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Ideology and science. Learning objectives. Know the difference between open and closed systems. Understand and be able to evaluate different views of science as a belief system Understand and be able to evaluate different views of the nature of ideology. The impact of science.

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learning objectives
Learning objectives
  • Know the difference between open and closed systems.
  • Understand and be able to evaluate different views of science as a belief system
  • Understand and be able to evaluate different views of the nature of ideology.
the impact of science
The impact of science
  • Science has had an enormous impact on society over the last few centuries. Medicine has eradicated once very fatal diseases.
  • Many basic features of daily life today-transport, communications, work and leisure would be unrecognisable to our recent ancestors due to scientific and technological development.
what is science
What is science?

The theoretical basis of the natural sciences are that subject matter is made to behave in certain ways by external forces and pressures e.g. matter is subject to the laws of gravity

The methods used to gain knowledge therefore need to provide:

precise measurements of patterns, and controlled experiments to identify the underlying natural laws

features of science
Features of science

Science should therefore be:

  • Empirical
  • Objective
  • Controlled
  • Cumulative – building on previous knowledge
  • These are ideas about things we hold to be true.
  • Religious beliefs mainly concerned with supernatural powers/forces, fundamental questions on life and death.
  • Religious beliefs include common religions such as Christianity, Hinduism as well as other diverse beliefs like witchcraft, paganism and Satanism.
  • Religious beliefs also include beliefs which fall outside of these mainstream religions like faith healing, astrology, magic and other New Age beliefs like meditation and aromatherapy.
science as a belief system
Science as a belief system
  • Science was mixed up with religious beliefs, superstition and magic.
  • Many see modern science as a product of the process of rationalisation.
  • Secularisation theorists believe science has undermined religion by changing how we think about and see the world
  • Religion and science are seen as competing to explain how we think and see the world around us.
open belief systems
Open belief systems
  • According to Karl Popper (1959), science is an open belief system where every scientist’s theories are open to scrutiny, criticism and testing by others.
  • Science is governed from the principle of falsification.
  • This means that scientists set out to try and falsify existing theories, deliberately seeking evidence that would disprove them. If evidence from an experiment or observation contradicts a theory and shows it to be false, the theory can then be discarded and the search for a better explanation can begin.
In Poppers view, discarding falsified knowledge claims is what enables scientific understanding of the world to grow. Scientific knowledge is cumulative. Therefore it builds on the achievements of previous scientists to develop a greater understanding of the world around us.
closed belief systems
Closed belief systems
  • How do science & religion differ?
  • Robin Horton (1970) puts forward a similar argument. Like Popper he sees science as an open belief system, however he sees religion, magic and other belief systems as closed. That is they make knowledge claims that cannot be successfully overturned.
closed belief systems1
Closed belief systems.
  • Religion claims to know the absolute sacred truth
  • Any challenges to this can be punished
  • Religious knowledge does not change therefore religious knowledge is fixed & does not grow.
  • Religion & magic are closed systems: they cannot be overturned or disproved
closed belief systems2
Closed belief systems
  • One example is witchcraft beliefs. Edward Evans- Pritchard’s (1936) classic anthropological study of the Azande people of the Sudan illustrates Horton's idea of a self-reinforcing, closed belief system.
science as a belief system1
Science as a belief system
  • The effects of science both good and bad demonstrate the key feature distinguishing it from other belief systems or knowledge claims- that is its cognitive power.
  • In other words science allows us to explain predict and control the world in a way that non-scientific or pre-scientific beliefs systems do not.
  • Strange Beliefs: Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard
science as a closed system
Science as a closed system
  • Despite Popper’s view of science as open and critical, some other writers argue that science itself can be seen as a self sustaining or closed system of belief. Polanyi argues that all belief systems reject fundamental challenges to their knowledge claims. According to Polanyi science is no different.
the case of dr velikovsky
The case of Dr Velikovsky
  • In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky published Worlds in Collision, in which he put forward a new theory on the origins of the earth. Velikvsky’s theory challenged some of the most fundamental assumptions of geology, astronomy and evolutionary biology. The response from the scientific community was far from open.
Instead of putting the new theory to the test to see if it explained the observed facts, scientists rushed to reject it outright without even reading the book. A boycott of Velikovsky’s publisher was organised. Those scientist who called for a fair hearing were victimised and some were imprisoned.
thomas s kuhn
Thomas. S . Kuhn
  • One explanation for scientists’ refusal even to consider such challenges comes from the above historian. He argues that a mature science such as geology, biology or physics is based upon a set of shared assumptions that he calls a paradigm. The paradigm tells scientists what reality is like, what problems to study and what methods and equipment to use.
scientific knowledge as a social construction
Scientific knowledge as a social construction
  • Interpretivists have developed Kuhn’s ideas further . They believe that scientists only see what they want to see. Knowledge is therefore socially constructed.
  • The laboratory is a highly artificial setting far removed from the natural world that is supposed to be under observation.
  • Scientists have to interpret evidence using their own frameworks thus scientific fact is just a social construction
marxists feminists and postmodernism
Marxists, Feminists and Postmodernism
  • Critical perspectives see scientific knowledge as serving the interest of dominant groups
  • Scientific knowledge is not true.
  • According to postmodernists, science is just another meta-narrative
  • some pm’s agree with Marxists that science has become techno-science, simply serving capitalist interests by producing commodities for profit.
re cap
  • Key ideas so far:
  • Definitions of ‘belief systems’ – ideas that we hold to be true
  • What constitutes a ‘religious belief?’
  • What constitutes a ‘science?’
  • What a definition of an ideology’ is
  • Debated the issues of whether science itself is really as ‘scientific’ as it claims to be?
  • What the difference is between a closed and open system.
  • A basic definition of ideology is that it is a worldview or a set of ideas and values. In other words ideology is a belief system.
features of ideology
Features of ideology
  • Distorted, false or mistaken ideas about the world, or a partial one-sided or biased view of reality.
  • Ideas that conceal the interests of a particular group, or that legitimate their privileges.
  • Ideas that present change by misleading people about the reality of the situation.
  • A self sustaining belief system that is irrational and closed to criticism.
marxism and ideology
Marxism and Ideology
  • Two opposing classes.
  • Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.
  • Marx believes that the ultimately the working class will develop a true class consciousness and unite to overthrow capitalism.
hegemony and revolution
Hegemony and Revolution
  • Antonio Gramsci
  • Hegemony
  • Dual consciousness
  • Organic Intellectuals