Cover image for Cultural boundaries of science : credibility on the line
Title:
Cultural boundaries of science : credibility on the line
Author:
Gieryn, Thomas F.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
xiv, 398 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226292618

9780226292625
Format :
Book

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Central Library Q175.5 .G54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Why is science so credible? Usual answers center on scientists' objective methods or their powerful instruments. In his new book, Thomas Gieryn argues that a better explanation for the cultural authority of science lies downstream, when scientific claims leave laboratories and enter courtrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms. On such occasions, we use "maps" to decide who to believe--cultural maps demarcating "science" from pseudoscience, ideology, faith, or nonsense.

Gieryn looks at episodes of boundary-work: Was phrenology good science? How about cold fusion? Is social science really scientific? Is organic farming? After centuries of disputes like these, Gieryn finds no stable criteria that absolutely distinguish science from non-science. Science remains a pliable cultural space, flexibly reshaped to claim credibility for some beliefs while denying it to others. In a timely epilogue, Gieryn finds this same controversy at the heart of the raging "science wars."





Summary

Why is science so credible? Usual answers center on scientists' objective methods or their powerful instruments. In his new book, Thomas Gieryn argues that a better explanation for the cultural authority of science lies downstream, when scientific claims leave laboratories and enter courtrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms. On such occasions, we use "maps" to decide who to believe--cultural maps demarcating "science" from pseudoscience, ideology, faith, or nonsense.

Gieryn looks at episodes of boundary-work: Was phrenology good science? How about cold fusion? Is social science really scientific? Is organic farming? After centuries of disputes like these, Gieryn finds no stable criteria that absolutely distinguish science from non-science. Science remains a pliable cultural space, flexibly reshaped to claim credibility for some beliefs while denying it to others. In a timely epilogue, Gieryn finds this same controversy at the heart of the raging "science wars."





Author Notes

Thomas F. Gieryn is professor of sociology at Indiana University. He is the editor of three books, most recently of Theories of Science in Society .


Thomas F. Gieryn is professor of sociology at Indiana University. He is the editor of three books, most recently of Theories of Science in Society .


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

With their particle accelerators and their complex formulas, modern scientists command respect as objective authorities on natural law. But five historical case studies provide Gieryn with evidence that science has acquired its authority through cultural processes not reducible to differential calculus. Only through these social processes--confrontation, debate, education--could nineteenth-century Scotland finally draw a boundary around science that excluded phrenology. In the same way, twentieth-century America could not declare the would-be discoverers of cold fusion to be frauds until after a national controversy involving journalists as well as physicists. And in chronicling this century's congressional debates over the status of social research, Gieryn illustrates how the definition of science can shift, depending on the objectives of its practitioners and supporters. Disputes over how such shifts occur have ignited "the science wars" still raging within academe. As a sometimes-reluctant participant in these wars, Gieryn offers a balanced perspective on what is at stake. His analysis will significantly enlarge public understanding of how science shapes--and is shaped by--our culture. --Bryce Christensen


Booklist Review

With their particle accelerators and their complex formulas, modern scientists command respect as objective authorities on natural law. But five historical case studies provide Gieryn with evidence that science has acquired its authority through cultural processes not reducible to differential calculus. Only through these social processes--confrontation, debate, education--could nineteenth-century Scotland finally draw a boundary around science that excluded phrenology. In the same way, twentieth-century America could not declare the would-be discoverers of cold fusion to be frauds until after a national controversy involving journalists as well as physicists. And in chronicling this century's congressional debates over the status of social research, Gieryn illustrates how the definition of science can shift, depending on the objectives of its practitioners and supporters. Disputes over how such shifts occur have ignited "the science wars" still raging within academe. As a sometimes-reluctant participant in these wars, Gieryn offers a balanced perspective on what is at stake. His analysis will significantly enlarge public understanding of how science shapes--and is shaped by--our culture. --Bryce Christensen


Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction Contesting Credibility Cartographically
1 John Tyndall's Double Boundary-Work: Science, Religion, and Mechanics in Victorian England
2 The U.S. Congress Demarcates Natural Science and Social Science (Twice)
3 May the Best Science Win: Competition for the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, 1836
4 The (Cold) Fusion of Science, Mass Media, and Politics
5 Hybridizing Credibilities: Albert and Gabrielle Howard Compost Organic Waste, Science, and the Rest of Society Epilogue Home to Roost "Science Wars" as Boundary-Work
Bibliography of Secondary Works
Index
Preface
Introduction Contesting Credibility Cartographically
1 John Tyndall's Double Boundary-Work: Science, Religion, and Mechanics in Victorian England
2 The U.S. Congress Demarcates Natural Science and Social Science (Twice)
3 May the Best Science Win: Competition for the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, 1836
4 The (Cold) Fusion of Science, Mass Media, and Politics
5 Hybridizing Credibilities: Albert and Gabrielle Howard Compost Organic Waste, Science, and the Rest of Society Epilogue Home to Roost "Science Wars" as Boundary-Work
Bibliography of Secondary Works
Index

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