Is Science a Social Construct?



recently this photo of an anthropology lecture with presentation titled two scientific facts or social constructs was supposed to Twitter where it received a reply from none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson himself the professor smartphone is based on a thousand facts of science the only social construct is the social media enabled by it this tweet ignited an enormous argument between scientifically literate people and woke Starbucks hipsters spreading beyond Twitter and onto other social media the character of this exchange is very recognizable to those who are acquainted with the science Wars an academic dispute over the same issue and whose history I'm documenting in an ongoing series on this channel in this video I'm going to address the claim that scientific facts are social constructs unpacking the various meanings associated with this proposition and explaining why I recommend listeners to be on their guard whenever they hear somebody proposed this but before I do that I'm going to need definitions a scientific fact is a proposition about nature with the aim of describing a particular phenomenon for example living organisms pass on their genes to their offspring is a scientific fact a scientific theory is a network of facts that collectively produce novel testable and falsifiable predictions for example this fact belongs to a network of other facts including a greater diversity of fossils as found in younger layers of sediment than in older layers homologous anatomical structures are ubiquitous throughout the animal kingdom and modifications to genes frequently transpire via a variety of biochemical processes this network of facts carries with it novel testable predictions about future data with the capacity to be falsified upon having successfully predicted a statistically significant amount of data the model graduates from the status of hypothesis to the status of theory where it remains until it is either falsified or superseded by a better theory more on that shortly scientific theories and hypotheses may collectively be referred to as scientific models which again are networks of propositions about nature the only difference between the two is the demonstrated status of there adjectives accuracy the theory has held provisionally to be not guilty of being false whereas the hypothesis is still on trial pending conclusive experimental results none of the nodes and these networks exist in isolation the fact is at least partially contextualized by the other facts which reside within this space making them interdependent to varying degrees for example the fact a greater diversity of fossils is found in younger layers of sediment than in older layers is contingent upon notions of depositional environments angular unconformity x' and radiometric dating among other things absent these other facts this one would have no context where each node in the network represents an individual fact the links between the nodes represent the relationships between the facts which produces the particular structure of the model the same set of facts can in principle be organized in different mutually exclusive manners which signifies differences in how these facts are contextualized by other facts the result is a plurality of different possible models even though they're all comprised of the same facts models may therefore differ not only in terms of which facts they employ but how those facts are configured in relation to one another some nodes within these networks of propositions have more connections than others which consequently makes them more important to the structure of the model the more connections a particular fact has the more important it is when it comes to contextualizing the other facts associated with the model and thus the greater its role in shaping the kinds of predictions that the model will make in this network picture those facts which have the most connections are the ones which are most important to the structure of the model because a greater number of facts rely upon it for context theory laid in this is the name that we give to the tendency for facts to be contextualized by their relationship to other facts facts do not exist in a theoretical vacuum they are always interpreted in the light of other facts and the manner in which those facts are organized as well as which background propositions they employ determines the character of a scientific model background propositions are defined here as those statements which while not explicitly articulated by a scientific model nevertheless contextualize a given fact for example the fact a greater diversity of fossils is found in younger layers of sediment that in older layers carries the background proposition that geophysical processes that are observable today have always operated in the same manner and are sufficient to explain the features of the Earth's crust this particular background proposition which itself is contextualized by network of other propositions in geophysics is necessary in order to support the first node without it this proposition is not justified background propositions typically belong to separate networks of propositions which themselves contain their own background propositions and so on and so forth for the theory of evolution this fact may be considered a first-order proposition because it bears directly upon the theory this background proposition may be considered second-order because even though it pertains to geology it still needed to support the first-order proposition that helps constitute evolutionary theory a third order proposition which supports the second-order one could perhaps come from thermodynamics and so on and so on with the nth order proposition coming from the most fundamental theories of nature it is hardly controversial to state that fossils ultimately reduce to the kinds of entities dealt with in quantum field theory and beyond however it isn't necessarily productive to describe fossils in these terms as self-described reductionists readily admit background propositions understood in the terms laid out here act as a kind of bridge between different realms of scientific inquiry unifying scientific knowledge via intra theoretical reduction falsification is the process whereby a sufficient number of connections in this network are destroyed this may happen either via the elimination of a sufficient number of propositions that turn out to be untrue or it may happen via the eliminations of a few central propositions which were relied upon by the rest of the network the differences between these kinds of falsification may be illustrated via the following analogy you can destroy a house by taking it apart brick by brick or you may destroy only the foundations and watch the entire structure collapse either way the ultimate arbiter of whether a model is falsified is whether its predictions fail if either a few central propositions or a statistically significant portion of fail to be borne out by experiment the theory will be provisionally discarded at least within those contexts where it evidently doesn't apply under determination is the state of affairs we're in two different incompatible models are both capable of explaining the same set of data making it at least temporarily impossible to say that one is better than the other for example if a study finds that there is a correlation between aggressive behavior and playing violent video games it is possible to infer on the basis of just that one study either that video games make people more aggressive or that more aggressive people will naturally tend toward violent video games in such instances it is necessary to test the background propositions of both conclusions to see which model taken as a whole has greater predictive power until that condition is met however the models are set to suffer from the problem of under determination since either as plausible in light of the available data it is also worth considering the efficiency and flexibility of a model model B has fewer nodes than model a which means that it has greater explanatory efficiency it is capable of explaining more with less which increases its predictive power however the density of links between the nodes also differs between the two models a is much more rigid than B because the facts which constituted are much more closely interconnected which means that even small changes to the structure of the model are more liable to falsify it at the same time however B as superior flexibility may not necessarily be to its advantage because a model that is too flexible is effectively unfalsifiable and therefore has no genuine predictive power the reason why conciliate background propositions explanatory efficiency and optimal flexibility are important factors in deciding between under determined models is because there exists an infinite number of possible models for any given set of facts but the ones which have the greatest predictive power consistently possess these features some of the most lively debates in science are over competing models that are so ambiguously under determined that none of them have any clear advantage however such ambiguity is relatively rare when it comes to under determined theories and inference to the best explanation in the terms laid out here is usually possible it frequently happens that a theory will apply just fine within a certain domain as classical physics does with systems whose energies are neither too low nor too high but outside of that domain fails to produce accurate predictions normal science involves the application of an existing model in order to discover new propositions about nature this typically involves the expansion of the network to incorporate new notes whose inclusion is incumbent upon observation and experiment however once a scientific theory reaches the border of the domain in which it is applicable anomalies begin to accumulate culminating in a crisis the model stops working the most dramatic examples of this come from physics where classical mechanics despite enormous success and playing the central role in the Industrial Revolution proved insufficient when addressing certain anomalies most famously were the perturbations in Mercury's orbit which were initially postulated to have been caused by a tiny planet between mercury and the Sun under the Newtonian model it made perfect sense similar perturbations in the orbit of Uranus were what allowed for the discovery of Neptune in 1846 however no planet between mercury and the Sun was ever discovered this was the crisis phase the mystery of Mercury's anomalous orbital perturbations wouldn't be solved until the introduction of Einstein's general relativity in 1916 which required the elimination of such background assumptions as the constancy of space and time even though general relativity required the introduction of new esoteric concepts that contradicted the old Newtonian paradigm it nevertheless became widely accepted after it successfully predicted the bending of starlight during the Eclipse of 1919 we refer to such events in science as paradigm shifts wherein models will have their background propositions reoriented in order to produce brand new models with superior predictive power the old paradigm of Newtonian mechanics relied upon a certain set of background propositions which were amended with new background propositions the most important of which was the invariance of light speed these in turn reorganized the facts that constituted the old paradigm producing the new paradigm of general relativity it is important to note that general relativity did not replace Newtonian physics it merely generalized mechanics to be able to describe systems that previa he could not be dealt with by the old paradigm the mathematics surrounding general relativity are very tedious and produce results that are far more exact than are usually needed at classical scales which is why the Newtonian framework is still used for such systems however while it's true that general relativity can be used to describe classical systems Newtonian physics cannot be used to describe relativistic systems and by the same token while it's possible to use Einstein's field equations to arrive at a mathematically equivalent expression for Newton's law of gravitation it is not possible to derive general relativity from classical physics the same holds true for quantum mechanics Schrodinger's equation can be used to derive Newton's second law but you can't use Newton's second law to derive Schrodinger's equation and this pattern tends to hold true for most paradigm shifts in science the concepts dealt with by the new paradigm cannot be understood in terms of the old one even though it does tend to work the other way around what a paradigm shift is is not so much a scientific revolution as it is a theoretical generalization the systems described by quantum physics cannot be understood in terms of general relativity nor can general relativity be used to describe quantum systems and neither can be understood in classical terms despite the fact that both have tools which if diligently applied can be used to develop the means to describe classical systems likewise the paradigm that succeeds quantum physics and general relativity will have the capacity to produce results understandable in terms of both despite the fact that neither will be equipped to describe the entities dealt with by this more general more fundamental theory those paradigm shifts like background propositions can be understood as a mechanism by which scientific knowledge is unified under a more comprehensive framework our final definition is of science which is that set of processes that test and develop models whose various properties have just been laid out because the scientific activity tests models rather than individual facts the statement that motivated this entire controversy is somewhat malformed but that is a minor quibble now that we're armed with a better understanding of what science is and how it operates we may examine what is meant by propositions to the effect of science as a social con strucked and what they imply if one were merely to say that scientific models or social constructs because they wouldn't exist absent to society one would be stating a truism a model by definition is a description of reality and descriptions requires social actors this is utterly uncontroversial but does not exhaust the meaning of such statements as scientific facts or social constructs even though some social constructionists will make it seem as though this were all that were being implied to say that science is a social construct is to say that the conclusions reached by a scientific model are not just shaped by facts but are also shaped by values that are particular to the social situation of whoever is doing the research arguments for why this is the case will vary from coffee shop to coffee shop but the feature common to all varieties of social constructionism is the belief that scientific conclusions are necessarily influenced by socially specific background values scientific facts are not just theory Laden but are also value Laden according to the social constructionist s– whether it's because of differences in epistemic privilege by virtue of different social situations differences in the psychology is of different groups due to differences in upbringing or the unique historical and cultural contexts that shape every discourse including science every scientist will construct scientific knowledge in a manner that reflects their place in society a privileged member of society will incorporate one set of background values into their models in order to maintain the status quo an oppressed member of society will incorporate another set of background values into their models in order to bring about emancipatory change neither model has any objective advantage over the other because both are ultimately the subjective expressions of whoever develops them a scientific model is taken to be informed by the values that are held by the scientists who develop it which in turn are determined by which demographics those scientists belong to what this implies is the existence of a plurality of Sciences each particular to the demographic that partakes in the scientific activity because the science that has been given institutional legitimacy was historically developed by straight white men the values that have shaped scientific conclusions have reflected that producing a science which is legitimated practices that benefits straight white men at the expense of everybody else therefore allowing for a plurality of culturally specific sciences will permit not only an expansion of scientific knowledge but the legitimation of truths which serve the group interests of other demographics science according to social constructionists is ultimately politics by other means this view of the scientific enterprise stands or falls on whether socially specific background values do indeed have a non negligible impact on scientific models and so the entire field of Science and Technology studies or STS is dedicated to the exposure of how socially situated bias has influenced the development of scientific theories STS theorists will tirelessly publish strategies for creating a new science that takes a plurality of socially situated biases into account all the while trying to imbue science with a set of background values that will orient the models in a manner deemed desirable by such theorists they do not see science as our best means of approximating the truth but merely as a means of legitimating those practices that serve the class interests of whoever partakes in the activity the goal is to ultimately create a set of emancipatory Sciences which by representing the interests of those who are not in power will serve to legitimate those practices that result in a more equal and fair society the contents and application of science depends on whoever's doing it so by making science more democratic in terms of what counts as knowledge the interests of the greatest number of people may be served by a plurality of Sciences that each cater to a particular demographic at the very least scientific models must be altered or ruled out entirely so as to produce a set of conclusions which yield emancipatory outcomes this is what it really means to say that science is socially constructed first a complaint about how this proposition is often presented upon being challenged over the notion that science is socially constructed proponents of this view will frequently insist that all that this means is that science is descriptive and that scientists are social actors who partake in a society they will typically offer milquetoast propositions to the effect that social conditions may determine the urgency with which some Sciences are pursued and funded in relation to other sciences and that no human being is capable of absolute objectivity that scientific facts are social constructs is a completely innocent and uncontroversial proposition then because all that it means is that scientists are human beings just like everybody else and are therefore equally prone to bias when attempting to develop their descriptions of the world at this point in the conversation the appropriate response is to drag the social constructionist out from their moat and toss them back into the bailey by pointing out the requited descriptions that are representational of a common reality and descriptions that are expressive of one's own political interests the size of the chasm between these views cannot be overstated in embracing the ladder when departs from the generally standard positions of such thinkers as Russell Quine and Haqq and into the far Messier former controversial realm inhabited by the likes of thera-band Lata and Harding aside from this minor quibble about the uninvited guests being smuggled in through the wooden horse I will offer three broad objections to the program advocated for by social constructionists notions such as background propositions theory Laden asunder determination and paradigm shifts were expounded upon by philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Willard Quine and the latter half of the 20th century both of them explicitly disavowed on multiple occasions the sort of relativism espoused by social constructionists yet the work is taken by sts and other relativists essential to their program one major charge is that the under determination problem indicates that choice of scientific model is ultimately arbitrary or otherwise due to some external non scientific consideration be it political or aesthetic for example both the heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system rely upon the same set of observations and can both be used to make predictions about the motion of heavenly bodies when one looks up at the night sky one can observe over a period of many nights that the planets appear to move across the heavens slow down to a complete stop move backwards a bit stop again and reverse trajectory once more the geocentric will interpret these events as epicycles as little orbits within the otherwise perfectly circular orbits of planets they have no explanation for why these epicycles exist they just are by contrast the heliocentric will interpret these results as being a consequence of the motion of our planet relative to the others as they pass by one another within their slightly elliptical orbits the heliocentric does not believe in epicycles but does believe in the motion of the earth which along with elliptical orbits is able to account for these apparent trajectories according to the relativist neither model has any particular advantage over the other both models are capable of predicting these results simply by using different conceptual tools which makes them both under determined by the evidence the choice of which model to accept is ultimately a matter of personal taste influenced by factors other than science so in order to create a more democratic and open-minded science any number of such models should be allowed to exist otherwise we're only allowing one culturally specific perspective to be legitimated paradigm shifts are also taken as further evidence that scientific facts are socially constructed since these sudden changes in what counts a scientific knowledge supposedly reflect the different social circumstances of the scientists working in different time periods what ultimately motivated paradigm shifts like to change from geocentrism to heliocentrism were by the relativistic count ultimately due to changes in social conditions and tastes over time but more on that later let us consider the motion of the planets again this time by comparing not merely the predictive accuracies of geocentrism and heliocentrism but their predictive power newton's principia put heliocentrism on a firm theoretical foundation when it was published in 1687 which had been lacking ever since Copernicus had posthumously published his treatise on the subject some 150 years prior in the intervening time the collective works of Galileo Brahe Kepler Descartes nits and hook had hoped to flush out the details of the model but it was Newton who drove the last nail into the coffin of geocentrism Ptolemy's Almagest had been written about 1,500 years prior to the birth of modern science and contains 13 volumes which describe how orbits and epicycles function within the celestial sphere but there is no common underlying principle to any of it it is all one big excruciating trigonometric mess classical orbital mechanics by contrast begins with only three laws of motion and one law of gravity and from this basis is capable not only of matching the predictions of the significantly more convoluted on the guests but can also be used to calculate escape velocities ballistic trajectories and basically every mechanical operation needed to produce the Industrial Revolution everything that can be explained by geocentrism can be explained far more efficiently by heliocentric classical mechanics which are also capable of predicting and explaining things that geocentric physics could never even begin to touch the adoption of a different set of background propositions allowed classical physics to extend beyond the very limited domain of Ptolemaic animatics markedly improving Sciences predictive power in the process but of course there was that problem with Mercury's orbit that Newtonian mechanics was unequipped to handle as indicated earlier it was ultimately resolved by general relativity but in the process of this paradigm shift our understanding of the world became even more powerful and efficient all that you need is a single tensor equation plus the equivalence principle and now not only can you explain everything that classical physics could but you can now predict gravitational lensing black holes gravity waves the expansion of the cosmos gravitational time dilation and the shape of the entire universe none of these things were even remotely accessible by classical physics the takeaway here is that paradigm shifts which require the sacrifice of highly connected background propositions and the corresponding recontextualization of many facts will not transpire unless there is going to be a net gain in predictive power in a culture in which scientists are neither coerced into reaching foregone conclusions nor fail to be held accountable for doing so this relations between the practitioners of science and the societies that they inhabit are irrelevant to the conclusions reached by the scientists until compelling evidence surfaces to suggest that the consistent production of certain scientific results is enforced by the accumulation of subliminal biases informed by an oppressive history and culture the social constructionist will remain frustrated in her attempts to reshape the scientific enterprise in summary it is not the change in social conditions that allow for paradigm shifts and the selection of one underdetermined model over another but the promise of superior predictive power background propositions and paradigm shifts are not the evidence of impediments to objectivity that social constructionist take them to be but in fact are bridges that allow scientific theories to expand and flourish and ultimately unify as scientific knowledge asymptotically approaches truth the second objection is one that the second volume of my science Wars video series will deal with in great depth and that is the incompetence of those who try to discern the social and cultural factors that lead to the development of a particular scientific theory indeed much of the science Wars can be summed up as scientists philosophers mathematicians and engineers getting together and going through the literature of STS then writing books that point out example after example after example of their piss-poor scholarship and shallow grasp of both science and scientific history going back to relativity theory it is for some reason one of the topics of which more nonsense has been written by social constructionists than almost any other Jacques Derrida a founder of one of the philosophical schools that social construction is to draw from once infamously said the Einsteinian constant is not a constant is not a center it is the very concept of variability it is finally the concept of the game in other words it is not the concept of something of a center starting from which an observer could master the field but the very concept of the game if anybody watching happens to know what exactly the Einsteinian constant is I'd be very interested in finding out since I've never come across it in any of my studies nor apparently any of my rather bewildered professors the ants teeny inconstant is a mystery to physicists but for all the wrong reasons Bruno Lacroix one of the most important contributors to sts and a previous holder of the Spinoza chair of philosophy wrote a legendary paper in which he asks the question of whether special relativity is at all useful to sociology the correct answer of course is no but aside from getting this wrong Latoya has such a spectacularly bashed understanding of relativity that an entire video pointing out as many errors is necessary to do it justice Sandra Harding a central figure in the science Wars suggests that the culture of aim our German II had an influence over the development of relativity ludicrous claim since the special and general theories of relativity were completed in 1905 in 1916 respectively and the vamo Republic didn't begin to exist until 1919 but this was by no means the dumbest thing ever said about relativity that honor goes to postmodern scholar Luce Irigaray who calls e equals mc-squared a sext equation since it privileges the speed of light and they continue writing such nonsense about relativity in the peer-reviewed journals to this day it's not clear why relativists are so attracted to relativity especially since they don't seem to have the faintest idea of what it entails and they don't seem very interested in learning either because apparently the point is not to understand the disciplines that they criticize but to change them the antipathy and carelessness that social constructionists have for the disciplines that they critique combined with their abuse of the philosophy of science is not without consequences they treat science as though it were Chinese takeout and that all that scientists have been doing throughout the ages was to order the same meal of fried rice and orange chicken over and over and over again without ever considering the many other available dishes that could make for a much more interesting and much less monotonous meal I've spoken elsewhere at some length about this kind of attitude which I have taken to calling the new Lysenko ism after the pseudo scientific programs that were implemented installing a structure and Maoist China for the purpose of propagating in a man Cepeda reversion of science and how this ultimately contributed to famines that caused the deaths of countless millions one is not justified in picking and choosing which sciences one is willing to accept based on the hypocritical and conceded notion that scientists must be doing the same the notion of a democratic open-minded alternative to the supposedly narrow and closed-minded science of the present is based upon the misguided belief that science is a discourse ruled by the social values held by its practitioners it is held to be justified on this basis to bring into the fold overtly political and counter cultural elements that transgress against scientific standards and norms since they're culturally situated models are supposedly no more arbitrary and self-serving than those of scientists as one might imagine there is a price to be paid in a society where relativism of this sort is fashionable where everybody is looking at the same facts but simply interpreting them differently because of their personal predispositions to tell us exactly what we're going to see the Grand Canyon is a big ol hole in the ground but how did it get there now we've got an evolutionist interpretation and a creationist interpretation the evolutionist says oh it forms slowly with a little bit of water and lots and lots of time the creationist says no it form quickly with a lot of water and a little bit of time here we have a fact and two different interpretations of the facts the problem is many times evolutionists tie their faith-based interpretation of the facts to the actual fact both creation and evolution are what they're both religions that's exactly right creationists and evolutionists all have the same evidence Bill Nye and I have the same Grand Canyon we can't disagree on that we will have the same fish fossil this is one from the Creation Museum the same dinosaur skeletons the same animals the same humans the same DNA the same radioactive decay elements that we see we have the same universe actually we all have the same evidences it's not the evidences that are different it's a battle over the same evidence in to how we interpret the past and you know why that is because it's really a battle over worldviews and starting points it's a battle of the philosophical worldviews and starting points but the same evidence what you've just witnessed our young earth creationists using or more accurately abusing under determination in the same manner that social constructionist do the charge is that a particular group in power whether it's evolutionists imposing Darwinism straight white men imposing sexism or Semitic saboteurs imposing Jewish physics have their worldview represented and legitimated in the production of scientific knowledge and the solution of course is to expose the scientific establishments evil biases and develop a new and improved science whether it's Deutsche Physik feminist biology or intelligent design this is not just some cheap polemic Steve fuller is a social constructionist who holds the Augusta comped a chair at the University of Warwick's department of sociology he was a central figure in the science Wars having personally debated the physicist and defender of science Allen Sokol I noticed Fuller's belief that the scientific enterprise is distinctly Orwellian in character with paradigm shifts being accompanied by attitudes akin to double think in order to protect Sciences unjustified claim of accurately representing reality one moment you're at war with Eurasia indeed have always been at war with Eurasia the next year at war with Eastasia and have always been at war with Eastasia one moment you're doing Newtonian mechanics and your science accurately represents the world the next you're doing relativity and your science still accurately represents the world just as it always has Thomas Kuhn the man who had introduced the concept of the paradigm shift in the first place had emphatically disavowed such radical relativistic misuse of his work but fuller believes that Koons work clearly implied that he believed in the very thing that he was disavowing and that the only reason that Kuhn had distanced himself from the relativism that fuller really wants to believe in is because Kuhn by Fuller's account was merely an intellectual coward I mentioned fuller in the context of creationism because he would bring his arguments about scientific content being constructed by the biases of scientists to the 2005 case of Kitzmiller versus Dover where the local school district was being sued for it's teaching of intelligent design also called ID intelligent design has conclusively determined by the judge was nothing but a Trojan horse for the teaching of religion as well as an attempt to cast doubt on to the scientific status of the theory of evolution in the minds of the youth fuller appeared in court to offer a testimony in defense of intelligent design claiming that the current paradigm was stacked against ID only because of the socially embedded biases of scientists in academia and that the criteria for what counts as scientific were specifically created in order to keep ostensibly good science like intelligent design from being legitimated he repeated the sentiment in two subsequent books that he wrote in defense of ID and even appeared in Ben Stein's propaganda piece expelled no intelligence allowed where he suggested that Darwinism de privileges human life and leads to liberal things like abortion and euthanasia presumably these are what motivates scientist subscription to the theory of evolution fuller is not alone in his discontentment with evolutionary theory with many social constructionist screeds having been published along parallel lines evolution was conceived by biased scientists for reasons a B and C and this leads to harmful outcomes x y&z a change is therefore needed this is not to suggest that social constructionists are necessarily creationists but that the two have invariably become bedfellows the influence of the sort of nonsense can even be felt in the popular press the news and opinion website everyday feminism published a piece about a year ago in which these kinds of relativist arguments were used to cast doubt on evolution and promote intelligent design and that's only one variant of pseudoscience Runa let's wash em self has acknowledged that the work of his contemporaries and himself has enabled dangerous anti-scientific demagoguery from popular pundits so in addition to being shallow and incompetent the social constructionist critique of science is also dangerously blind and that in a nutshell is why you should be skeptical upon being confronted with the claim that science is a social construct it's based on a perverse understanding of the philosophy of science the evidence used to support the claim is incredibly weak and stupid and the program that it would enable would be so broad as to in pseudo-scientific nonsense i have much more to say on these topics so if you're interested in a more comprehensive take I'll be putting two youtube links into the description box first my video the new lysenko ists introduces this phenomenon and the importance of not letting it go unchecked the second youtube link is to a playlist of my ongoing series the science wars which go into considerably greater depth than what I've said here the first volume is carefully exploring the epistemologies that underlie radical constructivism so that we may have a better understanding of what we're actually up against the second volume as I've mentioned will be looking at a number of famous papers that attempt to prove that science is socially constructed and I will be evaluating their scientific and historical accuracy if you like this video go ahead and give it a thumbs up if you really liked it go ahead and subscribe and hit the bell next to the red button so that you're notified when I upload YouTube's algorithms will sometimes hide videos from people's subscription feeds so it's better to be safe than sorry my busy schedule prevents me from uploading frequently so you don't need to worry about getting spammed these videos do take an extraordinarily long time to create so if you could share it on your social media as well I'd be extremely grateful if you want your name featured along with the others and the credits visit my patreon which is linked in the description box below I've also linked my Twitter and alternate vlogging channel if you're into that kind of thing until next time Casey out

39 thoughts on “Is Science a Social Construct?

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    [30] Scientific American: “Point of View Affects how Science is Done”
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/point-of-view-affects-how-science-is-done/

    [31] Eric Hovind’s “Beginnings” Seminar: Session 5

    [32] Bill Nye vs Ken Ham debate at the Creation Museum (24 Feb. 2014)

    [33] NBC News: “From Darwin to Damore, How Modern Science has Failed Women”
    https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/darwin-damore-how-modern-science-failed-women-ncna801586

    [34] University of Wisconsin-Madison News: “First in the Nation: UW establishes first post-doc for feminist biology”
    https://news.wisc.edu/first-in-the-nation-uw-madison-establishes-post-doc-in-feminist-biology/

    [35] Biologos: “Are Scientists biased by their worldview?”
    https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/are-scientists-biased-by-their-worldviews

    [36] Baringer, Philip S. After the Science Wars. New York: Routlege, 2001. pg 2

    [37] The Guardian: “Science has always been a bit post-truth”
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2016/dec/15/science-has-always-been-a-bit-post-truth

    [38] Kuhn, Thomas S. The Road since Structure: Philosophical Essays, 1970 – 1993. University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    [39] Fuller, Steve. Kuhn VS Popper. Columbia University Press, 2003.

    [40] Kitzmiller VS Dover transcripts- Day 15am
    https://ncse.com/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/trial_transcripts/2005_1024_day15_am.pdf

    [41] Fuller, Steve. Science VS Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution. Polity Press, 2007.

    [42] Fuller, Steve. Dissent over Descent. Icon, 2007.

    [43] Vaahtera, Touko. “We Swam before we breathed and walked.” Disability & Society 31:5 (2016)

    [44] Ah-King Malin. “Sexual Selection Revisited- Towards a gender neutral theory and practice.” 14:4 (2007)

    [45] Creation.com: “Evolution is inherently racist”
    http://creation.com/evolution-is-inherently-racist

    [46] Everyday Feminism: “The History Reveals that Science isn’t Nearly as Objective as You Think”
    https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/11/scientific-objectivity-myth/

    [47] Latour, Bruno. (2004) "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern". Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2, Winter 2004, pp. 225-248

    [48] Investor’s Business Daily Editorial: “U.N.'s Global Warming Fraudsters Are More Interested In Climate Cash Than Climate Change”
    https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/u-n-s-global-warming-fraudsters-are-more-interested-in-climate-cash-than-climate-change/

    [49] Slate: “Stop Equating Science with Truth”
    www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2017/08/evolutionary_psychology_is_the_most_obvious_example_of_how_science_is_flawed.html

    [50] The Federalist: “Feminist PhD Candidate: Science is Sexist Because it’s Not Subjective”
    http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/29/feminist-phd-candidate-science-sexist-not-subjective/

    [51] Parson, Laura. “Are STEM Syllabi Gendered? A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis”. The Qualitative Report (2016) 21:1; Article 9

    [52] Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center’s FAQ: “Why is intelligent design theory often controversial?” http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1160?

  • The gender extremists can't even use their own terminology coherently. I have not been able to decide whether they do this deliberately to confuse interlocutors or whether they just don't notice the contradictions (similar to how they contradictions seem invisible to religious believers who can't even tell that a contradiction exists when it is directly shown to them).
    13:58 panel on "Neurosexism" states that treating people differrently on the basis of their gender causes their gender (causes them to behave differently) whereas they seem to have forgotten that gender is not sex in their language and that it would make more sense to say that treating people differently based on the basis of sex (physiological) creates gender differences (and they even call these so-called gender difference when it is the existence of the differences that give the concept of gender any anchor or salience).

  • The gender extremists can't even use their own terminology coherently. I have not been able to decide whether they do this deliberately to confuse interlocutors or whether they just don't notice the contradictions (similar to how they contradictions seem invisible to religious believers who can't even tell that a contradiction exists when it is directly shown to them).
    13:58 panel on "Neurosexism" states that treating people differrently on the basis of their gender causes their gender (causes them to behave differently) whereas they seem to have forgotten that gender is not sex in their language and that it would make more sense to say that treating people differently based on the basis of sex (physiological) creates gender differences (and they even call these so-called gender difference when it is the existence of the differences that give the concept of gender any anchor or salience).

  • As Hitchens said, logic is man-made, and as Sagan said, science is a collective enterprise, as Newton said, he got there by climbing on the shoulders of giants. In that sense, science as a way of thinking, as an inquisitive method can be considered a social construct, but it doesn't mean hard facts discovered through science are social constructs. Regardless of society, Plutonium 239 will decay and release an Alpha particle every second.

  • It is nice to see someone focus on the predictive power of science as the core to why it is useful and correct. When it comes to understanding the world, predictive power is reigns supreme as the best value to strive for to do so. In a sense, predictive power is truth, at least in a useful sense of truth (the world could just be a simulation, but our physics equations will still remain useful and relevant to how we effectively interact and understand the world/simulation around us).

  • I just want people and the market to be free….and I do go by the non aggression principle…and Yes I am pro science obviously.

  • Dude, You don't get it. People believe what they are told. How may the social studies make your ideas REAL?

  • It is interesting that it has become popular to reject science nowadays. It is like the Dark Ages are returning.

  • KC, you are "preaching to the choir" here. My daughter just graduated from U. of W. and she had a class dealing with this. Sadly it has had an impact on her and her fellow students. I fear that this anti-science curriculum may spread through society as I see the anti-vaxers, flat-earthers and religion-believeing bible thumpers gaining a hold through "wait for it", the science they disparage.

  • So creationism is a religion according to Eric Hovind? I always thought it was a philosophical position based on several religions. So does this mean that Eric and Muslim Young Earth Creationists?

  • Great video, KC. As someone who studied in the humanities at university I've seen the pushing of radical egalitarianism as a very big problem, especially my freshman year. Real science rules!

  • The scientific facts are within the only common social construct we know, limited by our logic and limits of our senses. Hence yes, they are tue facts as we know them.

  • PROCESSES not processeeeeeeeeeeeez.

    sorry it's a pet peeve of mine…

    as 'feminist epistemology' is a proverbial thorn in one's side…

    incorrect or nonstandard pronunciation is often spread by pretentiousness alone.

  • I think this is the first straight up denial of science I've seen coming from the left-wing. I mainly see leftwingers exaggerating the conclusions or results of a paper, but science denial itself is something that I think is rare.

  • The very fact that there are 'paradigm shifts' in science proves that science itself is a social construct.
    If one scientist proposes a theory and it needs the validation of several OTHER scientists (read: people) to affirm it as being 'true', then it is being SOCIALLY constructed. We use words to describe things, and even something like language is not sturdy, but fluid.
    We improve on theories as we go to get a better idea of what our world really is. But we are only human and thinking we can be all knowing is a very limiting and self-denying way to look at the world.
    Just because something is socially constructed doesn't mean it doesn't come with utility. Of course not! But our definitions sometimes just either aren't accurate enough or don't fit our needs. And that's okay. That doesn't mean science is all about pushing some agenda. But it IS socially constructed.

  • 5:44 I readily admit the absolute reductionism is hardly useful. But I am not, at the moment, concerned with utility,
    but with absolute truth.

  • Since words and math are a factually social constructs, and science is based on those constructs, doesn't this video prove that science is a social construct?

  • You are just arguing from the extremes, you do idolize science. Anything that is in language is socially contributed. That does not mean facts are not facts, it means what you do with facts is dominated by the social construct in which are enamored. I was a PhD candidate in history if ideas. I studied Derrida, a bunch of those other guys, You are right there are a lot of idiots in the field, I hate most of the people you talk about. I get the feeling you are only looking for the idiots. Kuhn can be considered a constructionist (light). If you ask me for an example of a smart one he would be the main one I would point to.

  • Hold on there a minute, how, can all sciences be grounded in experiments alone? I thought that sciences such as astronomy, economics, sociology, anthropology, paleontology, archaeology, geology, epidemiology, history, jurisprudence and most social sciences were purely observational; however, it appears in this video that the sciences are uniform than a family of methods. This is especially in Massimo Pigliucci's Non-sense on Stilts that there is no singular scientific method. Heck, Feyerabend pointed out that there is no such thing as the scientific method since there are no fixed rules in the practice of science. Rather, there is a pragmatism of anything goes in which what methods are useful are pursued and what methods are useless are discarded.

  • K.C., while I totally understand everything presented in this video, why don't you explain it using small words so the laymen in the audience will be able to understand your meaning (the way I already do. I'm really smart btw)

  • I definitely agree with the validity of science for sure. It's been seen to have huge implications on yhe descriptions of the universe. But we still have to understand that science is still a description of the universe constructed through various forms of symbols and human linguistics. These concepts merely describe phenomenon but aren't the phenomena itself.

  • The only thing that baffles me more than people who seem to think that reality is dependent on their preferences is the sheer amount that exist of them…

  • Interestingly, I tried looking through the French+English version of the Luce Irigaray paper from which that quote at 27:43 is supposed to have come. The version that's in the Hypatia "journal" doesn't seem to have it. Also, the English version of Irigaray's book which is supposed to have compiled a number of her publications doesn't even mention relativity or Einstein at all in spite of having this paper in it as a chapter. It's possible it was removed, but an earlier edition (or possibly even a review draft) might have had it, but I can't find one now. The only mentions I've found are from Sokal & Bricmont's book criticizing the same social constructionists you are, and Irigaray is among them, but all versions I've found of the supposed source don't seem to have that quote.

    That said, I wouldn't put it past her considering that I can find other examples of her saying similarly stupid things. In one of her books — https://caringlabor.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/irigaray-this-sex-which-is-not-one.pdf — she spends a chapter arguing that the reason fluid mechanics is so hard is because fluidity is apparently feminine while mechanics is masculine and the rigor of mathematics is supposedly too masculine of a lens to elucidate truths about the feminine.

  • A scientific fact is a proposition ?! Really ?! Right at the start you've exposed perhaps the greatest folly of science , REDEFINING OF WORDS & TERMS .

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