of which explanations of complex concrete phenom­ ena are constructed. Three familiar examples include: ( 1 ) according to Newto­ nian mechanics, the "natural state" of objects is to be at rest or moving in a straight line, subject to the state of other objects and gravity's universal pull; (2) in most renderings of natural history, each species is given an archetypal morphology, in relation to which pathologies and other deviant formations


Re-enchanting Science . 153

can be identified; (3) in neoclassical economics, people are regarded ideally as making the most of the conditions under which they are forced to pursue their individual interests, which include other similarly positioned agents. Most philosophies of science regard such ideals of natural order as matters of convention designed to ease a theory's extension and application. In this respect, the ideals function as default positions, the value of which are to be judged almost entirely in terms of the research developments they enable. However, in nearly every case, these conceptual starting points were originally chosen because they captured a normative ideal upheld by proponents of the theory, be it the Greek One of simplicity as the mark of purity ( an ideal that pervades the history of physics) or some specific notions about what counts as a "healthy" organism or a "rational" person. This point is often overlooked in discussions of the scientific method because we have come to hive off the orig­ inal, value-laden sense of "norm" from its use in summarizing empirical phe­ nomena. Thus, often in the spirit of "political correctness," we treat the common appeal to "norms" in statistics and sociology as a mere play on words, as if there were no reason to think that a statistical "norm" would correspond to a "norm" possessing deeper social significance. Yet, this was precisely what Karl Pearson thought, when he introduced "norm" into the social science lexicon at the dawn of the twentieth century. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Pearson held a chair in "social genetics," and many keen on re-enchanting science in our own time have believed that intelligence has a strong racial component, based on apparently robust correlations between racial identity and IQ scores. Of course, there are many ways to demys­ tify this particular form of scientific enchantment, especially such pedestrian ones as diagnosing errors in statistical reasoning. But from the perspective adopted here, those moves may be a bit too convenient. After all, most of the normative ideals that have been advanced on behalf of all of humanity are based on norms that were originally thought to hold for only a small subset. Sometimes these norms roughly captured patterns of behavior and other social traits that empirically distinguished the elite from the rest. But often they were invoked to reinforce such distinctions, especially when the interaction of people of different "types" threatened to blur them. Consequently, behind every seem­ ingly benevolent initiative to extend education, representation, and welfare pro­ vision to the populace has b een a prehistory in which they were justifiably perceived as vehicles of domination and segregation. As heirs to the Enlightenment, we would like to say that all this shows is that the human spirit progresses gradually, diffusing from its origins in a van­ guard of the species. However, the history is actually more sobering, yet famil­ iar, from our earlier discussion of theodicy. It may be that without a strong discrimination of "better" and "worse" people, backed by political force, there would never have been the impetus to produce the concrete models and corre­ sponding forms of research and applications that have ultimately enabled an overall improvement of the human condition. In other words, some very bad


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politics may be needed to supply raw material for the kind of utopian vision that has informed our most widely shared normative ideals. This point has been recently driven home with a vengeance by the historian Robert Proctor ( 1 999), who suggests that the Nazis pioneered what we now take to be enlight­ ened views concerning the promotion of organic foods, vegetarianism, smoke­ free environments, and related forms of "healthy living," because of their belief that a superior race needs to have a superior lifestyle. While such ideas had been previously floated by various eugenics and public hygiene groups in North America, Britain, and Scandinavia (King 1 999), it took a state as com­ mitted to the cultivation of a "master race" as Nazi Germany to follow through on the implications of "healthy living" in ways that have become second nature for many (though not all! ) of us. Perhaps the most constructive way to understand the position of the aca­ demic Left in the Science Wars is as challenging the institutional preconditions of Weberian disenchantment. Weber reified a particular development in the history of the university, whereby bureaucratic differentiation has (mis)begot­ ten ontological depth (Fuller 2000a, chap. 3 ) . The Weberian motto of "science for its own sake" makes sense only if research programs have been made the preserve of fellow specialists and insulated from the demands of state, indus­ try, taxpayers, and especially students. To be sure, this flies in the face of the "unity of research and teaching" that marked the modern rebirth of the uni­ versity in the hands of Wilhelm von Humboldt. Here the emphasis was placed on academics striving to synthesize disparate modes of inquiry into a compre­ hensive worldview. Humboldt's ideal was the classical training of citizens in the liberal arts, which was "always already interdisciplinary"-certainly long before academia consisted of specialized disciplines. In this respect, the signa­ ture postmodern aversion to "master narratives" is a misdirection away from this renewed interest in integration. STS is naturally joined with postmodernism in a belief in the impossibility of credible "grand" or "master:' or "meta" narratives for science. To be sure, there are many stories of many sciences to be told, each partially overlapping with, but also partially contradicting, the others, with no overall discernible pattern. In this way, STS researchers remain open to alternative traditions of science that are usually suppressed by the narratives of progress. However, this postmodern turn is epistemologically and politically progressive only under two conditions: ( 1 ) the marginalized traditions are highlighted at the expense ofthe dominant ones and do not simply add to the level of babble in the acad­ emy, and(2) everyone, including the natural scientists, relinquish their claim to grand narratives. Unfortunately, neither condition seems likely to obtain. Talk of progress provides a succinct and convenient way of conveying the ends and norms of science in the sound-bite culture of media commentary on science. In the absence of alternative narratives, STS objections come across publicly as the voice of the "village skeptic" who refuses to accept any responsibility for constituting the future of science. Of course, there are ways around this


Re-enchanting Science . ISS

problem, but they involve thinking on a much larger scale and in a more explicitly rhetorical vein than STS researchers are inclined to do. I shall simply enumerate them here: 1.

2.

3.

4.

Situate the apparent progressiveness of science i n a still-larger master narrative-such as the rise of capitalism-which casts a more equivo­ cal light on science. Observe that the sequence of great scientists whose achievements would be typically mobilized in support of "progress" would not have agreed amongst themselves-nor with us today-about the ultimate goals of their inquiries in which their achievements would count as stages. Argue that the "universal value" of science resembles that of democracy, in that both must be actively preserved because of the ease with which it can be corrupted, often by becoming a victim of its own success (e.g., governments become so popular that they turn authoritarian, sciences become so committed to one line of inquiry that they cannot entertain dissent) . Characterize STS as part of the "second phase" of secularization that began 400 years ago with the divestiture of state support for religion. STS researchers thus assume the role of the Protestant reformers in relation to those who would follow the Comtean impulse to turn sci­ ence into a new high priesthood. In that case, the grand narrative of progress is little more than a thinly disguised salvation story ( Fuller 1 997, chap. 4; Fuller 2000a, chap. 6).

We have reached not the end but only the beginning, of the re-enchant­ ment of science in our time. Academic puritans pose a much smaller obstacle to the re-enchantment of science than patrons outside academia who would mold the products of specialized inquiry to their specific ends, often in a proprietary spirit that would inhibit its use for more collective ends. Not surprisingly, but no less disturbingly, theodicy's two leading, modern descen­ dants-the invisible hand and natural selection-have been invoked to legiti­ mize just such tendencies. It is time for both scientists and humanists to come up with alternatives that can be sustained by democratic institutions. In the next and final chapter, we consider the nature of such institutions.


VI

Citizen Science: Cultivating a Life in STS

Although the ancient Greeks are full o f false leads when it comes to defining the nature of scientific citizenship in a democracy, the lineage from Plato to positivism nevertheless does provide a context for understanding the evolu­ tion of the modern conception of expertise and the distinct problems it poses to modern democracies. These problems, revolve around issues of institution­ alization-specifically, how to design institutions that respect the role o f knowledge in collective decision-making without succumbing to rule by expertise. I analyze two recent German proposals along these lines, which raise interesting questions about the social function of historically marginalized and so-called indigenous knowledges. Afterward I defend the institutionaliza­ tion of "consensus conferences:' also known as "citizen juries:' as an extension of representative democracy to issues of science and technology, which render them properly "public things" ( res publicae) . However, even if the current objections to institutionalizing consensus conferences are overcome, the origi­ nal Greek question remains of whether people can and should be trained to participate effectively in such forums. Here I consider a variety of proposals for cultivating scientific citizenship, highlighting the centrality of rhetoric, especially in challenging the cultural authority of cross-disciplinary expertise. I treat this point in the context of how the neo-Darwinian synthesis maintains its authority. Unfortunately most STS researchers today eschew rhetorical activism as a means of building scientific citizenship. Instead, their construc­ tivism masks a fundamental skepticism, not about science but about politics. 29. Introduction: Beware of Greeks Bearing Historical Precedents

Classical Athens introduced an influential threefold division of social labor: some matters were to be debated in public, others decided in private, and still others delegated to experts. However, this trichotomy does not correspond to their natural grouping in modern constitutional democracies. Moreover, the original Greek distinctions provide an effective basis for critique of the mod­ ern ones. Nowadays we understand "the public" to be "political" in the narrow sense of "interest-based:' whereas the Athenians understood it to be "political" in the broad sense of a res publica-a thing that exists only in public, that is,

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something that affects everyone equally (Pettit 1 997; Fuller 2000a, chap. 1 ) . We tend to regard "the private" a s the realm of conscience and personal conduct, whereas the Athenians associated it with household management (the original meaning of "economy" ) , the one arena where women exerted superiority over men. "Privacy" in this sense was evinced by the condition of one's estate and one's relationship with slaves and neighbours. Although it would not be wrong to say that both ancients and moderns use one's private life as a measure of fitness for public life, it would be seriously misleading not to take into account the shift in the meanings of "public" and "private" over the last 2,500 years. But perhaps the most potentially misleading set of connotations attach to expertise, which the Athenians understood in the narrow sense of a technique that requires specialized training. The paradigm case of an expertise was a craft that achieves an end within a tightly circumscrib ed set of means-as when a sculptor carves a bust out of marble. To modern ears, this sounds like Kuhnian normal science (or, for that matter, professional politics in constitu­ tional democracies, according to Weber and Schumpeter) in which an expert exercises final authority over a domain of reality whose inherent complexity requires division for mastery (Zolo 1992 ) . However, for the Greeks, the need for 'specialized training' arose less from complexity of subject matter than from a strict division of labor between means and ends, such that the client provides the ends and the 'expert' is entrusted only with its realization within a specific medium (Fuller 2000b, chap 2, fn 70). The Greek expert was thus less autonomous agent than humanoid technology-at best a tradesman, at worst a slave. In that respect, Greek experts were not so different from to day's fixed-term contract researchers who increasingly populate academia. The quality of their work is determined exclusively by their ability to satisfy clients, regardless of the clients' ends. Responsibility for the ends is left entirely to the client, and the expert at most has the power to withdraw his or her services if she objects to those ends. The sort of people that we today call "experts," especially scientists whose authority is s ought in policy-making and judicial forums, did not exist in classical Athens. From the Greek standpoint, they are mongrel entities that combine the specialization of the technician and the autonomy of the citi­ zen, except that today's experts lack the constraints placed on both classes of persons in the ancient world. In Athens, clients and citizens were empow­ ered and motivated to act as external checks. In contrast, to day's experts speak authoritatively for part of reality without such checks�except from fellow experts, who themselves have little incentive to speak against a col­ league, lest it result in the overall devaluation of the expertise, as often hap­ pens today in adversarial court proceedings (a point to which I shall return in the next section ) . A s noted above, the Greeks included i n public affairs anything that con­ cerned everyone as a whole-that is, it had to have universal import. This


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would include science as classically understood, arguably even in our own day. Aristotle famously remarked at the start of his Metaphysics that it was normal for citizens to turn to matters of universal import once they had provided for their material subsistence. Science and politics were thus leisure's twin vocations. From that standpoint, Socrates' sophistic antagonists were serpents in this deliberative Garden of Eden. They asserted that the arts of public delib­ eration could be themselves taught as special skills that yield reliable results. In one sense, the Sophists were like Weber, Schumpeter, and other twentieth­ century purveyors of "professional politics." However, Socrates resisted his sophistic interlocutors, not because of the power that would be thereby concentrated in the hands of specially trained experts but on the more funda­ mental grounds that he doubted that the skills promised by the Sophists were to be had. For Socrates, competence in public affairs was simply an entailment of the liberal education normally provided to elites, who received training only in how to make productive use of their leisure (Villa 200 1 ) . However, what follows from this point i s not entirely clear. On the one hand, it might follow that democracy is fit only for elites with the requisite liberal education and cannot be taught on an ad hoc basis to anyone who can afford the Sophist's fee. On the other hand, it might follow that everyone must receive a liberal education as prerequisite to full participation in the demo­ cratic polity. In one sense, these two options may not be so opposed-if it turns out that the character of liberal education must change in order for it to contribute to a truly democratic citizenry. For example, the curriculum must appeal to students coming from diverse backgrounds in which case instruc­ tion may need to be more explicit and standardized than, say, a Socratic dialogue in which there is a common prior understanding of the "conven­ tional wisdom" that the dialogue will then probe and challenge. Moreover, the context of instruction itself may need to change, so that an intimate seminar is replaced by a large lecture theatre, which more closely approximates the setting of large democratic assemblies. Indeed, it may be that as more people are incorporated into "liberal education," it naturally takes on the qualities suggested by the sophistic pedagogy. That Socrates and the Sophists turn out perhaps not to be so different would certainly have corresponded to the average Athenian's understanding of the situation. It is only after Plato's derogatory coinage of "rhetoric" for the claims of sophistic pedagogy that history starts to draw a sharp distinction between those (like Socrates) genuinely concerned with seeking the truth and those (like the Sophists) apparently concerned only with winning the argu­ ment. However, underlying the debates between Socrates and the Sophists was a common concern that is rarely heard in Plato's renditions but that explains their difference in strategies. Both sides were concerned with keeping inquiry open-ended. If anything, the Athenians were obsessed by novelty and associ­ ated technique with routine and drudgery. As long as the means and ends of inquiry were not clearly distinguished-so thought Socrates-people would


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be continually forced to think about these matters in relation to each other. There would be no preordained logic because one's ends may change as one hears what others say. Of course, the Sophists did not object to this general orientation. However, they believed that it would be facilitated by making the skills of argument more generally available, so that more people would have an opportunity to influence the common inquiry. As mostly foreigners, the Sophists felt that Socrates-an Athenian military hero-wanted to reserve public reason for those of "good character." His reluctance to admit formal instruction into the democratic arts thus smacked of an aristocratic nativism that would serve only to narrow political horizons. (For a contemporary gloss on this point, see Fuller 2005, chap. 1 .) Here it is worth recalling that the notorious sophistic injunction to make the weaker argument appear the stronger was not made with contempt for the truth. Rather, it reflected an underlying skepticism which says that since you can never know the ultimate truth, the fact that an argument now appears stronger or weaker will always be a matter of contingency, such as who has had the time and money to gather the right evidence by the time the argument needs to be made. What appears false now may yet become true in the future ( and vice versa), given an appropriate redistribution of resources. Indeed, the Sophists should be seen not as flouting truth-seeking but as having promoted an existentialist ethics of discourse whereby one assumes responsibility for constructing situations so as to enable the audience to respond in as many dif­ ferent ways as possible. The communicative contexts in our own time that most cry out for this kind of treatment are precisely those that call into ques­ tion the identity of the appropriate experts: e.g., where conventional medicine requires justification in the face of alternative medicine, or where evolutionary biology requires defense against intelligent design theorists, etc. The idea here is to recover, on normative grounds relating to the promotion of democracy, the open-ended and inquiring nature of argumentation that was characteristic of the Athenian forum. None of this denies the relevance of technical expertise in public deliberations. Rather, it is to compel representatives of these forms of knowledge to prove their cases outside the self-certifying forums associated with "peer-review" processes (Poulakos 1 995; see also Fuller 2002a, app. on "extended peer review") . 30. Expertise and Its Discontents: Some Institutional Alternatives

We saw in chapter 4 that Platonism and positivism share a general intuition that knowledge should be the principle of social stratification. This intuition is also common to much of the social epistemology literature in analytic philos­ ophy: hence the proliferation of expressions like "division of cognitive labor" ( Kitcher 1 99 3 ) , "epistemic paternalism" ( Goldman 1 99 9 ) , not to mention "tutored preferences" and "well-ordered science" ( Kitcher 200 1 ) . At root lie a practical and a theoretical problem with the positivist conversion of Plato's epistemic aristocracy to the lay clergy (or "clerisy") of experts.


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The practical problem is associated with the use of "expert witnesses" in court proceedings, especially in legal systems based on accusation (i.e., adver­ sary-led inquiries) rather than inquisition (i.e., judge-led inquiries ) . The social role of expert witness had been invented by Hugo Miinsterberg when William James invited him from Germany in 1 8 9 7 to found Harvard's psy­ chology laboratory (Golan 2004, chap. 6 ) . Miinsterberg was a "naturalistic axiologist"-that is, he was concerned with the empirical conditions out of which value orientations emerged. (For an updated version of this project, see Fuller 1 993, 1 67-75.) Trained by the neo-Kantian philosopher and colleague of Max Weber Heinrich Rickert, Miinsterberg held ( like Mill, James, and Freud) that value is determined by desire-that is, evidence that an object is found valuable (by someone) must precede attributions of value to that object. Upon his arrival in the United States, Miinsterberg repackaged this perspective as "applied psychology," a field capable of fitting people to both employment and punishment by identifying their capacities and inclinations. But Miinsterberg, accustomed to Germany's inquisitorial legal system, failed to anticipate that the accusatorial U.S. system would inhibit judges from regu­ lating the use of expert witnesses. Thus, it became possible-and arguably now routinized-for both adversaries in a trial to mobilize self-serving but mutually contradictory expert witnesses. Law critic Peter Huber ( 1 99 1 ) has denounced this tendency as "junk science," calling for judges to exert tighter standards on the admissibility of scientific testimony. However, this may be tantamount to simply delegating to judges the power to resolve inherent indeterminacies in the applicability of scientific findings to legal decisions ( Jasanoff 1995). In any case, an accusatorial legal system clearly diminishes the power of experts to resolve societal disputes. But ultimately, there are theoretical limits to governance by expertise. Con­ sider the work of Otto Neurath, the principal organizer of the Vienna Circle, which spawned logical positivism as the hopeful dialectical synthesis of Comtean authoritarianism and Machian libertarianism-what he called, somewhat inauspiciously, "Neutral Marxism" ( Proctor 1 9 9 1 , chap. 9 ) . An example of Neurath's notoriously ambitious approach to societal planning was his attempt to isolate the essence of the "war economy" so that its efficient central planning mechanism could be transferred to environments where it would have more socially salutary consequences. Here Neurath anticipated what Alvin Gouldner ( 1 970) regarded as the Janus-faced character of the "wel­ fare-warfare state," whereby the same organizational structure (in this case, a concentration of resources in the nation-state) can have radically different consequences, depending on the supporting political environment. Neverthe­ less, as Neurath's many critics pointed out, positivism seems to have inherited Platonism's political naivete, which confuses the fact that, say, the "war econ­ omy" can be identified analytically as a feature of many societies and the ana­ lyst's ability to transfer it to new social environments-a process that may require the imposition of considerable force to hold all other environmental


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factors constant. If anything deserves the name of the positivist fallacy, it is this instance of naivete, which all too easily assimilates the forum to the laboratory, without factoring the costs of motivating the populace-and perhaps even policy makers-to conform to the ideal: the " ceteris" is rarely "paribus." The positivist fallacy can only be addressed by democratizing the generic Hobbesian conception of "force" to which positivists ultimately resort in the design of knowledge-bearing institutions (Fuller 2000a; Fuller 2002a, chap. 4). Before proposing my own strategy, let us first consider two recent divergent German proposals along these lines-the first by Gernot Bohme (2003) , the second by Wolfgang van den Daele (2003 ) . Both aim to recover an element of democracy from the encroachment of expertise into what both would call the "life-world." It is worth noting that both had been prominent in a previous life in the "finalization" movement, which in the 1 970s wedded a largely autopoietic conception of scientific change (inspired by Thomas Kuhn) to a state-led stra­ tegic research initiative for "mature" sciences. (An English translation of the main papers of this movement is Schaefer 1 984.) Nowadays Bohme and van den Daele would seem to emphasize, respectively, the former and the latter stages of the original finalization vision. Bohme has argued that the scientific community should look to its own history to find an ethically sounder, more ecologically conscious version of itself, perhaps grounded in the holistic worldview of nineteenth- century Naturphilosophie. In this respect, contemporary public mistrust of science is symptomatic of science's own self-alienation. While there is much to com­ mend in Bohme's perspective, it leaves open the question of institutionaliza­ tion. Presumably, the plan here runs deeper than simply exhorting mature scientists to dip into the works of Goethe for inspiration. There are at least two policy implications of Bohme's position that would radically change the face of knowledge production. The first would be to require that science students study the histories of their fields, so that they learn of alternative frameworks for casting their inquiries before they have been indoctrinated into the dominant framework. I have advocated this stand­ point as a second-order version of " affirmative action" that would serve to reinstate the critical edge of inquiry across all the academic disciplines ( Fuller 1 99 9 ) . The second would be to involve a broader range of scientific practitioners into the governance of their own fields, since the more distant scientists see themselves from cutting-edge specialist research, the more open they are to extra- and interdisciplinary ( aka transdisciplinary) concerns ( Fuller 2000a, chap. 8; cf. Gibbons et al. 1 994; Nowotny et al. 200 1 ) . However, both policy implications would encounter stiff resistance from the scientific establishment for what followers of Mary Douglas in the sociology of scientific knowledge would recognize as "group -grid violations" (e.g., Bloor 1 9 8 3 ) . O n the one hand, scientists would have to open their doors to approaches in opposition to which their professional identities were originally forged (i.e., a group violation); on the other, they would have to subvert science's meritocracy,


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which values researchers in terms of their closeness to specialist research fron­ tiers (i.e., a grid violation). But perhaps all this shows is that the problems facing science's relationship to the larger society will not be solved through new self-governance policies. This is a good point to introduce van den Daele's proposal that science's appli­ cations be subject to external control, especially so as not to interfere with the promotion of alternative, so-called indigenous knowledges. This proposal presupposes that clear distinctions can be drawn between science and other forms of knowledge, as well as between research and its applications. These presuppositions should recall the knowledge-society problem discussed above and the interpretive ambiguity of its exact policy implications: are we to be concerned with the promotion of certain forms o f knowledge, regardless of who the knowledge-bearers are, or the promotion of certain groups of people, who now bear certain forms of knowledge but need not do so in the future? In short, van den Daele's proposal does not squarely face the Enlighten­ ment challenge that people will improve their lot in life by transferring their allegiances from traditional to more scientific forms of knowledge. In other words, just because knowledge is historically tied to a particular group, or "stakeholders," it does not follow that such knowledge remains indefinitely relevant to promoting their lives. Now, of course, certain forms of indigenous knowledge may be worth cultivating to complement, temper, or revise scien­ tific knowledge. But whether that task is best executed by indigenous knowl­ edge-bearers is an open question. Just because knowledge is "indigenous" does not mean that it is relevant to its culture's current needs (Furlow 1 996; Fuller 2000c) . A good benchmark for these issues is the practice of linguists inter­ ested in preserving minority languages in the face of globalized Anglophonia: ensuring a steady supply of native speakers is not the only possible strategy. Non-natives could be also encouraged to learn the minority languages. As we have seen, both Bohme's and van den Daele's proposals for govern­ ing knowledge underestimate the normative import of institutions. Both are primarily oriented to articulating a normative vision-Bohme's of an updated Naturphilosophie and van den Daele's of a state-enforced cultural plural­ ism-that leaves open the exact institutions that might realize them. However, if one is interested in having these outcomes recur on a regular basis and not simply through ad hoc interventions, then the selection of appropriate institu­ tional vehicles is of paramount significance. Normative solutions to problems of epistemic legitimacy may appear authoritarian if exclusive attention is paid to articulating the ends of knowledge production, thereby implying that virtu­ ally any means are justified in achieving those ends. Moreover, even when institutional frameworks are given serious thought, sometimes the ones chosen fail to produce a whole greater than the sum of the original parts. In that sense, the institutions may reflect the sociological presuppositions of their designers without enabling their participants to accomplish more than they would, were they left to their own devices.


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Examples may be found in van den Daele's highly publicized "technology assessment" panels, which bring together maj or interest group represen­ tatives-as stakeholders are less delicately called-to design policy guidelines for such controversial issues as genetically modified foods (van den Daele, Puehler, and Sukopp 1 997). Stalemate often results, which in turn has been used to justify a government-based ethics advisory board to sort out irresolv­ able value differences in concrete situations. The problem here, I submit, is not that the different interest groups have radically different world views but, rather, that the technology assessment panels are designed to reinforce, not sublimate, those differences. Thus, cultural pluralism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 3 1 . Institutionalizing the Public Understanding of Science in Consensus Conferences

These are interesting times for the public understanding of science. On the one hand, books and television programs devoted to science have never been so popular. On the other, enrollments in science courses and public trust in science appear to be in decline. Natural scientists insist that lay people should either learn more science or defer to the relevant scientific authorities. Social scientists observe that scientists disagree among themselves and lay people often know things the scientists do not. However, until the last decade, when STS research began to have major public impact, the field that travels under the name "public understanding of science" (or PUS) mainly functioned as the public relations wing of the scien­ tific community, training scientists how better to communicate their findings and the public how better to appreciate what is being communicated (Irwin and Michael 2003, chaps. 1-2 ) . PUS programs had been initiated in several countries by scientists concerned that public support for science be based on scientifically sound grounds and that "science" not be simply the word of pol­ iticians keen to use science as a smokescreen for politically dubious judgments to build weapons, exploit the natural environment, and so forth. PUS evolved from an exercise in the United Kingdom that addressed the social responsibility of scientists to a concerted field of social scientific inquiry. The founding moment occurred in 1 985, with the Royal Society's publication of the Bodmer Report. Bodmer tried to link widespread ignorance of basic scientific facts and theories to a decline in science enrolments and, more importantly, to a decline in the UK's intellectual and economic stature on the world stage. At first it was presumed that ignorance of science reflected hostil­ ity, born of real or perceived threats that science posed to ordinary people's lives. However, this "ignorance" co-existed with an unprecedented amount of science popularization and generally favorable public attitudes toward science. Surprisingly, little subsequent research has directly challenged the Bodmer Report's core assumption that raising the levels of science literacy would enhance the nation's global standing. Instead, PUS research has tended to treat


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the allegations of mass scientific ignorance as symptomatic of more "local" forms of knowledge on which people normally and successfully rely. Scientists' failure to recognize those forms of knowledge-that come from, say, farmers' experience with their animals-was readily shown to be a source of resistance to science -led public policies. The specifically British origin of PUS has anchored the development of PUS studies in two respects. First, the UK is a relative latecomer to nationalized science policy. Until the establishment of national research funding councils in the 1 960s, the amateur ethic had prevailed in British science, at least as ideology. Science was funded fro m o r d i n a r y u n ivers ity c o ffe r s , p h i l a n t h r o p i c t r u s t s , a n d s o m e ­ times-though often reluctantly-industry. Traditionally lacking the political intimacy long present in Germany, France, Japan, and (after World War II) the U.S . , British scientists were accustomed to periodic campaigns for public support. Thus, PUS has a long prehistory in Faraday's experimental demon­ strations and Huxley's public lectures in the nineteenth century, as well as the more recent best-selling books by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. Indeed, the UK has the highest per capita readership of popular science books in the world. The urgency surrounding PUS in the late- 1980s was traceable to Margaret Thatcher's fiscal conservatism and the winding down of the Cold War, which together threatened to roll back the institutional gains that British science had made over the previous quarter-century. With the demise of the Soviet Union and the worldwide ascendancy of neo-liberal regimes, the rest of the world soon came to face a version of the UK's predicament. The second anchoring effect is the UK's historic aversion to formal public institutions. This has led PUS researchers to stress the sheer voicing of non­ scientific forms of knowledge at the expense of designing policy-making forums for integrating them with more scientific forms of knowledge. Seen idealistically, PUS has promoted what I called in the previous chapter a "secularization of science" that authorizes communities to adopt knowledge relevant to their specific needs and to register complaints when state-led scientific initiatives run roughshod over local interests. But seen cynically, PUS has enabled politicians to play off against different constituencies as they decide how best to win elections. The symbiosis of PUS's idealistic and cynical visions has led to the funding of much sociological research that has proved internationally influential, especially under the leadership of Brian Wynne at Lancaster University. Never­ theless, the overall political effects have been ambivalent: to be sure, scientists are now routinely questioned about the applicability of their research-and the levels of risk it carries-in specific contexts. Moreover, public consultation has become a regular feature of science policy making. At the same time, how­ ever, the public itself rarely participates in decision-making. On the contrary, the sphere of discretion available to politicians has widened, as they become adept at the various means of sampling public opinion, which predictably yield a variety of contradictory results, from which politicians may pick and


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mix as they see fit. The idea that different types o f input enable b etter decision-making makes sense only if the methods used to acquire the data provide interestingly different accesses to the population and if there is some clear procedure for integrating these diverse inputs. Otherwise, one is left sim­ ply with a lot of noisy data open to indefinite interpretation. Bad social science then becomes a cover for "politics as usual." This problem is exacerbated in cases involving science and technology because it is unclear what it would mean to "represent" public opinion on these matters. Consider a case in point: What exactly do lay people know that might be relevant to, say, "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely," to quote the title of a public consultation document that the UK's Department of the Environment circulated on the Internet in 200 I ? The most general and perhaps obvious answer is that people know the relationship between what they believe and what they consider feasible and desirable. ""'hen people object to a "scientifi­ cally well-founded" solution to a social problem, it is usually not due to igno­ rance of science or even disrespect for expertise. Rather, it is because people do not feel that their personal experience and capacity for independent judgment have been taken seriously in the policy process. In light of the above, close readers of "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" may be forgiven some skepticism about the British government's interest in substantial public involvement. Consider this statement of intent, taken from the executive summary: We want to inspire public confidence in the decisions and the way in which they are implemented. To do that, we have to demonstrate that all options are considered; that choices between them are made in a clear and logical way; that people's values and concerns are fully reflected in this process; and that information we provide is clear, accurate, unbi­ ased and complete. So we propose to set up a strong, independent and authoritative body to advise us on what information there is, what fur­ ther information is needed, and when enough information has been gathered for decisions to be made on how the UK's radioactive waste should be managed . . . After that, we can start a debate on where in the UK we should keep this waste in the long term. Chapters 5 and 6 of this document tells us that the "independent and authori­ tative body" will be chosen from established academic and corporate experts in nuclear waste management. This body will define the knowledge base and frame the disposal options to be considered by no less than fifteen forms of 'public engagement: ranging from Internet exchanges and telephone surveys to focus groups and consensus conferences (about which there is further dis­ cussion below). There are two major reasons for thinking that this proce dure will not "inspire public confidence." The first is that the public is not involved in constructing the knowledge base it needs for considering the disposal options.


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The public is precluded from seriously examining, say, how scientists come to conclude that a certain disposal option incurs a specific level of risk. Instead, the public is promised a thorough but unified display of expert knowledge on which to base its deliberations. Whatever disagreements exist among the experts will be presumably resolved or at least minimized before the public deliberates. The public will not be in a position to probe, let alone question, the differences b etween expert and lay understandings of nuclear waste disposal. The second reason is that the document includes nearly every form of public consultation without precommitting itself to the outcomes of any of them. The result is a democratic version of the Machiavellian "divide and conquer" strategy. When the public is allowed a wide berth for expressing opinions, a cacophony understandably results. Without a procedure for channeling the multiple viewpoints into a clear outcome, such as a straight vote, political leaders effectively have maximum discretion. Indeed, provided with enough forms of "public engagement;' the government should have no problem claiming some sort of public support for whatever policy it adopts. The solution is not cleverer techniques for surveying public opinion but new policy-making institutions that enable the public to deVelop its views about science and technology. The historic genius of democratic regimes rests on institutions that render the political whole more, not less, thal1 the sum of its citizen parts. Enter the consensus conference, which I have defended as a vehicle for public involvement in setting science and technology policy (Fuller 2002a, chap. 4). Consensus conferences are sometimes called "citizens' juries" or, more grandiosely, "experiments in deliberative democracy." A consensus conference normally has two phases. In the first, 1 0- 1 5 members o f the public are empowered to take testimony from various experts and interest groups. As in a court case, there is no prior collusion of witnesses to present the jury with a uniform account. Indeed, the citizen-jurors are encouraged to probe discrep­ ancies in expert testimony. In the second phase, the jurors deliberate among themselves to arrive at policy guidelines for legislation governing the issue. The jurors themselves draft the guidelines, as in a constitutional convention. The results are then turned over to the duly elected legislative body. A consensus conference is usually convened for 3-4 days, though the time may be spread across consecutive weekends, to allow for the citizen-jurors' other life commitments and to encourage their deliberating informally over the Internet. In addition, prior focus-group research may be needed to ensure that the consensus conference's remit is neither too broad nor too narrow. In 1 999, the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care estimated the cost of its recent consensus conference on genetic testing for common medical disorders at £20,000 (about US$3S,000 ) . Consensus conferences originated i n Germany and the U. S. i n the late1 960s. Originally, they aimed to devolve power to local communities on


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matters of direct concern to them (e.g., urban planning) and to demonstrate that ordinary people could make policy decisions at least as wise as those of their elected officials. However, since the mid- 1 980s, consensus conferences have served a third function, largely in response to the increasing relevance of biomedical and environmental issues to public policy. They have been forums for the engagement of expert and lay bodies of knowledges in what can o nly be described as "jurisdictional disputes": who knows more about how my body and my world work-medical doctors, government scientists, or me? Richard Sclove's Loka Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts, keeps a running count of the consensus c o n ferences that have been convened around the world: about 50 since 1 98 5 . Consensus conferences have been held in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, UK, and the U.S.A. Topics have included cloning, genetically modified foods, gene therapy, genetics research more generally, " The Information Society," and nuclear waste disposal. In one country, Denmark, consensus conferences are regularly convened whenever the p arliament is considering legislation relating to science and technolo gy. The resulting legislation is j ustified as having conformed to the guidelines set down in the consensus conference. Unlike van den D aele's technology assessment p anels, consensus conferences restrict the role of stakeholders to witnesses in a trial, the j urors for which would be members of the public who are not formally affiliated with any of the stakeholders. Of course, the citizen jurors may already enter the proceedings with strong views, but their livelihoods would not be directly affected by the prospect of changing their minds over the course of the consensus conference. The sociological presupposition here is that, on any given policy issue, most people are not so clearly and strongly aligned with a particular worldview that they are impervious to argument. This may b e especially true for issues relating t o science a n d technology whose impact across society is pervasive yet often indeterminate: for example, when it comes to prioritizing biomedical research on diseases that afflict different groups to varying degrees, how exactly would a citizen juror "vote her interest" if she has never suffered from the diseases? Not surprisingly, groups with the clearest views on such matters-stakeholder sufferers-can end up defining the terms of representation. Moreover, the much - decried " ignorance" of the public on matters o f science and technology i s a weakness only i f i t results i n closed-mindedness. But the appeal to a broad range of interest-group representatives as witnesses in consensus conferences is designed specifically to reveal the contested nature of the knowledge that the public allegedly lacks, which in turn forces confer­ ence p articipants to be b o th more vigilant and open - m inded, as they are encouraged that they can "make a difference." Of course, none of this guarantees that particular citizen-juror solutions will completely satisfy the


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stakeholders. But here the institutional legitimacy of the consensus conference would need to prevail over objections to its particular decisions. 10 count as an improvement over stakeholder panels, consensus conference outcomes must be binding on science and technology legislation, while at the same time allowing for the revision and even reversal of that legislation in the future, according to its consequences. It is worth observing that as general normative desiderata for institutional design, they raise questions about the ultimate desirability of, say, maintaining strong distinctions between scientific and indigenous knowledges, if the relevant knowledge-bearers shift their epistemic orientations by participating in consensus conferences. Much of what is diagnosed as antagonism toward science may really be alienation from the science policy-making process, which over time can be reified, with the help of intellectuals and other myth-makers, into a "positive" alternative epistemic identity, a so-called imagined community (Anderson 1 98 3 ) . Con­ sensus conferences are well positioned to reverse that pathological tendency. Experts have been consistently impressed by the seriousness with which consensus conference members have taken their assigned tasks and especially by the cogency of the resulting policy guidelines. To be sure, many citizen­ jurors begin with strongly held views about, say, the appropriate uses of genetics research. However, by the end of the conference, they come to distin­ guish between what they would allow for themselves or their families and what they would allow others to do. They may still never personally seek gene therapy, but now they can see why others might want do otherwise. Recogniz­ ing the difference between private and public interests is crucial for science policy in a liberal society. There will always be people whose value commit­ ments prevent them from supporting biomedical research or treatments that would, say, introduce an animal substance into a human body. The question is whether they would allow those with different commitments to do otherwise. Consensus conferences are crucibles for forging a sense of permissible differences from which the entire society may ultimately learn. Without this recognition, it is not clear how scientific innovations can acquire widespread democratic support. Every innovation begins life as a minority dissent that aims to change the norm. Yet, if everyone's voice is heard equally, then either the majority will drown out dissent or if there is no clear majority, the least offensive or "safest" policy will gather the most votes. Consensus conferences are designed specifically to counter the tendency of democracies to associate every new idea with the attempt by one interest group to gain advantage over the rest. A consensus conference should not be confused with a "town meeting" in which those with strong interests, both for and against a proposed policy, dominate the discussion and determine the outcome. Rather, as in ordinary jury selection, those empowered to decide policy are segregated from inter­ ested parties whose only role is to offer testimony. While the citizen-jurors often have strong personal views, these will be diverse and not necessarily


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connected to their livelihoods. Such are the conditions needed for collective deliberation. The fact that consensus conferences have been tried in so many countries-including ones lacking strong democratic traditions-suggests that science is not quite yet a "public thing," a res publica. So-called public­ understanding-of-science campaigns have succeeded in drumming up interest in science without necessarily providing outlets for expressing and applying that interest. The opposite responses of the u.S. and Europe to the introduc­ tion of genetically modified organisms into food production illustrate the problem. Without something like consensus conferences to focus collective thought and action, people will respond as either passive consumers or militant protesters. Neither constitutes an adequate public engagement with science. However, despite their impressive results, consensus conferences have not received the wholehearted support of either the natural or social scientific communities. Biomedical scientists, in particular, are often uncomfortable with the tendency of consensus conferences to blur the distinction between the conduct and application of scientific research. They argue that the public should determine how research is used, not how it is actually done. The argument is based both on scientists' fears for their own autonomy and con­ cerns about the state of lay knowledge of science. However, the line dividing research conduct and application is clearer in theory than in practice. When a consensus conference considers a matter like gene therapy or genetically modified foods, many issues arise that straddle the divide: How will the treat­ ments or products be tested before being made generally available? Which groups are most likely to be advantaged and disadvantaged from the develop­ ment of these treatments or products? In addressing these questions, the citizen­ jurors will of course take testimony from the relevant experts. Social scientists raise a somewhat subtler problem. They argue that science has "multiple publics;' each with its own set of interests. Moreover, the state of scientific research itself is subject to multiple interpretations and considerable uncertainty. A consensus conference cannot be expected to resolve all these differences into a single "public understanding of science" (Mittra 2004, chap. 5 ) . A historical perspective is useful in answering this objection. The advance of democracy has always been dogged by skepticism about the capacity of people with radically different viewpoints to flourish under a common frame­ work of government. For such skeptics, a democracy can exist only among the like-minded, not those whose interests are in constant tension. Thus, sociolo­ gists who study science today tend to privilege "local" forms of knowledge cul­ tivated by p articular communities over attempts-say, by the state o r industry-to impose a specifically "scientific" understanding o f things. Consensus conferences would appear to provide yet another opportunity for just this sort of imposition to occur. Ultimately, the answer to this objection is that the track record of legisla­ tures and constitutions is much more positive than the skeptics make out. On


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this matter, at least, Montesquieu trumps Rousseau, and Madison silences Jefferson. The consensus conference is simply the latest chapter in this history of democratic conflict management. Moreover, because science has become integral to everyone's life, now more than ever it needs to be incorporated into the ordinary mechanisms of government. Beyond merely dwelling on the "uncertainty" of scientific knowledge, consensus conferences can provide the basis for what legislatures do best, namely, conduct corrigible social experi­ ments, only this time on science itself. 32. The Prospects for Scientific Citizenship Today

Before Irwin ( 1 995 ), the expression "citizen-scientist" normally referred to an Enlightenment ideal exemplified by the U.S. founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who made contributions to science and tech­ nology alongside their political innovations. Like the classical Athenians, they associated the two activities as natural expressions of their liberty. (Perhaps the most lasting yet misunderstood legacy of this sensibility is Kant's concep­ tion of autonomy as involving a sense of self-determination that mirrors the divine determination of the cosmos.) Britain's American colonies provided an especially hospitable environment for this reinvention of civic republican virtue in the second half of the eighteenth century-especially when com­ pared to Britain itself (Commager 1978). A good case in point is the career of the philosophical chemist and noncon­ formist Christian Joseph Priestley whose Lunar Society of Birmingham brought together mechanics and ideologues in ways that the Royal Society had clearly prohibited in its charter (Uglow 2002) . Priestley was forced to emigrate to the United States after publicly siding with the French Revolution of 1 789 whose cause (he believed) was based on a sounder scientific understanding of human nature than its opponents.' (A good sense of what Priestley had in mind is that Jeremy Bentham soon thereafter declared he had derived from Priestley the utilitarian slogan "the greatest good for the greatest number.") Of course, today Priestley is mainly remembered as the person who failed to see that the "dephlogisticated air" he discovered amounted to oxygen, the element that spearheaded the "Chemical Revolution." As it turns out, Priestley's neme­ sis, Antoine Lavoisier, was guillotined in the Reign of Terror for being on what in France turned out to be the wrong side of the Revolution of 1 789. Lavoisier upheld a sense of political continuism analogous to Priestley's equally fatal sci­ entific continuism. The difference, of course, is that Lavoisier's "fatality" was in terms of his actual life, whereas Priestley's was in terms of his posthumous reputation. The inverse relationship of political and scientific progressiveness symbolized by the fates of Lavoisier and Priestley merits further study (White 200 1 , chap. 2). Nowadays "citizen science" can refer to at least two distinct senses of democratic knowledge production that are somewhat at odds with each other. On the one hand, citizen science may be designed to give credence to


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a form of "local knowledge" in spite of its lack of scientific credentials. This is desirable both as an expression of local identity and a methodological cor­ rective to the more abstract and general forms of knowledge pursued by pro­ fe s s i o n a l s c i e n ti fi c i n q u i r i e s . M u c h S T S w o r k r e l a t e d to " p ub l i c understanding o f science" would fall under this category (Irwin and Wynne 1 9 9 6 ) . Here one might think of the citizen scientist as potentially vetoing large-scale schemes as contradicting local experience. In any case, it would be clear that the political aim of citizen science is to retain a certain level of political autonomy. O n the other hand, a subtly different function of citizen science is to extend and deepen ordinary democratic franchise by giving voice to a group of people traditionally excluded from society-wide policy decisions in which science plays an increasing role. As in the case of consensus conferences, it is more important that the marginalized people participate in the decisions than that their views remain intact by the end of the process. Insofar as the consensus conference is a crucible for forging a more democratic society, it is expected that all parties will alter their views over the deliberations. It does not necessarily follow that they will reach a unanimous judgment-and in this respect "consensus conference" may be a misnomer. But this sense of citizen science implies that the mere fact that a form of knowledge is either "local" or '(scientific" does not make it intrinsically authoritative in political settings. Rather, the forum is itself a site for original knowledge production, one that aims to " sublate," in the old Hegelian j argon, the differences between the participants. This second, more ambitious sense of citizen- science would seem to require a special sort of training, one that has been addressed at a more gen­ eral level by the proponents of "strong democracy" (Barber 1 992). Neverthe­ less, the original science-based programs in public understanding of science were not really in the spirit of scientific citizenship because they did little to build the capacity to participate in science policy decision-making. But given that not everyone would have an opportunity to participate in consensus con­ ferences, even were they institutionalized in the normal science policy process, what can schools and universities to provide an appropriate education? A ver� sion of this question was first floated in the U. S. shortly after World War II when Harvard president James Bryant Conant called for the inclusion of sci­ ence connoisseurship as part of everyone's general education ( Fuller 2000b, chap. 4). As in art, people should learn how to spot the fakes, the worthies, as well as the occasional works of inspiration in science. Arguably it makes no sense to survey public opinion or convene citizens' j uries on science-based proposals, if people are not skilled in discriminating among these different possibilities. Conant's original proposal was ingenious. He saw the problems facing the evaluation of scaled-up "big science" as akin to those involved in appreciating "modern art" in a world used to conventional representational forms: How is


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it possible for a cultured public to see the achievements of Maxwell, Einstein, and Bohr embodied in a multimillion dollar particle accelerator? What enables neat mathematical equations to be translated into messy and danger­ ous machines? Both scientists and artists faced their own kind of revulsion from the public as they drastically altered their expressive media and percep­ tual horizons in the twentieth century (Miller 1 986, 200 1 ) . For Conant, the answer to these questions lay in everyone's learning about science's underlying historical logic-how the same patterns of reasoning play themselves out in different forms. The first modern historians of science-Thomas Kuhn and Gerald Holton-themselves acquired their first teaching experience imparting just this sense of connoisseurship in Conant's courses. Indeed, Conant himself invested such significance in these courses that he taught one of them-and Kuhn served as his teaching assistant. Unfortunately Conant's program was scrapped shortly after the Soviets launched Sputnik. Harvard then felt that the u.s. needed more scientists than science appreciators. Science connoisseurship is worth reviving today as part of general educa­ tion. Much of it could follow Conant's example of requiring courses in the history, philosophy and sociology of science. However, by taking advantage of current technology, a populist touch may also be added that would dispel the lingering elitism connoted in "connoisseurship." In particular, there is scope for a web-based "futures market" for science, whereby people would be encouraged to invest in shares of various science-based proposals. Science appreciation could thereby come to be acquired as a do-it-yourself pastime. The U.S. economist Robin Hanson ( 1 995) has pioneered this idea under the rubric of "ideas futures," a working version of which is "Celebdaq" (http:// www.bbc.co.uk/celebdaq), the virtual stock exchange associated with one of the BBC's new digital television channels. Every day thousands of people obsessed with celebrity culture invest play money in the fates of their favor­ ite stars. Shares rise and fall on the basis of information often provided by the players themselves. One conclusion that clearly emerges from this large-scale yet largely self-organizing social experiment is that people are motivated to learn about things in which they can establish a stake, even if only a virtual one. In that context, they are even willing to learn from their mistakes. Most of the official arguments against actively involving the public in sci­ ence policy turn on the b asic lack of public interest in the minutiae of research. People appear to trust scientists in general terms but begin to doubt their expertise when it bears on something they personally care about, such as genetically modified foods or animal experiments. But perhaps if people had the opportunity to engage with the full range of science policy making in a simulated market environment-as it were, treating science as one, big, ongo­ ing game-they would acquire the sorts of interests and competences that would make future "consultation exercises" in science policy more than the token gestures they currently are.


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33. Conclusion: Toward a Rhetorical Reclamation of Science

A "third way" to cultivate scientific citizenship between Conant's elitism and Celebdaq's populism is provided by the debating teams affiliated with Depart­ ments of Speech, Rhetoric, and Communication Studies across college campuses in the United States. Their grassroots initiatives were consolidated as the Science Policy Forum convened by the American Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology, or AARST, under the presidency of Social Epistemology's editor, Joan Leach in 1 998 (Mitchell and O'Donnell 2000) . The organizers, Gordon Mitchell and Timothy O'Donnell, were two experienced debate coaches, inspired by a challenge issued by a leading climate scientist for a public debate on the status of global warming. The scientist wanted the U.S. Congress to provide the venue, but Mitchell and O'Donnell translated his challenge into policy resolutions debated by high school students across America-from whose ranks intercollegiate debaters are typically drawn (somewhat like sports recruitment). These debates functioned as pilot studies or experimental simulations of the planned public debate at the Science Policy Forum. That debate brought together leading advocates of the two opposing sides over a resolution whose wording brought out the salient differences in their positions. The proceedings were subject to multiple media representa­ tions, forms of analysis, and channels of dissemination. The AARST Science Policy Forum is a good example of the practice of citizen science because Mitchell and O'Donnell managed to construct a res publica from people and materials that otherwise would have remained rhe­ torically disorganized: mere things were turned into public things. Indeed, they were engaging precisely in the business that the Sophists claimed to conduct in ancient Athens. Cynics may dismiss such an exercise as ultimately ineffectual in a political culture where issues like global warming are decided by legislators several degrees of separation from the rhetorical activists. (A sophisticated version of such cynicism is persuasively developed in Turner 2003.) However, the very activity of constructing public things sweeps up large numbers of people and ideas, transforming them into a whole greater than the sum of their parts, a movement that exerts pressure "from below." It is no less than the traditional argument for participatory democracy-not that it gener­ ates the best outcomes most efficiently but that it improves the level of soci­ ety's collective (not to mention individual) intelligence (Barber 1 992) . In this respect, the rhetorical activists engage in "democratic capacity-building." To be sure, the main obstacle to effective rhetorical activism in the case of global warming is the status of the activists as minor players in the U. S . Congressional arena. However, rhetorical activists have a better chance o f influencing aspects of governance devolved t o the level of individual states and localities. A striking feature of the United States-especially when compared to other developed countries-is the extent to which educational matters are decided locally. To the rest of the world, the institutional diversity that charac­ terizes primary, secondary, and tertiary education in the U.S. looks like the


Citizen Science . 175

one clear case in which the invisible hand actually works. (In fact, it is a by足 product of the founding fathers' interest in separating church from state so as to secure a secular polity. ) In contrast, most develop ed countries have a national education ministry that sets a common curriculum and, at the tertiary and sometimes even secondary level, administers entrance examinations that determine who goes to which school. The lack of centralization in American education means that there are more opportunities for rhetorical activism, especially in terms of constructing locally binding social experiments from which others, both inside and outside the locale, may learn and thereby raise the overall level of play in the public arena. The location of rhetoric departments is heavily biased toward parts of America with strong populist traditions-on both the Left (mostly Midwestern) and the Right (mostly Southeastern) of the political spectrum. This matters because the authority of science in the United States is so closely linked to Big Money from Big Government and, increasingly, Big Business-all obvious tar足 gets for populists. That the research agenda is still largely set in Washington (by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, etc.) yet the curriculum remains in local hands and makes a populist revolt almost inevitable over some aspect of science. The battle turns out to be fought over the content of biology textbooks because that is precisely where Big Science impinges on our very identity as human beings. The main recent player is the growing movement associated with "intelligent design theory," or IDT (Woodward 2003 ) . It would be difficult to point to another movement that in recent years has done so much to reclaim for public deliberation matters that had been previously ceded to technical expertise. To philosophers of science like Elliott Sober, IDT is old theistic wine poured into new scientistic bottles ( Fitelson, Stephens, and Sober 1 999) . However, to historians of science like Ronald Numbers ( 1 992), it is the new "big tent" for a variety of constituencies that have been disenfranchised by the neo-Darwinian synthesis. ( Until recently, Sober and Numbers were, respectively, the leading philosopher and historian of sci ence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a point that should interest those curious about the impact of creationism on publicly supported higher education.) It is b ecoming easier to explain IDT's progress without mentioning Christian fundamentalism or even creationism. As the debates over Darwin's hegemony increase in philosophical and scientific sophistication, references to Genesis are replaced by arguments drawn from probability theory (e.g., Dembski 1 99 8 ) and open questions about the classification of species (Gee 2000 ) . While no one pretends that IDT has scored a knockout punch against the neo-Darwinian synthesis, it has begun to shift the burden of proof back to Darwin. Indeed, as philosophers and scientists contest the latest versions of IDT, they reveal just how much the force of their own arguments depends on the presumption that IDT must outdo-not simply equal-Darwin in the explanatory sweepstakes (Fitelson, Stephens, and Sober 1999). This brings to


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light issues of epistemic fairness: Why must the pursuit of science be defined in such zero-sum terms whereby IDT supporters are required to convert card­ carrying Darwinists before achieving legitimacy? Do Darwinists really enjoy a state-licensed monopoly over biology? Such a presumption is probably the most pernicious legacy of Kuhn's theory of scientific change, which makes the existence of a single dominant p aradigm a necessary condition for science. A much more democratic and intellectually productive presumption is that where doubts remain over how best to explain something, alternative lines of inquiry should be promoted, especially if they would take what is currently known in significantly different directions. This tenet follows from the "secu­ larization of science" raised in the last chapter, which-as with the original Protestant Reformation-has unleashed a wave ofbiomedically driven science evangelism promising a knowledge that will set converts free ( Fuller 1 997, 60-62) . IDT may provide the template for further rhetorical activism in rela­ tion to science as research funding is devolved from federal agencies to local authorities and the private sector. The general argument strategy for reclaim­ ing science for public deliberation may take the following form. o o

o

Science is the publicly recognized authority on matters of knowledge. However, scientists claim that a large part of what much of the public believes is not only false but also not worthy of public discussion. These undiscussable matters include basic elements of people's self­ understanding and even self-worth, proscriptions against which then impede these people's ability to function in public affairs more gener­ ally. This is the legacy of Gnostic Scientism. Ergo, scientists are undermining the credibility of science as public knowledge.

The project of reclaiming the public character of science is not simply about re-seeding public interest in regions crowded out by creeping expertise. It also involves revealing new areas of public concern that are currently submerged beneath a watery rhetoric of expert consensus that exploits ambiguities latent in terms that are crucial to the involved parties. This strategy of submergence certainly applied to the neo-Darwinian synthesis whose intellectual achieve­ ment-based largely on some suggestive lab-based translations of the "genetic" method in natural history-is the envy of the social sciences. Here it is worth recalling that the biological and social sciences spawned roughly the same range of methods ( qualitative and quantitative) and theories ( micro and macro) over roughly the same period ( 1 85 0 to 1950). Yet, the respective fates of the two masterworks of synthesis-Theodosius Dobzhansky's Genetics and the O rigins of Species ( 1 9 3 7 ) and Tal c o t t Parsons' The Social System ( l 9 5 1 )-could not have been more different. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that the so-called paradigm associated with the neo-Darwinian synthesis consists of several well-articulated bodies of knowledge that are interrelated by the rules of logical deduction, as Newtonian mechanics is still


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sometimes portrayed. Rather, the "paradigm" is little more than an extended exercise in interdisciplinary diplomacy, where the parties realize that it is to their mutual advantage to emphasize agreement and downplay indifference or disagreement (Smocovitis 1 996; Ceccarelli 200 1 , chaps. 2-3 ) . However, some evolutionists have had the courage t o question the ultimate value of such interdisciplinary diplomacy. For example, in the previous chap­ ter, we considered Thomas Henry Huxley, who realized that Darwin's theory of natural selection sits uneasily with the normative imperatives of modern medical science, which stress the preservation and extension of human life regardless of cost. Huxley himself went so far as to urge that medical research­ ers replace the evolutionary ethic "survival of the fittest" with "to fit for sur­ vival." And despite sporadic attempts to forge a field of "Darwinian medicine" over the past century, the fields of evolutionary biology and biomedical science still only partially overlap in content and orientation ( Nesse and Williams 1 99 6 ) . Moreover, even within the core disciplines of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, old theoretical and methodological antagonisms between the labo­ ratory and the field, the part and the whole, continue to simmer, often coming to a boil on politicized matters concerning the promotion of human life through biotechnology, as in genetically modified organisms and animal experimentation. While both sides of both issues are prone to invoke Darwin to claim the moral high ground, it is not clear what either side in either issue gains epistemically in the process. Nicolas Rasmussen, a historian of twentieth-century biomedical science and the editor of the main STS reviews journal, brilliantly encapsulates the problem in a review of a book that Elliott Sober happened to title The

Philosophy of Biology. I know of no evolutionary biologists who would seriously claim that the theory they treat is the motor of all life science, at least not while other biologists are around. On the contrary, evolutionists sometimes seem to display anxiety that other biologists doubt that what they do-com­ puter programming, scuba diving, or butterfly catching instead of keep­ ing their noses to a laboratory grindstone-is really biology at all. One must keep in mind that the life sciences are not now, and never have been, theoretically, methodologically, or socially integrated to anywhere near the degree that the various branches of physics are. As a point of fact most biologists do not know, and do not need to know, much about evolutionary theory. It is unlikely that any of the life sciences deriving their basic logic from experimental physiology (including molecular genetics, classical genetics, biochemistry, pharmacology, etc. ) would have to change its ways substantially in a Lamarckian or even Creationist world. Anatomical fields (including cell biology, if it does not fall under the physiological) are just as theoretically independent, as is ecology, insofar as they concern themselves with short time frames. Arguably, even systematics and paleontology might go on much as before without


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evolutionary theory, provided some other non-Darwinian concept of relatedness (like pre-Darwinian Bauplan) were employed. Sober's book wants theoretical problems in evolution to look important, but applica­ tion of the pragmatist's criterion (what difference any of the things he discusses makes in practice to biology in general) would leave the issue much in doubt (Rasmussen 1 994, 57-58). Rasmussen underscores the point by observing that, even using liberal criteria, less than ten percent of the articles published in 1 989 in the j ournals included in Biological Abstracts were devoted to evolutionary theory. As a phenomenon of social epistemology, it is fairly obvious why evolution­ ary theory so monopolizes philosophers' attention as to distort their overall vision of biology. Evolutionary theory is the p art of biology that most conforms to a philosopher's stereotype of how science should be done: it aspires to a high level of generalization in which evidence gathered from many different sources by many different methods are somehow integrated-or rendered "consilient" in the old nineteenth- century term-into a single worldview. In that sense, the "doing" of evolutionary theory is abstracted from the conduct of ordinary empirical biological work. It typically involves the synthesizing of literatures and the modeling of objects, activities much more at home in the liberal arts faculty than either the laboratory or the field. More­ over, biologists who identify themselves as evolutionary theorists tend to assume an overarching normative role for their activities, ranging from, on the one hand, E. O. Wilson who exhorts his colleagues to work toward a grand sociobiological science to, on the other, Richard Lewontin who warns the very same colleagues not to stray from their special expertise, lest they fall victim to politically dubious knowledge claims. If "philosophers of biology" happen to prefer Lewontin's restrictive vision of the discipline to Wilson's more expan­ sive one, that may be only because the training of analytic philosophers in formal logic and critical modes of argument is much more like Lewontin's style of reasoning ( Segerstrale 2000, chap. 3 ) . Of course, one might have hoped that philosophers would be sufficiently reflexive to recognize the social epistemology of their predicament. But here one cannot underestimate the element of mutual flattery that the underlaboring relationship engenders between philosopher and scientist. Although most of contemporary biological research does not depend on the fate of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, one would be hard pressed to find biologists who openly disown the theory. After all, the value of the cross­ disciplinary evolutionary coalition of this strategy lies in the cultural clout it enjoys in the public sphere. In that case, the campaigner for citizen science has his or her work cut out-namely, to expose the latent ambiguities, uncertain­ ties, contradictions, and incoherences in the coalition. Why? Not to sow scientific discord for its own sake but to present the prospects for science as more open-ended than they appear when Darwinism is seen through rigidly crafted Kuhnian lenses as the foundation of a "paradigm:' The disciplines that


Citizen Science . 1 79

constitute the life sciences today hang loosely together and can be picked and mixed to form alternative research programs, none of which would spell the end to "civilization as we know it." However, some combinations would signif­ icantly realign the socio-epistemic status of disciplinary practitioners and their allies. Of course, STS researchers-even ones who are rhetorical activists-are not responsible for conjuring up alternative sciences whole cloth. Neverthe­ less, they should be adept at posing the telling question to a group of scientific experts that places their differences in open view and forces them to tell a more publicly accessible story of why we should take all-as opposed to just some-of them seriously. Since we cannot all become experts, experts must learn how to deal with all of us. Taking this injunction seriously would entail a rhetorical reclamation of science for the public sphere. Consensus conferences offer a clear institutional setting for this to happen. It would enable the reacti­ vation of the sophistic tradition that Plato is legendarily thought to have put to rest nearly 2,500 years ago when he had Socrates defend knowledge as a principle of social order ( Fuller and Collier 2004). At the moment, STS tends to be agnostic, if not outright dismissive, about the prospects of such a rhetorical reclamation. This attitude is often taken as emblematic of STS's epistemological skepticism. However, it would be more correct to diagnose it as political skepticism, a fundamental distrust in our ability to improve the human condition by designing better institutions. STS intends its "construc­ tivism" in a much more literal and less challenging sense than most philoso­ phers and scientists active in the Science Wars appear to realize. It is meant simply as a thesis about how science and technology have come to be as they are. Were STS researchers to live up to the philosophers' and scientists' worst fears and adopt a critical stance to how things have come to be as they are, we would then have Science Wars worth fighting-and a field worth defending.


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White, M.

Williams, B.

Baker Books.

1 988. Science: The Very Idea. London: Methuen. 1999. "The Accidental Creationist: Why Stephen Jay Gould is Bad for Evolution," The New Yorker, 13 December. Wuthnow, R. 1 989. Discourse Comm unities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Zea L. 1963. The Latin American Mind. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Zolo, D. 1992. Democracy and Complexity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Woolgar, S.

Wright, R.


Index

A

D

Actor- Network Theo ry, see a ls o Callon,

7, 39, 45, 58-67 Antirealism, 6, 1 1 , 35, 39, 43-4, 47, 99 Aristotle, 32, 42-3, 55-6, 69, 90, 129, 159 Athenian democracy, 7, 67, 80, 96, 128, 1 30, 157-60, 1 7 1 , 1 74 Ayer, A.J., 6, 43, 87, 89, 120 Latour,

48-9, 6 1 -2, 69, 83, 9 1 , 97, 126, 13 1-40, 147, 157, 175-8 Dawkins, Richard, 97, 1 00 , 1 32 , 1 34 , 1 3 9 , 149-50, 165 Durkheim, Emile, 13, 93-4, 133 Darwin, Charles,

E 30, I I I 63-4, 82, 89, 1 1 9, 1 73 Enlightenment, 9, 1 2 , 22-3, 75, 8 2 , 90, 93, 95-7, l l 2-13, l l 5- 1 6, 1 3 0, 1 3 8-9, 1 5 3 , 163, 1 7 1 Ethnographďż˝ 1 3 , 59, 67, 70- 1 , 77, 1 32 Ethnomethodology, 50, 52-3 Evolution, 32, 69, 74, 83, 91-2, l l 5, 120, 122, 1 24-6, 131, 1 33-6, 139, 142, Experiment, 24, 28, 42-4, 5 1 -2, 55-7, 59, 67, 69-70, 8 1-3, 92-4, 1 02-3, 1 05, 1 07-10, 1 1 8, 123, 129, 1 32, 139, 143, 165, 167, 1 7 1 , 1 73-5, 1 77 Expertise, 6, 46, 70, 80-2, 84, 86, 89, 92, 95, 97, 1 08-9, 1 1 7, 1 2 1-3, 1 30, 134, 1 57-62, 166-70, 1 73 Edinburgh School, see also Bloor,

B

Einstein, Albert,

Bergson, Henri,

56, 89, 9 1

Biology, see also Evolution,

26, 37, 3 9 , 4 1 , 7 1 , 74, 83, 93, 97, 1 1 5-16, 1 25-6, 133-9, 142, 145, 149-5 1 , 160, 1 75-8 Biotechnology, 97, 1 77 Bloor, David 6, 1 3 , 3 1 , 38-9, 56, 60, 63, l l l , 120, 162 c

39, 58, 65-6, 69, 124 1 8 , 20, 82, 86-9, 120

Calion, Michel S , Carnap, Rudolf,

Citizen Science, see also Consensus conferences, Public Understanding of Science,

127, 1 4 1 ,

157-79 8, 1 5 , 20, 25, 27, 34-5, 47, 67-9, 72, 74-5, 126-7, 132, 165 Collins, Harry, 15, 55, 58, 63, l l2, 121 Comte, Auguste, see also Positivism, 12, 55, 79-83, 86, 8 8 , 93, 95-7, 1 1 0, 1 1 3, 1 22 , 1 3 0 , 1 35, 155, 1 6 1 Consensus conferences, 19, 157, 164-72, 1 79 Constructivism, 1 1 , 16-17, 27, 32, 35-9, 43, 54-5, 6 1 , 67, 71-2, 99, 102, 108, 1 1 7, 1 1 9, 1 2 1 , 1 57, 1 79 Contract-based researc h ( ers ) , 7, 38, 67-8, 1 1 2, 127, 1 58 Creationism, 55, 9 1-2, 1 24, 126, 1 3 1-4, 1 37, 145, 1 75-7 Cultural Studies, 3, 8 8-9, 96, 9 8 , 1 03-4, 109- 1 1

Cold War, S,

F 23, 95, 107, 1 2 1 , 124 25, 57-8, 79, 102-8

Feyerabend, Paul, Fraud, research,

G 42-3, 62, 74, 106-7, 129 87, l l 5, 127-4 1 , 147, 176 Grounded theory, 30, 49-5 1 Galilei, Galileo,

Gnostic scientism,

H 16-18 1 , 109, 165 Hegel, G.w.F. , 1 2 , 3 6, 8 1 , 1 2 8, 1 3 0- 1 , 1 42 , 1 50, 172 Hacking, Ian,

Hawking, Stephen,

1 89


190

Index

7, 87, 89, 9 1 , 1 36 83, 120

Heidegger, Martin, Hempel, Carl,

J 4, 161 3-5, 8, 50, 57, 70, 72, 76, 88, 103, 105, 108-10, 1 77-8

J asanoff, Sheila,

Journals, scientific,

K Kant, Immanuel,

20, 32, 35-6, 49, 6 1 , 1 2 3 ,

142, 161, 1 7 1 5 1 , 70-1 1 1 , 1 3 , 1 7 , 20-8, 3 4 , 3 7 , 39-40, 42, 46, 73, 88, 9 1 , 100-1 , 1 1 8, 1 2 1 , 1 2 3 , 1 3 6 , 1 5 8 , 1 6 2 , 1 7 3 , 176, 1 78

Knorr-Cetina, Karin, Kuhn, T h o m a s ,

L 2 1 , 46, 56, 1 2 1 4-8, 13, 28-30, 38-9, 45, 50, 58-65, 70-1 , 93, 125, 137 Laudan, Larry, 14, 21, 47, 121 Leibniz, Gottfried von, 49, 59-6 1 , 100, 142, 147, 150

Lakatos, Imre,

Latour, Bruno,

M 58, 63, 80-8, 95, 138, 161 1 1 , 13-14, 1 7-2 1 , 29, 74 Marx, Karl, 1 2 , 1 8 , 3 3 , 65, 72, 76, 8 6-7, 8 9 , 1 2 0 , 1 2 8 , 1 3 0 , 1 3 3 , 1 3 6- 8 , 1 4 2 , 148-5 1 , 1 6 1 Merton, Robert, 1 4- 1 5 , 26, 49, 74-5, 77, 94, 1 1 9 Metaphysics, 2 1 , 24-5, 30, 43, 58-9, 8 1 , 86-7, 89, 91, 93, 99-100, 109-10, 1 1 8, 123, 1 34, 136, 142, 159 Methodology, STS research, see also Symmetry principle, 4, 7, 39, 6 1 , 83, 86, 9 1 -2, 1 07, 109, 1 1 1 , 120, 172, 1 77 Mill, John Stuart, 12, 47, 55, 65, 82, 84-5, 1 1 0, 130, 133, 140, 161 Mode 1 and 2 (knowledge production), 35, 67, 69-72 Mach, Ernst,

Mannheim, Karl,

N 1 05-6 1 1 , 29, 35, 48, 67, 7 1 , 1 1 7, 165 Neurath, Otto, 46, 81, 86-7, 120, 161 Newton, Isaac, 23, 48, 52, 60-1, 63, 69, 79-80, 82, 85, 8 8 , 90, 93-4, 96, 1 0 1 , 1 1 0- 1 1 , 1 1 9-20, 122, 129, 142, 152, 1 76 Nanotechnology, Neo-liberalism,

p

24-5, 3 3-4, 5 8 , 7 2 , 76, 1 0 0 , 103-7, 109, 1 6 1 Philosophy, analytic, 6-7, 2 7 , 4 6 , 56, 8 8 , 1 1 9, 140, 1 60-1 , 1 78 Philosophy, continental, 6-7, 90 Physics, 3, 14, 20, 27, 34, 37, 41-2, 46, 59, 64, �2-3, �5-6, 8�-9, 92-5, 9�-105, 109- 1 1 , 1 1 3-16, 1 1 8-2 1 , 1 26, 1 3 7, 1 42-3, 147, 153, 177 Plato, 1 1-12, 46, 55-6, 79-8 1 , 86, 96-7, 102, 1 0 7, 1 l 0 , 1 2 1 , 1 2 8-30, 1 3 3 , 1 4 1 , 1 5 7 , 159-61, 1 79 Polanyi, Michael, 25, 28, 7 1 , 74 Poppe� KarL 1 8-20, 23, 25, 32, 40, 46, 52, 56-7, 67, 74, 84, 86-7, 9 1 , 109, 1 1 9-20 Positivism, see also Comte, Mach, Vienna Circle, 6, 8-9, 1 1 , 14, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 40, 4 8 , 5 0 , 52, 5 5 , 5 8 , 76-7, 79-93, 9 5 , 97- 100, 1 08, 1 l 0, 1 1 2- 1 3 , 1 1 6, 1 1 9-23, 126, 130, 136, 157, 160-2 P o s t m o d e r n i s m , 8-9, 3 7 , 4 7 , 5 9, 6 2 , 7 9 , 87-9 1 , 93, 98-102, 104, 1 1 1-12, 1 15-16, 120, 122, 124, 127, 141-2, 149-50, 154 Progress, 2, 7, 9, 12, 30, 46-7, 53, 62, 73, 83, 8 8 , 92-3, 1 1 6, 1 24-6, 1 3 0 , 146, 1 53-5, 1 7 1 , 1 75 Public understanding of science (PUS), see also Citizen science, 2, 8, 1 1 0, 1 1 6, 1 36, 164-72 Puritanism, scientific, 90, 9 5 , 98, 1 1 5- 1 8 , 1 20-2, 126, 128, 149, 152, 155 Peer review,

R 1 , 7, 1 4- 1 5 , 1 7 , 19-20, 22-4, 28, 3 1 , 35-6, 46, 50, 59-60 , 70, 72, 82, 100, 102, 137, 143 Realism, 4, 16, 23, 35-7, 40, 43-4, 6 1 , 7 1 -2 , 98-9, 1 0 1 , 1 1 9 Re-enchantment of science, 8, 1 1 5, 1 22, 124 , 127-33, 153, 155 Relativism, 6, 1 1 - 1 2 , 30-2, 34-43, 47, 5 1 , 63-4, 87, 101, 1 1 9 Republicanism, Civic, 1 9 , 3 0 , 66-7, 8 0 , 127-8, 171 Revolutions, 12, 21-4, 26, 39, 4 1 , 59, 63-5, 74 , 79, 82, 85, 88, 9 1-2, 94, 96, 99, 1 0 1 , 1 1 6 , 1 19, 128, 130, 135-6, 148, 1 7 1 Rhetoric, 1 5 - 1 7 1 9, 21-2, 40, 42, 5 1-2, 70-1 , 75, 92, 98, 1 1 2, 1 1 8, 1 2 7 , 1 2 9-30, 1 3 6 , 145, 150-1, 1 55, 157, 159, 1 74-9 Rationalism, rationality,


Index . 1 9 1

s

T

see also Sokal, Alan; Sokal Hoax, 4, 6, 8-9, 1 1 , 16-17, 60, 7S, 79, 88, 93, 98, 1 0 1 , 104-S, 1 08, 1 1 1-13, l l S-22, 124, 141, 149, 1 52, 154, 179 Scientism, see also Gnostic scientism, 70,

Technology,

Science Wars,

1-4, 6, 8, 30, 33, 62, 67 , 70, 75, 86, 108, 1 1 5, 126, 157-8, 164, 1 66--9, 1 7 1 , 1 73-4, 179 Technoscience, 4-5, 28-9, 67-9 Theodicy, 97, 1 1 5, 141-53, 155

122-3, 152 8, 35, 54-5, 78, 83, 1 1 5-16, 1 22-8, 1 3 1 , 1 55, 165, 176 Skepticism, 1 , 6, 14, 4 1 , 43, 46, 5 1 , 55-6, 62, 68, 75, 79, 1 0 1 , 127, 133, 136-7, 155, 157, 160, 166, 170, 179 Social constructivism, see Constructivism Social epistemology, S , 15, 1 7, 23, 48, 5 1 , 55, 7 1 , 106, 1 1 3, 125, 160, 174, 1 78 Sociology of knowledge, 1 1- 1 8 , 20- 1 , 28-9, 49, 74 Sokal Hoax, see also Sokal, Alan, 58, 79, 88, 90, 96, 98, 102-4, 106, 108, 1 1 1-13 Sokal, Alan, see also Sokal Hoax, 3-4, 40-3, 60- 1 , 8 8-90, 9 3 , 9 5 , 9 8 - 1 0 0 , 1 0 2-6, 108-13, 1 1 8-19 Spencer, Herbert, 38, 6S, 82-3, 93-4, 1 2 2 , 136, 1 3 9 Symmetry principle, 5 , 20, 52, 64, 92, 106, 124--5

Secularization of science,

u Underlaborer,

5, 8, 45, 47-9, 178

v see also Ayer, Carnap, Hempel, 20, 58, 79, 8 1 -4, 86-8, 1 19-20, 161

Vienna Circle,

Neurath, Popper, Wittgenstein,

w

23, 84, 87, 9 1 , 95, 1 2 1-2, 124, 126, 133, 138, 1 4 1-6, 152, 154, 1 58--9, 161 Weinberg, Steven, 95-6, 99-102, l l 8 Wilson, E.O., 97, 135, 137, 147, 178 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 30, 4 1 , 46, 56, 60. S4 86, 99 Weber, Max,


The philosophy of science and technology studies