After the Science Wars
Abdelkader Aoudjit reports on which beleaguered positions are still held After the Science Wars.
The widely accepted view according to which the goal of science is to explain how things really are has been the target of serious attacks in the last few decades – attacks by philosophers and sociologists of science, by postmodernists, feminists and postcolonial critics. The philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) famously challenged the notion that there is a sharp distinction between scientific theories and other kinds of belief systems, that observation is theory-independent, and that science describes what the world is really like independent of what people think. He also argued that the historical and political contexts in which theories are embedded influence paradigm shifts in scientific thinking. Other critics have argued that social and political factors play important roles in the choice of research funding. Some commentators go so far as to suggest that the very content of science – the questions that are asked, the way observations are interpreted, even what counts as data – is subject to political, cultural and psychological influences.