Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.


Steve Fuller, University of Pittsburgh

The emerging field of "science studies" has finally reached a field
of public visibility. Indeed, it is perceived as a threat to the
future of science. Two prominent works of science popularization --
Steven Weinberg's _Dreams of a final theory_ and Lewis Wolpert's
_The Unnatural nature of science_ -- devote entire chapters to
describing and criticizing science studies. While neither Weinberg
nor Wolpert believe that science studies will warp the minds of
scientists, they do believe that it can have an unsavory influence
on science policymakers who are looking for excuses to trim down
expensive science. I examine the arguments that Weinberg and
Wolpert make on behalf of science and against science studies, with
an eye toward turning their charges into an opportunity for public
debate about the future of science. I especially focus on how
Weinberg and Wolpert mobilize the history of science for their
purposes, and their implicit notions of the "scientific mind" and
what constitutes a "rational" attitude toward science. One notable
feature of their critiques is that they put positivist philosophy
of science and relativist sociology of science -- normally at
loggerheads with one another -- in the same boat as opponents to
the idea that scientists should set the course of their own


Steve Fuller

Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the
Fundamental Laws of Nature (New York: Pantheon, 1992), xi + 334
pp., $25.00. ISBN 0-679-41923-3.

Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science: Why Science Does
Not Make (Common) Sense (London: Faber & Faber Ltd, 1992), xiv +
191 pp.,  14.99/$22.95. ISBN 0-571-16490-0.

These two prominent works of science popularization demonstrate
that something called "science studies" has now acquired a
recognizable voice in the general intellectual discourse that helps
shape public opinion and policy. It should come as no surprise
that the field is portrayed in these two books as a kind of
organized opposition within the academy to right-minded thinking
about science. In that case, science studies practitioners now have
an opportunity, or at least an excuse, to enter the larger public
discourse. At first, this may be with an eye toward correcting the
misperceptions that the likes of Weinberg and Wolpert purvey about
our field, but in the process we may shed some productive light on
the appropriate ways of talking about -- and talking for -- science
in civil society. For a striking point of convergence between
Weinberg's and Wolpert's accounts of science studies is that
inspite of their belief that science studies is unlikely to affect
the thinking of practicing scientists, they worry that our field
may well have a dangerous effect on the thinking of nonscientists
who make science policy. Indeed, this concern seems to have partly
motivated the writing of both books.
   Weinberg and Wolpert are accomplished science popularizers,
though they represent two quite different routes to the genre.
Weinberg, a front-line American theoretical physicist, shared a
Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for unifying two fundamental forces
of nature, electromagnetism and the so-called weak nuclear force.
Since moving from Harvard to the University of Texas, Weinberg has
been among the most distinguished and persistent supporters of the
Superconducting Supercollider, that 53-mile underground particle
accelerator, whose $10 billion (and growing) pricetag has been the
focus of many recent fights on the floor of the United States
Congress. The timing of Dreams of a Final Theory is not lost on its
author, who devotes the final chapter of the book, "Down in Ellis
County," to a meditation on the possible benefits of the
Supercollider to the decidedly unscientific citizens of Waxahachie,
Texas, in whose backyard this massive scientific instrument would
be built.
   In contrast to Weinberg, Wolpert has had a broader-based, more
applied, and less distinguished career in science. He is currently
"Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine" at University
College, London, after having worked for several years as a civil
engineer in South Africa. Although Wolpert explicitly retains the
idea that physics is the clearest case of science, his most worked-
out examples of scientific research come from the annals of cell
biology and embryology -- though rarely from any work that he
himself has done.
   Whereas Weinberg writes as a scientific native -- so much so
that it sometimes seems that all of recent physics has crossed his
blackboard at some point -- Wolpert conveys more of the air of a
cicerone who is clearly knowledgeable about the artifacts on
display but, equally clearly, not their designer. Consequently,
unlike Weinberg's literary gravitas, which may strike the reader as
bordering on the self-important, Wolpert's prose is sprightly,
always with clear targets in sight. Yet, despite their different
points of departure, Weinberg and Wolpert find the thing called
"science studies" sufficiently threatening to the public reception
of science that each devotes his most polemical chapter to putting
down its claims.

When Positivism Is As Big a Threat to Science As Relativism
The most initially striking feature of the attack mounted by our
two authors is not its actual portrayal of science studies, which
could have been worse than it is, but the cast of characters who
are taken to be playing on "our" side. To hear Weinberg and Wolpert
talk about "science studies," positivist philosophy of science is
just as much a threat to the conduct of inquiry as relativist
sociology of science. In fact, a reader who knew little of either
philosophy or sociology would come away with the impression that
they were simply alternative strategies for undermining the
credibility of science -- or, more precisely, scientists. For even
though Weinberg and Wolpert pay lip service to the conceptual
distinction between scientists and the science they produce, their
instinctive response to any perceived attack on scientists is to
appeal to the peculiar nature of scientific knowledge as demanding
behaviors and skills not normally exhibited by the rest of society.
   Of course, philosophers and sociologists have quite different
ways of challenging the peculiarity of scientific knowledge.
Indeed, at least in the pages of this journal, they spend most of
their time reminding each other of that fact. But to appreciate the
source of our two authors' fears, we must examine the sinister
similarities they sense. Philosophers have pointed to the
possibility -- if not the actuality -- of a fully articulated
method that would allow anyone to test a given scientific
hypothesis. The attempts to computerize scientific reasoning
championed by Herbert Simon and his followers take this tendency to
its logical conclusion -- and, not surprisingly, Wolpert is quick
to deny the validity of their efforts.  Concomitant with the
philosophical stress on method is a devaluation of the scientist's
creative powers. These are relegated to the "serendipitous,"
"irrational," or "random" character of the so-called context of
discovery, which lacks cognitive significance for the larger
scientific community until such creative urges are translated into
a publicly accessible language of "testing" and "justification." On
this account of the philosophy of science, sociologists would seem
to be quibbling only over details: Does the scientist need to
justify her claim to some unspecified universe of perfectly
rational agents or simply to specific communities of imperfectly
rational agents?  Take your pick: The autonomy of the creative
intellect is denied in either case.
   Wolpert and Weinberg are extravagant in their attempts to
demonstrate the distinctiveness of the scientific mind. But Wolpert
is probably the more extravagant because he claims to be capturing
a generic distinction between scientists and nonscientists,
whereas Weinberg typically waxes only about the thought processes
of elite scientists such as himself and his friends. However, the
reader can judge a couple of examples for herself. Here is Wolpert:
    Research into how people reason about complex issues of
    genuine importance such as crime and unemployment again
    emphasizes the difference between common-sense thinking
    and more formal scientific thinking. At the extremes
    there are two very different attitudes toward knowledge.
    One pole is the comfortable ignorance of never having
    considered that things could be otherwise; the other is
    continual self-aware evaluation of the evidence and
    subsequent modificiation of views.... Only a minority
    (about 15 percent) to appear to have the latter capacity
    but scientists -- even though they may not like to --
    have to adopt this approach.
Two points tell against this outrageous comparison. First, in what
he would no doubt consider a regression to common-sense modes of
thought, Wolpert manages to cite much of the cognitive psychology
literature that speaks to the limitations and biases of ordinary
reasoners, while he conveniently fails to mention that the same
shortcomings have been identified in "experts" whose training was
supposed to have remedied them.  Second, what Wolpert takes to be
the mark of the typical scientific mind -- the ability to consider
that things could have been otherwise -- is the exact opposite of
what Weinberg finds attractive about the most elite forms of
scientific thinking, namely, the prospect of producing a maximally
rigid theory, one whose parts could not have been otherwise. Such
a theory Weinberg deems "beautiful":
    In listening to a piece of music or hearing a sonnet one
    sometimes feels an intense aesthetic pleasure at the
    sense that nothing in the work could be changed, that
    there is not one note or one word that you want to have
    different....The same is partly true (it is never more
    than partly true) of general relativity. Once you know
    the general physical principles adopted by Einstein, you
    understand that there is no other significantly different
    theory of gravitation to which Einstein could have been
    led. As Einstein said of general relativity, "The chief
    attraction of the theory lies in its logical
    completeness. If a single one of the conclusions drawn
    from it proves wrong, it must be given up; to modify it
    without destroying the whole structure seems to be
Weinberg goes on to observe that Newtonian mechanics lacks this
sense of "logical inevitability," which partly explains why it was
eventually superseded. Of course, more mundane, sociologically
inspired accounts could be given for why the physics of the very
big (general relativity) and the very small (quantum mechanics)
seem to be pointing in the same direction these days -- and I shall
consider one of these below.

The Harder the Science, the Easier the Argument
Lest I leave the impression that Wolpert and Weinberg hold views of
the scientific mind that are completely at odds with one another,
it is worth noting that Wolpert comes around to Weinberg's position
-- at least temporarily -- when he staves off relativist claims
that science could have developed in some other, perhaps preferable
fashion from the way it has. Although the individual scientific
mind may be a great juggler of alternative hypotheses, the
collective effort of science appears pointed in a single direction.
Consider Wolpert's argument:
    In my view science, despite blips and errors, more and
    more provides an understanding of the world. There is one
    argument that may be persuasive -- the role of
    mathematics. The quantitative aspect of science is
    fundamental. Probably even the most ardent relativists do
    not believe that mathematics is a social construct. Yet
    some parts of mathematics -- often from unexpected areas
    -- provide essential tools for describing particular
    phenomena. One cannot imagine a science of motion, a
    successful science, that does not rely on the calculus.
    If the relativists wish to persuade us of social
    constructs, they will have to provide, at the least,
    major counterexamples.
Putting aside Wolpert's apparent ignorance of what made the Strong
Programme in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge seem so "strong"
to its followers, he fails to appreciate what the relativists
take to be compelling about their case for the non-uniqueness of
contemporary science. It is not the mere logical possibility of an
alternative science radically disjoint from our own; rather, what
compels is that contemporary science is merely the product of
following one of several paths that had been equally open at an
earlier point in our own history. These "paths not taken" can be
recovered either by returning to the relevant turning point in
history (as in Shapin and Schaffer's Leviathan and the Air Pump) or
by exploiting ambiguities in contemporary scientific practice that
point to alternative interpretations of what it means to do science
(as in Collins and Pinch's studies of the "scientific" status of
parapsychology experiments).
   This sense of alternative science applies no less to the
history of mathematics. Unless Wolpert wishes simply to beg the
question about the necessity of mathematics to science -- by
building a certain conception of mathematics into the very
definition of science -- he would have to admit that the relevance
of mathematics has been contested at several different levels
throughout the history of science. Consider these two sites of
    (1) How exactly does one demarcate mathematical from non-
    mathematical forms of reasoning? Plato and Pythagoras are
    traditionally credited with the idea that mathematics is
    no mere calculational convenience, but inherent in the
    nature of things. However, most of what they called
    "mathematics" was in fact reasoning in ratios, which to
    today's eyes look more like such literary modes of
    expression as analogy and metaphor. In that case, when
    was the break with the literary made -- if at all?  This
    question becomes especially vexed, once we introduce the
    claims of Hobbes, Bentham, and most contemporary
    economists and cognitive scientists, all of whom believe
    not only in calculability of things human, but also in
    our ability to calculate as itself the essence of
    (2) Even granting the autonomy of mathematical from non-
    mathematical forms of reasoning, what form of mathematics
    is necessary for the conduct of scientific inquiry?  Do
    absolute magnitudes expressed by real numbers need to be
    pinned to the objects of science, as Platonists have
    traditionally claimed? Or is the Platonic preoccupation
    with numbers just so much notational fetishism that
    obscures the underlying set-theoretic relations of
    inclusion, exclusion, and exchange that are, in turn,
    rooted in mundane material practices?
By tying the stability of science too closely with the formality of
mathematics, Wolpert and Weinberg overlook that mathematical
reasoning has historically accrued several divergent
interpretations, each of which has had profound implications for
what counts as permissible mathematical developments or
applications. In particular, our two authors fail to see that
such "interpretive flexibility" actually increases with a greater
formalization in thought, as formalized thought acquires the
character of an abstract technology adaptable to multiple ends --
a point that Wolpert himself subliminally acknowledges when he
calls parts of mathematics "essential tools" for science.
   Once mathematics is admitted as an abstract technology, one of
Wolpert's intutively strongest arguments for the unnaturalness of
science falls by the wayside. Wolpert latches on to the Popperian
doctrine (as developed by Ernest Gellner) that knowledge gained for
purely instrumental purposes tends to preempt further inquiry, as
the community that constructs a successful technology will tend to
jealously guard its uses, which, in turn, limits the possibilities
for the critical transformation of that technology. According to
Popper, science arose when people began to think about the
significance of technologies not always producing the desired
results, especially as they were extended to new domains.
Presumably, the technologies in question had to work sufficiently
well to yield the surplus needed to support the leisure of these
early scientists -- but not so well that the question of fit
between technique and nature would never have occurred as a topic
for inquiry.  Thus history happened upon what has been called
"the Miracle of the Greeks," or "Thales's leap," as Wolpert dubs
it. Indeed, for all their other disagreements, a major point of
convergence among Wolpert, the Popperians, and the few Marxists who
respect the science-technology distinction is that science emerged
as a spinoff from the factors of production and has been sustained
only insofar as it has not had to contribute directly to the
production of wealth. Of course, the Marxists who adhere to this
history do not draw the same positive conclusions about the social
character of science that Wolpert and the Popperians do. After all,
one ideology's image of autonomous inquirers can be easily turned
into another's image of parasitic elites.
   But how would our attitudes toward science change, were we to
learn that, as a matter of fact, so-called pure scientific inquiry
did not emerge by becoming detached from the material conditions of
life, but rather was itself an opportunistic way of coping with
those very conditions?  After all, the early Greek scientists --
the pre-Socratic philosophers -- typically did not enjoy the
stipends of Egyptian, Persian, and Indian bureaucrats, for whom
"technology" was coextensive with the state apparatus itself. In
these instances of what Marx called the "Oriental Mode of

Production," the bureaucrats had no motivation to articulate

abstract physical principles that enabled, say, elaborate

irrigation systems to work, because they had no interest in selling
those principles so that other states could erect similar systems
of their own. Rather, the bureaucrats could only envisage extending
their own system to neighboring lands, making local adjustments to
the technology where needed -- with no clear line drawn between the
physical and political dimensions of these adjustments.
   For their part, the freelancing Greeks appeared attractive as
outside consultants by offering the hope that lesser states could
improve their political situation by following their advice. Thus,
they had to persuade clients that there was a form of knowledge,
access to which did not depend on investing enormous amounts of
time and labor in a particular technology. In other words, they had
to conjure up Latourian "immutable mobiles," namely, concepts that
travelled well as the Greeks themselves moved from one venue to the
next. Elementary principles of geometry, astronomy, hydraulics, and
mechanics fit the bill well. From these entrepreneurial instincts
arose, then, the prototype for the abstract physical principles
that are so distinctive of science. The beauty of this account, of
course, is that it rejects a view of the early history of science
promoted by Wolpert and so many others -- namely, that the
Sophists, and perhaps even Socrates and Plato, marked a turn away
from an interest in science to an interest in politics.  On the
contrary, the key role played by entrepreneurship marks Thales and
Protagoras as kindred spirits who merely differed in the markets
where they plied their wares.

Diagnoses Rampant, or Will the Real Relativist Please Stand Up!
Among the more amusing yet instructive moments in the two books
under review are when their authors speculate on why science
studies practitioners fail to respect the epistemic uniqueness of
science. First Wolpert:
    In a sense, all science aspires to be like physics, and
    physics aspires to be like mathematics. But too great an
    aspiration can lead to frustration....what hope is there
    for sociology acquiring a physics-like lustre? ...It is
    thus not surprising that, as Howard Newby, chairman of
    the Economic and Social Research Council, put it, because
    of their 'massive inferiority complex' social scientists
    have 'descended with glee on those who have successfully
    demystified the official credo of science and who have
    sought to demonstrate that science is but one means of
    creating knowledge'. For them it then becomes quite
    unncessary to have to try to emulate traditional
The problem with this diagnosis is that it misreads the recent
history of social sciences and, as a result, overestimates the
popularity of science studies among social scientists. In
particular, Wolpert overlooks the clearest legacy of Kuhn's
Structure of Scientific Revolutions to the social sciences: namely,
to inform its practitioners that they too could constitute
themselves as sciences by rallying around a "paradigm" and
proceeding along the path of "normal science."  Having finally
discovered the secret of true science, most mainstream social
scientists have remained ill-disposed to any subversive conclusions
that science studies practitioners might draw from Kuhn's work.
In particular, they have resisted the conclusion that by making
more disciplines eligible to become sciences, Kuhn unwittingly
diminished the sociocognitive advantage of being a science. Had
social scientists (and even some humanists) not been successful in
using Kuhn's theory to enhance their academic legitimacy, they
would probably be more receptive to science studies.  But as it
stands now, one witnesses the spectacle of the most distinguished
and erudite sociological theorist in the English-speaking world
(Anthony Giddens) feigning both ignorance and disinterest in the
epistemological issues raised by science studies -- as if to raise
such "reflexive" issues would be to undermine the legitimacy of his
own project.
   For his part, Weinberg countenances a broader and more
interesting range of diagnoses, which together show that he has
given some serious thought to the nature of science studies. First,
Weinberg proposes that science studies is positivism's own reductio
ad absurdum: It is hard to appreciate the special relationship that
high energy physicists enjoy with ultimate reality, if one focuses
exclusively on what is visible to the naked eye in the physics lab.
If Percy Bridgman's operationalism failed to explain the practice
of quantum mechanics in the 1930s, there is even less reason to
believe that Latour and Woolgar's anthropologism would be able to
do so in the 1990s. Although, as we have seen, Weinberg is
content to be a reductionist with regard to ontological
commitments, he clearly will not allow the spirit of reductionism
to infect his methodological commitments. Once again we see the
ease with which philosophy and sociology of science can be
collapsed into a single disrespectful parody of the complexity of
scientific practice.
   Next Weinberg tackles the anthropologism of science studies
head on. His argument here is worth quoting in detail, especially
since it turns Wolpert's diagnosis of an inferiority complex on its
    Imagine if you will an anthropologist who studies the
    cargo cult on a Pacific island. The islanders believe
    that they can bring back the cargo aircraft that made
    them prosperous during World War II by building wooden
    structures that imitate radar and radio antennas. It is
    only human nature that this anthropologist and other
    sociologists and anthropologists in similar circumstances
    would feel a frisson of superiority, because they know as
    their subjects do not that there is no objective reality
    to these beliefs.... Would it be surprising if, when
    anthropologists and sociologists turned their attention
    to studying the work of scientists, they tried to
    recapture that delicious sense of superiority by denying
    the objective reality of the scientists' discoveries?
The only problem here is that Weinberg has gotten his schools of
anthropology mixed up. The classic debates over of the
"rationality" of cargo cults were conducted largely from two
standpoints, neither of which has served as a model for science
studies inquiries. On the one hand, Popper-inspired
anthropologists denied outright the rationality of the cargo cults
because the natives did not appropriately alter their practices in
light of negative experience. On the other hand, functionalist
anthropologists denied only the "manifest" rationality of the cults
but admitted their "latent" rationality as the cults served to
shore up group solidarity in tough times. While either of these
responses would, indeed, fit Weinberg's charge of superiority,
neither captures what ethnographers typically do in scientific
workplaces, which is to confront the natives with their own
accounts of their activities, bringing to their attention
divergences of word and deed. And while the natives can usually
make up the differences to their own satisfaction, the reader of
the science ethnography is meant to be faintly scandalized that
there should be any divergence whatsoever. After all, the natives
under study are scientists!
   Interestingly, despite the ill-chosen analogy from
anthropology, both Weinberg and Wolpert periodically indicate that
they half-realize how science studies works. The half they fail to
figure out is why anyone would become disturbed by the prospect
that much of the philosophically inspired talk of "truth" and
"rationality" spouted by scientists does not capture science in
action. Our two authors wonder: Aren't both positivists and
relativists fixated on loose language, when they should be focusing
on durable practices?  Needless to say, some members of our own
field -- especially those who spend much of their time studying
experimental practices -- are not above asking such a question.
And such a question is perfectly reasonable to ask, if you also
happen to believe that science is nothing but a certain set of
social practices, in which case you might advise we set our gaze on
the details of the lab and set aside the philosophical public
relations talk. Unfortunately, our two authors want to present
science as too extraordinary to be captured in such sociological
terms. In that case, they are themselves forced to draw selectively
from the philosophical rhetoric and hope that it sticks to their
practices when it comes time to justify spending billions of
dollars on the next high-tech scientific instrument. For it is
unlikely that the mere sight of an ensemble of scientists
competently practicing their trade will be enough to move
   Weinberg's last diagnosis, one he claims to draw from Gerald
Holton, purports that science studies is only the latest expression
of hostility to modern Western civilization, the roots of which
reach back to Oswald Spengler's (1919) The Decline of the West.
Thus, science studies researchers are said to be motivated by
self-loathing for having to participate in a culture that has been
responsible for the atomic bomb and other scientifically induced
forms of destruction. We are portrayed as longing for a less
alienated time, when inquirers were committed to preserving the
objects of inquiry. Before turning to Weinberg's own curious
response to this charge, a few words should be said about his
attempt to draw an invidious comparison between Spengler's Weimar
Germany and post-1960s Euro-American counterculturalism, of which
science studies is taken to be the academic wing.
   A common feature of Weimar thinking was the belief that Germany
had lost World War I because of the collusion of scientists and
capitalists, whose abstract ("calculative") detachment prevented
them from dealing effectively with both the concrete and spiritual
dimensions of war.  The negative lesson learned was so great that
Weimar engineers altered their professional identity from that of
"applied scientists" to "self-conscious folk practitioners." Some
even tried to justify engineering's inclusion among the
Geisteswissenschaften. Moreover, it was generally held that the
natural sciences, especially physics and chemistry, would not have
been so influential under Kaiser Wilhelm, had their research not
been so generously funded by a few major industries and banks with
close ties to the state. These firms -- like the scientists
themselves -- typically also had substantial international
connections, which could be used to cast aspersions on the extent
of their commitment to the German cause. The much-vaunted
"cosmopolitanism" of scientists was thus publicly reinterpreted as
an indifference to local interests, which, in this case, meant the
nation. Even precision-made laboratory instruments, whose use
required specialized training, were made to seem inimical to folk
craft sensibilities. These points are worth bearing in mind when
Weinberg blithely claims that science is "the shared possession of
mankind."  For one of the most important conclusions of science
studies is that such a claim cannot be taken literally: It is one
thing for a form of knowledge to announce universality for its
claims; it is quite another for that form of knowledge to be
equally accessible (both usable and contestable) to all who would
would be governed by its claims.
   This brings us to Weinberg's response to the allegedly
antiscientific sentiments of science studies. In light of our brief
glimpse into Weimar culture, the response is clearly open to the
pejorative interpretation of "cosmopolitanism," whereby the
author's privileged position prevents him from recognizing the
power relations in which his form of knowledge participates:
    Even the most frightening Western applications of science
    such as nuclear weapons represent just one more example
    of mankind's timeless efforts to destroy itself with
    whatever weapons it can devise. Balancing this against
    the benign applications of science and its role in
    liberating the human spirit, I thinking that modern
    science, along with democracy and contrapuntal music, is
    something that the West has given the world in which we
    should take special pride.
Weinberg seems to find the destructive potential of modern science
ultimately discountable primarily on grounds of banality. The
novelty of science's benefits would seem to outweigh its
contribution to evils that have occurred time and again. Such is
the moral scorekeeping one would expect after several rounds of
playing Hermann Hesse's "Glass Bead Game," but it is completely
inappropriate for evaluating the overall impact of science.
Problems that refuse to go away -- or only get worse over time --
may frustrate the mind that constantly craves new sources of
intellectual stimulation, but that is not a normatively acceptable
position for a scientist in today's world -- certainly as long as
words like "mankind," "the human spirit," "the West," "the world,"
and "we" remain euphemisms for overlapping sets of elites.
   Here we arrive at a crucial point that trumps any charge that
science studies is antiscientific. Science studies practitioners
have acquired a healthy skepticism about the ex cathedra
pronouncements that scientists make about their trade because
scientists are not necessarily the most reliable informants about
what science is. Instead of taking scientists at their word --
which would amount to a very prescientific reliance on
authoritative testimony -- science studies practitioners "see for
themselves," typically by going on site where the science is
purportedly done. In a sense, I am merely reiterating the first
sentence of the first course in our field, but it suggests why our
two authors fail to see science studies as a natural extension of
their own practices: to wit, Weinberg and Wolpert do not
sufficiently distance "science" from their own circle of scientific
friends, heroes, and the communal bonds these forge. Indeed,
Weinberg is especially prone to lapse into a Le physique, c'est
moi! manner of address worthy of the Sun King himself. But more
than mere megalomania, this blurring of the personal and the
professional threatens to undermine what has classically set
science apart from more authoritarian forms of knowledge and their
reliance on the collusion of elites.
   Weinberg and Wolpert periodically admit that science has a
"sociological" dimension. But by this they mean the Polanyiesque
point that scientists constitute themselves as an autonomous
community held together by bonds of mutual respect. These bonds
cannot be grasped without prolonged contact with other scientists
and learning to model one's own judgment on theirs. This process of
perspective-taking and mutual modelling issues in common intuitions
about acceptable and unacceptable paths of inquiry. Yes, sometimes
heated controversies erupt, but typically they involve only a few
elite members of the community who are keen in finding a quick
resolution so as to cause as little reputational damage as possible
-- both to the participants and to the field. The fate of new
recruits to the community is, of course, determined by the current
crop of scientists. In short, science appears in our two authors'
writings as a thoroughly gemeinschaftlich operation that fosters
what I will dub bad relativism, namely, judgments that tend to
reinforce -- rather than compensate for -- standing prejudices. If
that was all there is to the sociological dimension of science,
then, ironically, that should arouse, rather than dampen, public
suspicion about the disposition of a community that would seem to
have all the institutional trappings of a special interest group.
However, if we wish to take seriously Weinberg's claim that
science is the collective possession of humanity, then we must
relinquish the vision of science as Gemeinschaft. In the
alternative vision, science belongs to more than those who are
directly involved in producing it. Indeed, the purported
universality of science's knowledge claims should make them
accessible to all knowers. Of course, this is not realized in
practice. To that extent, science has yet to earn its reputation
for producing a form of knowledge that transcends the existence of
its producers. But how can the science studies practitioner endorse
the idea of a "transcendent" form of knowledge with a straight
face?  Here it becomes crucial to appreciate the good relativism
that science studies has been promoting since the advent of the
Strong Programme.
   As Bloor and his followers employ the term, "relativism" is not
an unconditional epistemological doctrine on par with, say,
rationalism or realism. Rather, it is a methodological heuristic
designed to counteract the science studies practitioner's own
standing prejudices by revealing their limits -- namely, their
relativity to his or her own culture. Thus, one of the original
four tenets of the Strong Programme, the controversial "symmetry"
principle, compels the science studies practitioner to bracket any
beliefs that he or she might have about the truth or falsity of the
science under investigation. Thus, relativism in this sense offers
the inquirer the opportunity for a kind of self-transcendence that
is in line with one of science's most distinctive normative ideals.
 Ironically, then, the cognitive "unnaturalness" that our authors
detect in science does not seem to translate into a sociological
unnaturalness. Instead, one finds a rather ordinary sociology of
the close-knit community rooted in its peculiar prejudices. Where
is the sociological correlate of "openness to change" in such an
account? Particularly telling in this regard is the lack of
attention that both Wolpert and Weinberg pay to cross-disciplinary
and cross-national migration, patterns common throughout the
history of science whereby scientists trained in one field or
country are able to initiate a radical transformation of another
field's or country's line of inquiry.

The Supercollider: A Big Bang for the Buck or the Heat Death of
Weinberg certainly cannot be faulted for a lack of candor in his
defense of the Supercollider. The construction of this largest of
all particle accelerators would enable physicists to recreate the
energy levels that are thought to have obtained in the earliest
history of the universe, just before the fundamental forces of
nature became differentiated, thereby losing their primal symmetry.
(Physics after the Fall?) Avoiding spurious, but perennially
popular, appeals to economic and military spinoffs, Weinberg
unabashedly rests his case for granting the Supercollider funding
priority on the "fundamental" character of high energy physics
research -- that is, fundamental to all scientific inquiry: "...it
is closer to the point of convergence of all our arrows of
explanation."  The argument has not been received well, even from
within the scientific community. Reflecting on his own professional
association's lukewarm support of the Supercollider, Weinberg can
only conclude that the American Council of Physics has let concern
about the livelihoods of scientists working outside high energy
physics outweigh strictly cognitive considerations of what is in
the best interest of science.  Indeed, much of Weinberg's
metaphysical commitment to "reductionism" boils down to a
nonnegotiable opinion about the scientific significance of his own
   In fairness to Weinberg, it must also be said that reductionism
in contemporary physics is hardly the either-or doctrine that it
was in the nineteenth century, when mechanists and holists argued
about whether the universe was greater than the sum of its atomic
parts. In fact, today's reductionist tries to reach both ends of
the cosmic scale -- the very large and the very small -- at the
same time. The key is the Big Bang, which postulates that the
universe began much like the highly dense and energized masses that
physicists now study in particle accelerator experiments. Thus,
among the elite physicists who work on foundational problems, it is
not uncommon for the same person -- Weinberg himself is one of them
-- to author textbooks on subatomic particles and general
cosmology.  Given the centrality of the Big Bang, today's "final
theory" aspires to much more than earlier attempts by Newton and
Laplace. Whereas eighteenth century physicists would have been
satisfied simply with knowing the rules whereby they could predict
any event in the universe, followers of Einstein and Hawking also
want to know how the rules came into being.
   However, few seem to share Weinberg's optimism that building
the Supercollider will bring physicists significantly closer to the
final theory.  With the benefit of historical hindsight, we can
say that few -- if any -- research programs in science have ever
voluntarily closed shop as a result of having declared their most
significant problems solved. Research programs are typically
terminated under one of two circumstances: Either problems
accumulate more rapidly than can be solved, leading to a Kuhnian
"crisis" in the research program, or other problems associated with
other research programs appear more attractive to the new
generation of scientists. Weinberg predictably hedges his bets by
arguing that if the findings made on the Supercollider do not
answer solve all the fundamental problems of physics, it will be
because it has turned up some new particles and forces that will
provide a new generation of physicists food for thought.
   This last claim raises an interesting point of divergence
between how Weinberg and science studies practitioners understand
the relationship between theory and experiment. To be sure, there
are common foes, namely, those whom Lakatos dubbed "naive
falsificationists," who believe that one good crucial experiment
can topple a well-confirmed theoretical edifice. But there the
agreement ends. Science studies practitioners have been persuaded
by the work of Hacking, Pickering, and Galison that traditions of
experiment -- and the phenomena that experiments generate -- are
largely autonomous from traditions of theory, and, indeed, may be
decisive in explaining the long-term stability and cumulativeness
of the scientific enterprise.  No such sensibility is to be found
in Weinberg, who devotes an entire chapter to showing how
experiments are conducted for the express purpose of providing
theoretically suggestive data, which are then often massaged or
rejected, if they threaten to render a pet theory "ugly."
   Because most empirical research in science studies has been so
far concerned with the experimental sciences, it is easy to forget
the peculiar sensibility that informs theoretical work, especially
in that most elite of sciences, physics. Even a non-physicist such
as Wolpert marvels at the ability of theoretical physicists to know
how to intuit the perfect curve from otherwise unruly data
points. Why can't theorists in, say, psychology enjoy such a
harmonious relationship with their experimental counterparts?
Instead, one finds a bunch of theories, each of which captures only
a portion of the data, much in the way that each of the proverbial
blindmen gropes only a part of the elephant. One answer might be --
as Weinberg and Wolpert maintain -- that physicists do, indeed,
have that special capacity for intellectual intuition, nous, which
Plato and Leibnitz so greatly admired and which Kant adamantly
   Another answer, one more in the spirit of science studies, is
to observe that physicists are not as scrupulous as psychologists
in accounting for the data generated by a body of experimental
work. Since psychologists presume that their subject matter is
quite complex and elusive, they do not pretend to have many clear
intuitions about which data are worth keeping or throwing out when
drawing some theoretically relevant inference. Consequently,
psychologists have pioneered the development of sophisticated
"meta-analytic" statistical techniques capable of integrating all
the data from all the experiments. Needless to say, these
techniques produce a rather complicated overall empirical picture
of psychological phenomena, one that resists simple theoretical
formulations. Physicists, by contrast, presume that they have a
relatively clear understanding of their experimental situations,
which, in turn, instills greater self-confidence in their
discretionary judgments of data. This difference in methodological
attitudes between psychologists and physicists draws on divergent
folk images of their competence as scientists, images that have
themselves been rarely subject to empirical scrutiny. Thus, while
physicists are commonly seen as superior scientists, the most
thoughtful and rigorous works on scientific methodology have been
written by psychologists.
   This last point raises the larger historical question of
accountability in physics. One subtle but pervasive legacy of
reductionism is that scientific theories are immediately discounted
if they are incompatible with current physical theories. But do
physical theories need to be compatible with theories in the other
sciences? If the history of science is our guide, the answer would
seem to be, for the most part, no. A vivid reminder of this point
is Lord Kelvin's declaration that Darwinian evolution must be false
because thermodynamics did not allow the earth to be as old as
evolution required. After this pronouncement, many scientifically
minded biologists started to rethink their commitment to Darwin's
"uniformitarian" view of biological change (i.e., slow steady
changes of the kind still seen today). Thus, the last quarter of
the last century witnessed a physics-induced revival of the
periodic geological cataclysms postulated by the rival
"catastrophist" approach, which had been traditionally associated
with Creationist attempts to read the Noachian Flood into the
fossil record of the earth. Luckily, for the fate of Darwinism,
physicists soon managed to stumble upon a refutation of Kelvin's
chronology in their own bailiwick, once radioactivity was
discovered as a source of heat that could have fueled the earth's
core for the hundreds of millions of years needed for evolution.
   As we reach the end of the twentieth century, accountability in
physics is limited mostly to achieving synchrony between the
various branches of the discipline.  Because today's fundamental
physical theories postulate that the world is radically different
at the extremes (the very big, the very small, the very old, etc.)
from the way it appears in the meso-reality canvassed by the other
sciences, few non-physicists have had the temerity to argue that
physics is incompatible or somehow out of step with current trends
in the rest of the sciences.  However, if one wanted to make such
an argument, evidence could be sought by noticing the increased
amounts of money being spent on scientific instruments, such as the
Supercollider, which generate findings of little obvious cross-
disciplinary relevance. Indeed, what would seem to be a liability
according to some enlightened theories of science policy is made to
appear a virtue here. Specifically, Weinberg argues that the
integrity of particle physics is ensured by the fact that no other
field can directly benefit from the billions of dollars that are
sequestered exclusively for its purposes.
   Given that these funds are drawn from the public coffers,
Weinberg's argument turns out to be a profoundly anti-democratic
one. For, in a democracy, one would suppose that a principle of
fungibility operates in matters of public policy. In the case of
funding high energy physics, the principle implies that physicists
should not be granted billions of dollars for their work unless
they can produce a scheme to benefit, or somehow compensate, those
who will be deprived of those billions for their own work. For
example, if sequestering billions for the Supercollider forced a
decrease in funding for the social sciences, then part of the deal
for constructing the Supercollider would include allowing social
scientists to play an active role in designing the community that
will be built to support the facility and, then, to do field work
once the community has been built, perhaps ultimately advising the
physicists on how they might alter their patterns of social
interaction in order to improve their work. Were the physicists to
balk at such intrusions on their autonomy, then they have the
option either to seek funding in the private sector or to scale
down their funding request so that they do not pose a direct threat
to progress in other areas of inquiry.
   The principle of fungibility is difficult to put into practice,
especially when the policy concern is science and the country is
the United States. The main reason is that no federal forum exists
for comparing the merits of alternative research programs in
different disciplines. Thus, the policymaker is typically never in
a position to decide to pursue research in, say, biology instead
of, say, physics. This is especially true in the case of
"megaprojects" such as the Supercollider, whose funding comes
directly from Congress. The unprecedented price and promise of
megaprojects make Congress reluctant to judge them on anything
other than "their own terms." Scientific advocates can often use
this to their rhetorical advantage. To budget-conscious members of
Congress, scientists will warn that to cut the Supercollider does
not necessarily mean that some other worthy scientific project will
be funded instead. In fact, it may not even mean that the money
will be saved. The specter of a myriad of special interest groups
waiting for the first opportunity to pounce on the money "saved" by
not funding the Supercollider -- in order to convert it into "pork"
-- is usually enough to shame Congress into continuing its support
for a palpably noble (if not necessary) scientific cause. Given the
support that fundamental physics research has enjoyed so far in the
American policy forums, it should surprise no one that Weinberg
does not complain much about this remarkably unscientific way of
funding research.

Conclusion: Striking the Right Pose
Weinberg and Wolpert are the first of what is bound to become a
trend in science popularizers acknowledging and answering the
challenges posed by science studies to conventional accounts of
science. But how should we respond to this newfound publicity?
Clearly, there is no one strategy that will sit well with everyone
who considers themselves part of the science studies community.
However, let me close by proposing some general considerations that
will help enable us to move coherently into the public forum.
   First, we should be clear about the exact sense in which
Weinberg and Wolpert find science studies "dangerous," "offensive,"
or simply "wrong-headed." What mainly riles our two authors is the
suggestion that we claim to show that science is, in some deep
sense, "just another social practice." Such a view undermines the
attitude that they wish to instill in readers: namely, to make them
feel that they understand enough about science to identify with its
continued success, but not so much that they feel competent to
participate in decisions concerning science policy. Cultivating
this kind of respectful enthusiasm is no mean rhetorical feat.
However, science studies makes it difficult for one to be a mere
"fan" of science. Rather, one develops the impulse to jump onto the
playing field and redo the rules a bit. Specifically, even a little
science studies makes one wonder why one group of scientists
manages to frequent the best labs rather than some other.
   But can scientists and science studies practitioners go beyond
mutual fear and suspicion -- and toward public-spirited debate? As
I have hoped to demonstrate in my own writing and in the writings
of Weinberg and Wolpert, many important points can be made and
issues raised, even in a less than ideal speech situation. However,
to make the most of this situation, we must realize that not every
theoretical commitment of science studies will travel well from the
academic to the public sphere. In fact, some of these commitments
may be used against us in debate. For example, we saw that one of
Wolpert's grounds for dismissing science studies was that it seemed
to make all science look like its parent discipline, sociology,
which is, indeed, a highly contested, flexibly interpretable,
interest-laden field. But can the same really be said of physics or
chemistry -- once an "adequate" account of their activities --
especially their track records -- is given?  Needless to say, few
science studies practitioners are likely to be moved by Wolpert's
intuitions here. Yet, he has stumbled on a reflexive difficulty for
our side. After all, to think that every science can be analyzed in
the same way is to violate science studies's own commitment to the
"heterogeneity of fields" and the "disunity of science."
   Speaking for myself, I believe that science studies must be
sure to couple its commitment to disciplinary diversity with an
imperative to rearrange disciplinary boundaries (or "hybridize," to
wax Harawayan). Otherwise, we run the risk of being interpreted as
supporting -- or being logically compelled to support -- the "good
fences make good neighbors" model of epistemic diversity that our
two authors promote. Luckily, even they do not advance this line
consistently. Both are concerned with what they call the "social
responsibility" of science, which demands substantial public input.
Wolpert is the more direct on this point:
    It is not for scientists to take moral or ethical
    decisions on their own: they have neither the right nor
    any special skills in this area. There is, in fact, a
    grave danger of asking scientists to be more socially
    responsible -- the history of eugenics alone illustrates
    at least some of the dangers. Asking scientists to be
    socially responsible, other than by being cautious in
    areas where there are social implications, would be
    implicitly to give power to a group who are neither
    trained nor competent to exert it.
The reader, having gotten this far in Wolpert's book (near the
end), may be surprised by these sentences. Apparently, the very
"unnaturalness" that makes science our premier form of knowledge
also makes scientists professionally ill-disposed to issue moral
judgments. What should a science studies practitioner make of this
claim? First, it reveals the absurdity of drawing a hard, virtually
essentialist distinction between scientists and non-scientists.
Just because scientists should not unilaterally dictate the ends
for which their skills are used, it does not follow that they
should remain mute in public deliberations. On the contrary,
scientists must acquire a competence in the consummate democratic
art of negotiation -- especially with a public who will bear the
finanical costs and sustain the eventual impacts of whatever
research is commissioned. But perhaps more important, scientists
must realize that the value dimensions of their activities extend
not only to the capacity of their research to do good or harm but
also to the opportunity costs that are incurred by deciding to fund
one sort of research over another -- or, for that matter, over a
nonscientific yet worthy public works project. In short, part of
the social responsibility of science is to welcome the public's
participation in setting the priorities of the research agenda

    Steve Fuller is Associate Professor of Science &
    Technology Studies at Virginia Tech and Executive Editor
    of Social Epistemology. His latest book is Philosophy,
    Rhetoric and the End of Knowledge: The Coming of Science
    and Technology Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin
    Press, 1993). For academic year 1993-4, he is helping to
    launch a new Ph.D. program in the Rhetoric of Science at
    the University of Pittsburgh that will be jointly
    administered by the Departments of Communication and
    History & Philosophy of Science. Address: Department of
    Communication, 1117 Cathedral of Learning, University of
    Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA 15260, USA.

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