Re: Culture of Science?

Michael Smith (
15 Aug 1996 21:56:48 GMT

Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax ( wrote:
: Nice observation, Bill. I think a study of the Culture of Science could
: be very interesting and lead us to some new understandings of what it
: means to be human. Perhaps one reason why scientists find the so-called
: "Territorial Imperative" so compelling is that it resembles their
: culture very closely.

Interesting thesis...

: Observe how I got flamed by the Wonder from Washington
: well beyond what I had actually said. Her attacks, by her own admission,
: were certainly not /rationally/ motivated. And yet they bear a peculiar
: similarity to remarks I have seen made time and time again when a member
: of the Scientific Establishment, particularly in that they both claim to
: be "neutral" (or as Angeline put it, "not personal") and yet their utterances
: are full of venom!

Be careful in making generalizations about scientists as a whole (said
the scientist :)) based on the actions of one person or a few people :)

ACtually you're absolutely right about the arrogance of many scientists.
"We say it's true and that's all their is to it." The problem comes when
scientists are so wrapped up in their own culture that they don't bother
to explain things more carefully to the public. Let's face it, science
has a massive PR problem, and this is contributing to the unfortunate
decline of science from American civilization (may the gods help us).

: From where did this culture spring? Here are a few of my hypotheses:

: * Class. Do Scientists come overwhelming from the Upper Middle and Upper
: Classes? Again, this could explain many of the mythological baggage which
: many scientists bear about the natures of their own intellects. Rather than
: considering the superior value of the education and family upbringing they
: had, they look hopefully to their own genes.

Very few scientists fall into that hypothesis. In fact very few
scientists believe intellect has that much to do with Genetics at all. I
think you took The Bell Curve too seriously. :) Stephen Jay Gould did a
wonderful job of trashing garbage like The Bell Curve in his book The
Mismeasure of Man. Of course there are exceptions such as William
Shockley but they are few and far between even if vocal.

: * Protestantism. (Yep, I'll blame this bugaboo just for the sake of
: theoretical completeness!) I don't give Protestantism the credit for
: the Scientific Method, only for the the emotional baggage and superiority
: complex that afflicts a fair number of scientists, at least the vocal
: ones. Genetic explanations of intelligence sound a lot like good
: old Calvinist predestination if you think about it.

Again, I think you took The Bell Curve too seriously. We can give
Protestantism credit for the culture of science in that it inspired all
sorts of trouble in Europe and spurred people to embrace
rationalism...and also it led to the idea that you can find truth *on
your own* which was far from what the Church wanted at the time.

: Perhaps you all have others. The point I would make about these things
: is that they /are not/ Scientific Method. But they sure as hell sneak
: in and wreak their havoc often enough for us to be aware of them.

Glad you pointed that out. Of course the culture scientists espouse, good
or bad, has no bearing on the nearly unshakeable veracity of scientific

: Regards,

: Joel

Blessed Be,
Mike Smith

"Rise, hold fast your faith. To lie dormant is certain death."
-Slayer, "At Dawn They Sleep"

DISCLAIMER: My opinions do not necessarily, or even remotely, reflect
those of Loyola University, Chicago.