Sociocultural Factors in Theory Acceptance theorem (Barseghyan-2015)
An attempt to answer the question of Role of Sociocultural Factors in Theory Acceptance which states "Sociocultural factors can affect the process of theory acceptance insofar as it is permitted by the method employed at the time."
The actual mechanic of how such a broad category as “socio-cultural factors” affects theory acceptance is often not simple, nor is the question necessarily addressed by many who write about the sociology of science. If one assumes that any scientific method will be static across time, examples of violations due to social factors seem external to the scientific process.
Some authors can be considered stereotypical “social constructivists” in arguing that a scientific community is strictly a specialized social process. For Ludwik Fleck, theories as they are passed down through generations, and between groups of scientists, and misunderstood, reshaped, and refined based on the fundamentally incommensurable nature of communication that arises from social organization.2 Fleck argues that scientific thought is a highly specified kind of observation, socially constructed by the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next by a process of institutional induction through schools, churches, and so on.3 Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar likewise contend in Laboratory Life that the construction of scientific facts relies on an elaborate, ritualized, and almost tribe-like devotion to actions that are fundamentally social. Scientists take scientific claims and construct structures of institution and social support, which is what the acceptance of a fact in a communal context actually relies upon.4
If nonepistemic considerations can be tiebreakers in cases of transient underdetermination, then scientists may appeal to nonepistemic considerations when accepting or rejecting hypotheses.5
It is unclear whether the "may" here is to be understood as normative or descriptive. Yet, if interpreted descriptively, DiMarco and Khalifa's formulation captures the gist of our theorem: sociocultural factors (i.e. "nonepistemic considerations") affect the process of theory acceptance when the method of the time itself allows for such an influence by underdetermining theory choice.
|Community||Accepted From||Acceptance Indicators||Still Accepted||Accepted Until||Rejection Indicators|
|Scientonomy||1 January 2016||The theorem became de facto accepted by the community at that time together with the whole theory of scientific change.||Yes|
Sociocultural Factors in Theory Acceptance theorem (Barseghyan-2015) is an attempt to answer the following question: What is the role of sociocultural factors, such as economics or politics, in the process of theory acceptance?
See Role of Sociocultural Factors in Theory Acceptance for more details.
Sociocultural factors can impact the process of a theory's acceptance when the employed method of the community allows for such factors to affect the process. This is derived by the Second Law alone. For example, a community which ascribes infallible power to a leader or a group of leaders is in a position to accept a theory in virtue of the leaders. Furthermore, such factors can guide a scientific community to reject a theory based on the acceptance of another social theory with which it is at odds.
Barseghyan’s Laws of Scientific Change break from the traditional language used in philosophy of science, of internal versus external factors in the mosaic. External factors, a term that has traditionally referred to the influences of societal trends, politics, religion, and so on, if defined as “elements not included in the mosaic” then we must accept that these do not affect the mosaic at the time by the the very definition. This is the result of the fact that the 2nd law introduces new theories in the context of the accepted methods at the time. As a result, the language of “external” factors is problematic.1
Socio-cultural factors ought to be defined more explicitly. The question is, instead, whether factors such as economics, politics, and religion can influence the theories accepted in the mosaic. It follows from the Second Law that theories are assessed by the method in the mosaic at the time. Therefore, if the method at the time mandates economic, political, religious, or other social requirements to be met by a theory before it is accept, only then do socio-cultural factors influence theory acceptance.
Barseghyan provides the example of a hypothetical religious community, with an accepted belief (i.e. theory) that holds that the religion’s High Priest always grasps the true essence of things. By the Third Law, a method may be employed the mosaic that states that any proposition is acceptable, given that the High Priest utters it. In this case, it would appear as though socio-cultural factors are influencing, if not dictating, the course of scientific change in the community. This should not be confused with a case where a High Priest or other elite enforces their beliefs unscientifically, through threats, bribery, or otherwise. Should this happen, the change would be unscientific, as it would violate either the method employed at the time (and thereby the Second Law), or it would be creating a method in the mosaic which does not follow from the accepted theories at the time (and thereby the Third Law).1
- Barseghyan, Hakob. (2015) The Laws of Scientific Change. Springer.
- Sady, Wojciech. (2016) Ludwik Fleck. In Zalta (Ed.) (2016). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/fleck/.
- Cohen, Robert S. and Schnelle, Thomas. (Eds.). (1986) Cognition and Fact: Materials on Ludwik Fleck. Springer Science & Business Media.
- Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, Steve. (1979) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton University Press.
- DiMarco, Marina and Khalifa, Kareem. (2019) Inquiry Tickets: Values, Pursuit, and Underdetermination. Philosophy of Science 86, 1016-1028.