25 abr. 2006

Everything is socially constructed, even scientific facts. But there is a large category of things that are socially constructed only in a trivial sense. The boiling point of water is socially constructed in the the trivial sense that the concept of a temperature scale in which the boiling of water is a significant fact would not exist at all without human beings. We can say water boils at the same temperature in every culture (putting aside differences in elevation) but that their might be different temperature scales (Fahrenheit vs. Centigrade). By the same token, there are socially constructed facts whose empirical base seems trivial, i.e., non-meaningful.

Everyone is a social-constructionist and a scientific realist as well. That is, everyone recognizes the difference between two kinds of interest. Sometimes we get confused though.

4 comentarios:

Nick dijo...
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Nick dijo...

Sometimes scientific facts/discoveries are ignored or at best discounted in order that a carefully constructed social reality might continue to exist.

--Nick Bruno

Gawain dijo...

"Everything is socially constructed, even scientific facts." Jonathan, you are full of good ideas, but this is not a good one. :)

Gawain dijo...

I'll elaborate: the scientific fact that experiment X yields results Y is "socially constructed" to the extent that when I say to you "experiment X yields results Y", my saying so consitutes a fact. (Fact: "Gawain says experiment X yields results Y").

But the results of experiment X are not socially constructed in another sense. Think of the Korean professor who cooked up his results. He had a result in the lab (the scientific fact) but he advertised something else and the press ran with it (the socially constructed fact) -- the scientific fact and the socially constructed facts were actually each other's opposites.

One could muddle the picture by claiming somehow that the actual result of the experiment is socially constructed (because it is carried out by the hands of human beings), but thats sophistry. What happens in the lab is not constructed in the sense in which Tuesday is. We could decide to have a ten-day week, for example, and call Tuesday BABA. We can't decide to drop an object form our hands and see it fly UP (rather than fall down) just because we say so.