11/7/11

Science in Action

Latour, Bruno. Science in Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. Print.

Passage 1:

“In my anatomy of scientific rhetoric I keep shifting from the isolated reader confronted by a technical document to the isolated author launching his document amidst a swarm of dissenting or indifferent readers. This is because the situation is symmetrical: if isolated, the author should find new resources to convince readers; if he or she succeeds then each reader is totally isolated by a scientific article that links itself to masses of new resources. In practice, there is only one reversible situation, which is just the opposite of that described by Galileo: how to be 2000 against one.” (page 50)

Comment/Question:

Almost as easily as Galileo proposed it, the isolated reader can look up the literature on the point and find support for his/her dissenting views. Do you feel that Latour is ignoring the phenomena of the paradigm shift in the scientific revolution as Thomas Kuhn describes it?

(Of course, later, Latour addresses this (page 94) by pointing out that Nature is at the disposal of the dissenter and, “[a]ny dissenter has got a chance”.)

Passage 2:

“If you dispute further and reach the frontier where facts are made, instruments become visible and with them the cost of continuing the discussion arises. It appears that arguing is costly.” (page 69)

Comment/Question:

My thoughts: this follows from the phenomena of education and resources being costly and leads to the discussion of the politics behind the funding of science and the issues surrounding science education. I see here the intersection of science and politics (and religion). Also, I see this as a question of value in our culture. Do you see the question and debate surrounding the allocation of resources for scientific research (and/or science education) as a question of value? The point of the scientific method is so the general public can “trust” (to a point), what scientists do, as we all don’t have the resources. This is also leads to the debate over where the money comes from. If “we” are the government, then that speaks to my point about being able to let the scientists go about their business and trust the peer review process. On the other hand, when science (especially the controversial sort) is funded by outside agencies, do more questions arise as to motivations, as opposed to government-funded operations, or less?

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