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Science and Sociology

On Thursday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Trevor Pinch of Cornell University, as an extra credit assignment for my astronomy class. I was prepared to suffer through some boring lecture, most of which I probably wouldn’t understand, and write my reflective paper. However, I found the talk to be extremely interesting. Dr. Pinch, before receiving his Masters degree and PhD in physics, recieved a BA in Sociology. His lecture was focused at pulling the fields of science and sociology together, to help explain the role society plays in science.

Various topics were discussed, some of which have already been mentioned on our blog. He discussed the importance of hands on work in science in order to develop skills, rather than just reading a book. He gave the example of performing an operation. You could read a thousand textbooks about how to make an insicion, but when it comes to actually cutting into someone, only actually doing the task will help you learn to do it better. Dr. Pinch also brought up the idea of the language used in scientific writing. Often it is very straightforward and undescriptive; however by leaving out the intricate details of an experiment or observation, you could actually be taking away from the actual event.

I found this lecture to especially reach me, because as a psychology major, the way I perceive things in science are probably much different than a chemist would. Dr. Pinch’s lecture helped me see the connection between the fields, and how in some ways my way of thinking could be beneficial to my understanding of science.

What do you guys think? Is there a place for sociology in science or do you picture the two fields as seperate?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. zmackay
    February 27, 2012 at 5:51 am

    I agree with you in that sociology certainly has a place in science. Actually, I believe the two are inseperable as sociology forms the construct for science communication. From discovery to distribution, I do not see how scientific progress can be made without the careful interaction of groups within and in-between the different fields. This is particularly pertinent to the field of medicine. Just as the different systems in the human body interact, so do the problems that plague them and thus the solutions that we strive to find for them. Developments in cardiology, for example, cannot be affirmed without extensive testing in neurology, and the ongoing research into cures for aids, even cancer, is based on years of other carefully recorded studies. Science almost always has an objective; the betterment of a targeted group. If this is to be accomplished, communication is just as, if not even more essential, than actual discovery. I believe that the study of how this communication happens can help us reform its efficiency and thus effectivity.

  2. February 29, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Another interesting way to look at this topic is based on Monday’s class discussion, through the lens of Weigold. We discussed in class the distinctions that Weigold makes in science – some scientists, such a Sharon Begley of Newsweek focus on, “…I’ll do genetics. I’ll do neuroscience. But once it gets into somebody sick, I give it to ‘medicine.'” This is an interesting way to view the intersection between sociology and science because what one person may view as science, another person might necessarily not. It all depends on what you study, what you are interested in, and what your profession is. There must be a place where sociology veers off in the philosophical world to a place where it becomes more difficult to relate it back to science, so even within a scientific topic, we cannot assume that all of it is fully science-based. An important question to consider is if all topics are interconnected. Is there is a point where a topic can no longer relate to another?

  3. anthonypribadi
    February 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    First of all, I think Dr Pinch is so awesome. I just couldn’t think that someone will do BA in Sociology, then continue to get PhD in Physics! But that aside, I am a believer of “everything relates, somehow”. There is a cause-effect in everything. And long time ago, I believe we did not have distinct fields such as Sociology, Physics, Maths, Political Science, Chemistry, Anthropology, Biology, Agriculture, etc. As the time goes on, more and more fields emerge, and typically become more specific. Correct me if I am wrong, but as far as I know, during ancient Greek time, people learn from the teacher virtually everything. Let’s say I am Plato’s student, so I will listen and learn from him whatever he feels like teaching me. There was no distinction between fields. Knowledge is knowledge. Wisdom is wisdom. In fact in those days, those scientists were those who were the philosophers too. But now, rarely we can see someone who is active in both fields. So I would say Science and Sociology, although they are different in a lot of aspects, but they do have some relation (I am not sure what the relation is since I don’t study Sociology), because there was no distinction about fields long time ago. Knowledge is knowledge, wisdom is wisdom.

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