Team 1 Synthesis

Critique among students in Virginia Tech's Spring 2013 STS course on the Normative of chapters 10 – 12 of Jerome Ravetz's Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems focused on his characterization of the natural sciences as the sole purveyors of science and the social sciences as being immature sciences at best and folk sciences or pseudosciences at worst. We agreed that the social sciences could be as important as the natural sciences, however, we also did agree with Ravetz that they may benefit from exploring other methods of drawing conclusions rather than relying upon statistical experimental methods. Noting that Ravetz assumed that science contributed to progress, we wondered why he did not explore whether progress is actually science's aim or whether progress even exists. Furthermore, did Ravetz idealize an earlier era of scientists as being more concerned with creating new knowledge than are current scientists?

Largely, however, we could not conceive of “science” as being or becoming radically different from what Ravetz describes and prescribes, for if many of the factors he elucidates no longer played any role, would science remain scientific? Would science then be something other than science? Fpr us, the following factors seemed to remain integral to science: Science is a social activity. Science becomes science by processes of group laboratory work, apprenticeships, and peer review. Science is a craft activity and largely can be learned through working with a master scientist and thereby developing tacit knowledge. Despite our concern with Ravetz's unflattering characterization of the social sciences, we recognized the split in method of inquiry and result between natural and social sciences. The latter does not lend itself as readily to experiment or modeling. We also were concerned that scientific practices have become the standard to which other fields aspire, even with scientific methods do not suit the kind of knowledge created in those fields. Last but not least, we discussed how science may remain scientific if it seeks to serve the public; one solution may be for scientists to develop an awareness of their ideological commitments. Last but least, science cannot rest on its laurels; scientists should be critical of their own work and always be questioning.

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