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SOC 10000 (30)
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Chapter 17

SOC 10000 Chapter 17: Science, the Environment, and Society

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SOC 10000
Weiss Dan

Science, the Environment, and Society • Paradox o Society invents technologies to minimize dangers from nature but those same inventions create new risks that need to be managed o Over the last 30 years, the Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees, helping to mitigate the effects of deforestation in rural communities which has done more than improve environmental health • Science and Society o Sociologists of science are interested in the ways scientific communities study the objects of their research, in the way science changes how we live and interact with each other, and in the unexpected social consequences of scientific discoveries o Thomas Kuhn and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions ▪ According to Thomas Kuhn, scientific discovery does not proceed along a linear path or simply accumulate little by little, rather Kuhn believes periods of normal science are ruptured every so often by scientific revolutions that shift the paradigm of a given science ▪ A paradigm is the framework within which scientists operate ▪ Normal science is science conducted within an existing paradigm, as defined by Thomas Kuhn ▪ Paradigm shift or scientific revolution is when enough anomalies accrue to challenge the existing paradigm, showing that it is incomplete or inadequate to explain all observed phenomena o Is Science a Social and Political Endeavor? ▪ Normative view of science is the notion that science is unaffected by the personal beliefs or values of scientists but rather follows objective rules of evidence ▪ Science is constantly influenced by political and social factors and such biases are manifested through the type of research that scientists decide to pursue. ▪ An alternative explanation for how researchers select topics is that it is based on funding available for their research o The Pursuit of Truth and the Boundaries of Science ▪ Science holds a privileged place in society in relation to knowledge and truth ▪ Intelligent design is the idea that the life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection but rather a designer had a hand in creating and selecting various species ▪ Boundary work is work done to maintain the border between legitimate and nonlegitimate science within a specific scientific discipline or between legitimate disciplines o The Laboratory as a Site for Knowledge ▪ Latour and Woolgar argue that ethnographic approaches had never before been used to look at reclusive (and exclusive) scientific laboratories largely because science holds such a privileged place in Western society ▪ The scientific laboratory is the primary site in which many scientific data are collected, researched, and analyzed ▪ On one hand, cultural norms and social situations influence both what is discovered and how the discovery process proceeds but on the other hand, the scientific models of the way the world works are taken as fact because they often enable people to predict, shape, and intervene in the world reliably than other ways of thinking 2 o The Matthew Effect ▪ Matthew effect is a term used by sociologists to describe the notion that certain scientific results get more notoriety and influence based on the existing prestige of the researchers involved ▪ Sociologist John Evans found in a study of debates over human genetic engineering, that more prestigious, senior authors were cited more often than junior researchers • Agriculture and the Environment o The process of natural or physical science may be a subject of sociological study in itself, but sociologists also research the effects of the social world and the natural world on each other o Global Warming and Climate Change ▪ The effects of global warming are devastating, and global warming is responsible for the increase in the number of deadly hurricanes, shifting of ice caps and melting glaciers ▪ Because of rising atmospheric temperatures, heat waves are becoming more intense, and tropical diseases are migrating to new climates ▪ Global warming is the rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as well as higher global average temperatures ▪ Although some disagreement exists in the scientific community about the exact causes of global warming, the vast majority of scientists acknowledge that the roots of global warming can be traced back to human activities ▪ Deforestation contributes to global warming in two ways: first, the burning of the forest releases CO2 into the atmosphere, and second, the deforested trees are no longer around to sequester atmospheric carbon
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