Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) – Finale

Contributed by William Walter Kay ©2022

Final installment of William Kay’s review of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. See previous posts on our blog.

Scientists are no more honest than other professionals. Statements made by lawyers or journalists are not automatically accepted as true simply because their professions value honesty.

Science bears the agendas of its authors. Scientists occupy unique, ideology-generating, social positions. Their ideological distortions result in false, incomplete, and insufficiently grounded scientific beliefs. These beliefs, certainly regarding controversial science, legitimize specific policy agendas.

Scientific knowledge production is tethered to politically dominant groups that scientists are, or aspire to be, members of. The scientific intelligentsia exercise culturally hegemonic functions delegated to them by ruling circles. Regarding controversial science any talk of autonomy or objectivity is simply propaganda. When such scientists evaluate their own knowledge claims, they invariably uphold them.

An authentic Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) would attach itself to emancipatory social movements committed to formulating and spreading useful, common sense, non-institutionally framed, information.

SSK should inform the public about science in everyday language. SSK should use contextualization to de-mystify science. SSK should tell the public that obscurantism’s function is to hide contradictions and shield formulae that fail to correlate with reality. SSK should question the extent to which scientists actually grasp the complexity of the phenomena they study.

A fully operationalised SSK would be: forensic; power-critical; biased against the status quo; unconcerned with its academic reputation; and, keen to discuss how scientific knowledge production serves certain interests while excluding others.
SSK should be science’s auditors. SSK evaluations should perform an essential service of democratic oversight.

1 Comment

  1. Howard Dewhirst

    What is proposed here may apply to a percentage of ‘scientists’, even to the mass, run of the mill type, of which I am one, but by no means all. When Max Planck asserted that ‘the energy of radiation is given out by a radiating body discontinuously, in definite fixed amounts or quanta, these being proportional to the frequency of the vibrations.’ he was not ‘tethered to politically dominant groups’ and had no other agenda but to resolve a scientific quandry which had long puzzled many other like himself. There are thousands of scientists like Planck, who are more honest than most of us, and who carry us on their backs

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