Steve Fuller (sociologist)

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Steve Fuller
Born Steve William Fuller
(1959-07-12) July 12, 1959 (age 55)
New York City, United States
Residence Coventry, England
Occupation Academic philosopher and sociologist
Title Professor of sociology at University of Warwick, England
Website
Home page

Steve William Fuller (born 12 July 1959) is an American philosopher-sociologist in the field of science and technology studies. He has published in the areas of social epistemology, academic freedom, and the contentious subjects of intelligent design and transhumanism, for which he has received both praise and derogation at the hands of prominent critics.

Biography[edit]

Fuller attended Regis High School in Manhattan.[1] Admitted as a John Jay Scholar to Columbia University, he majored in History and Sociology and graduated summa cum laude in 1979. Awarded a Kellett Fellowship, he studied at Clare College, Cambridge, and received an M.Phil. in History and Philosophy of Science in 1981. He earned his Ph.D. in the same subject from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985, where he was an Andrew Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellow. Fuller's doctoral dissertation, "Bounded Rationality in Law and Science", explored the implications of the views of Herbert A. Simon for political theory and philosophy of science.

Fuller held assistant and associate professorships at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech and the University of Pittsburgh. In 1994, he was appointed to the chair in sociology and social policy at the University of Durham, England. He moved in 1999 to the University of Warwick, England. In July 2007 Fuller was awarded a D. Litt. by Warwick in recognition of "published work or papers which demonstrate a high standard of important original work forming a major contribution to a subject".[2] In 2008, Fuller served as President of the Sociology section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In that capacity, he staged a play, "Lincoln and Darwin—Live for One Night Only!", at the BA's annual Festival of Science in Liverpool.[3] The play was later produced as a podcast in Australia.[4]

Fuller has been a visiting professor in Denmark, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden (where he held a Fulbright Professorship in 1995 at Gothenburg University), and the United States (UCLA).[5]

In 2010 Fuller became a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity at the University of North Texas. In 2011, the University of Warwick appointed him to the Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology.[6] In 2011, Fuller was appointed a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences.[7] In 2012, he was appointed to an Honorary Professorship at Dalian University of Technology, China.[8] In 2012, he was made a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Division I (Humanities).[9] In 2013, he was appointed to the Futures and Philosophy advisory boards of the Lifeboat Foundation.[10]

Work[edit]

Fuller is most closely associated with social epistemology as an interdisciplinary research program. Social epistemology is a normative discipline that addresses philosophical problems of knowledge using the tools of history and the social sciences. Fuller founded the first journal (1987) and wrote the first book (1988) devoted to this topic. The most obvious feature of Fuller's approach, already present in his 1988 book, is that he rejects out of hand the Cartesian problem of scepticism.

Along with 18 books, Fuller has written 65 book chapters, 155 academic articles and many minor pieces. He has given many distinguished lectures and plenary addresses, and has presented to academic and non-academic audiences throughout the world, including over 100 media interviews. His works have been translated into fifteen languages. 23 academic symposia have been published on his work. He moved to the United Kingdom in 1994, the year he organized a conference in Durham on "Science's Social Standing".[5]

Since moving to the UK, Fuller has increasingly oriented himself towards public intellectual expression, including television, radio and internet, which he interprets as a natural outgrowth of his version of social epistemology. Two of his books have been recognised in this regard. Kuhn vs. Popper was Book of the Month for February 2005 in the US mass circulation magazine, Popular Science.[11] However, Rupert Read wrote: "I did not have to read far into this book in order to conclude that it is worthless. ... In sum: this book offers only a cartoon opposition of a fake 'Popper' to a fake 'Kuhn.'"[12] Fuller responded, coining the word "Kuhnenstein" (Kuhn + Wittgenstein) to capture Read's view of Kuhn, which Fuller calls a "figment of Read's -- and other's -- fertile imagination."[13] The Intellectual was selected as a Book of the Year in 2005 by the UK liberal-left magazine, New Statesman. He periodically contributes a column to the Project Syndicate, associated with George Soros' Open Society project, which appears in several languages in newspapers across the world.[14] In 2006 he also taught a course on the epistemology of journalism at an international summer school at the University of Lund, Sweden.[15]

Academic freedom[edit]

Fuller believes (modeled on what he takes to be the German model) that academic freedom refers to a freedom reserved for academics, not a special case of freedom of speech.[16] This includes the right to "cause reasoned offence", if within the terms of reason and evidence appropriate to the academic profession.[17] He believes it important for academics to be able to express intellectual opinions for further debate which can result in progress. He also argues that students are equally entitled to academic freedom.[18]

Intelligent design[edit]

Fuller has made many statements about his support for intelligent design (ID) and authored two books on the subject. In 2005, in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, he testified on behalf on a local school system in the United States that required the teaching of intelligent design. The decision of the U.S. District Court held that intelligent design was a form of creationism and that its inclusion in the curriculum violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the establishment of religion. The decision repeatedly cited Fuller's testimony to undermine the school system's position. Some of Fuller's critics within the Science and Technology Studies community described his participation in the trial as "naive" and suggested that the field needs further development before it can constructively engage the legal community on the nature of science.[19][20]

Fuller has said that he does not support intelligent design "but feels that it should have a 'fair run for its money'".[21] In his book Dissent over Descent, he identified himself as a secular humanist and wrote that he does not believe in a divine personal creator, but sees religion in general as a motivating influence in scientific pursuits and believes that the difference between science and religion is more institutional than intellectual.[22][23] Critics have called his views on science postmodernist, though others characterise them as more closely related to social constructionism.[24][25]

On 21 February 2007, Fuller debated Lewis Wolpert at Royal Holloway, University of London on whether evolution and intelligent design should be accorded equal status as scientific theories. Fuller supported the proposition. Fuller endorsed a work in support of Intelligent Design, the Discovery Institute's textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (2007).[26]

Appearing in the 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Fuller told an interviewer:[27]

If you take seriously that evolution has to do with the transition of life forms, and that life and death are just natural processes, then one gets to be liberal about abortion and euthanasia. All of those kinds of ideas seem to me follow very naturally from a Darwinian perspective-- a deprivileging of human beings, basically. And I think people who want to endorse Darwinism have to take this kind of viewpoint very seriously.

Transhumanism[edit]

Much of his work focuses on questions around technological enhancements and how it can improve the capacities of human beings. Fuller argues that the pursuit for enhancements is based on a need ″to create some distance between ourselves and the other animals″[28] and therefore sees it as problematic to foster the idea of e.g. reembedding human beings in animal nature as this might undermine current ethical and moral principles of determining boundaries of political participation and who should have political rights in society.

Principal works[edit]

Science Vs Religion?[edit]

In 2007, Fuller wrote Science Vs Religion?: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution. In addition to introductory and conclusionary chapters, it has chapters on the history of the relationship between religion and science, the thesis that modern science has its basis in an attempt by humanity to transcend itself and reach God, how Fuller believes complexity distinguishes ID from "other versions of creationism", legal issues, and the future of "Darwinism".[29]

Professor of mathematics at Rutgers University, Norman Levitt in a review described it as "a truly miserable piece of work, crammed with errors scientific, historical, and even theological".[30] Levitt took issue with the following points:[30]

  • Fuller's acceptance at face value of William Dembski's claims on complexity and randomness, and his failure to come to grips with the wealth of results that this field has generated and with the trenchant criticism of Dembski's claims (or even to describe these claims accurately);
  • Fuller's disparagement of evolutionary biology, without doing "serious analysis of the working methods and logical structure of biology itself" on which to base it;
  • Fuller's misrepresentation of Isaac Newton's religious beliefs in order to make a point that is in fact antithetical to Newton's views;

Levitt infers that Fuller's views arise from an "animosity to science as such and to its cognitive authority [that] still pervades academic life outside the dominion of the science faculty".[31] Fuller later responded to these points, accusing Levitt of axe-grinding and questioning his understanding of the book, which Fuller claimed was less a defense of contemporary intelligent design theory than a demonstration of its rootedness in the history of science. Fuller also claims that Levitt misquotes one of the three passages Levitt cites from the book, making it mean the opposite of the original.[32] Levitt subsequently responded at length to Fuller, concluding that "Fuller's misreading of the politics that generated and sustains the ID movement is so complete as to constitute a peculiar pathology all its own."[33] Fuller has long been highly critical of the views of science of his opponents in the Science Wars, including Levitt, dating back at least to 1994.[34][35]

Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy professor[36] and integrative biologist[37] at the University of Texas at Austin also criticised Fuller's book for presenting an "analysis of the intellectual disputes over contemporary ID creationism [that] is almost vacuous".[38] Sarkar further states that the book has an idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of philosophy, including of Kant, and of logical positivism; having a limited grasp of the history of science, including making claims about Newton, Cuvier, Agassiz, Lamarck, Mendel, Pearson and Galton that are not supported by their writings; failure to engage the "debate over naturalism that ID creationism has generated" with "remarks on supernaturalism [that show] him to be equally non-cognizant of the work of ... Philip Johnson"; and other scientific errors.[38]

Dissent Over Descent[edit]

In 2008 Fuller's book on the intelligent design controversy, Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism was published. Steven Poole of The Guardian wrote: "book is an epoch-hopping parade of straw men, incompetent reasoning and outright gibberish, as when evolution is argued to share with astrology a commitment to "action at a distance", except that the distance is in time rather than space. It's intellectual quackery like this that gives philosophy of science a bad name."[39] Michael Ruse, Philosopher of Science at Florida State University wrote in the journal Science that Fuller's book "is completely wrong and is backed by no sound scholarship whatsoever. In at least one case, Fuller makes his case by an egregious misreading—of something I wrote about the role of genetic drift in Sewall Wright's shifting balance theory. For the record, Charles Darwin set out to provide a cause, what he called—following his mentors like William Whewell (who in turn referred back to Newton)—a true cause or vera causa. Darwin felt, and historians and philosophers of science as well as practicing evolutionary biologists still feel, that he succeeded…"[40] In a "book of the week" review by retired Divinity Professor Keith Ward in the Times Higher Education Supplement, the book was praised for providing often overlooked information and provocative interpretations, but was criticised for a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations.[41]

A. C. Grayling, in New Humanist, wrote that the book contains a "mark of ignorance and historical short-sightedness on Fuller's part".[42] In response, Fuller wrote an online response saying "if Grayling's grasp of the history of science went beyond head-banging standards, he would realise that our current level of scientific achievement would never have been reached, and more importantly that we would not be striving to achieve more, had chance-based explanations dominated over the design-based ones in our thinking about reality."[43] To which Grayling wrote: "Steve Fuller complains, as do all authors whose books are panned, that I did not read his book properly (or at all)."[44] He continued, "I'll take on Fuller any day regarding the history and theology of the various versions of Christianity with which humanity has been burdened. […] The same applies to the history of science."[44]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Social Epistemology, Indiana University Press, 1988 (2nd edition, 2002).
  • Philosophy of Science and Its Discontents, Westview Press, 1989 (2nd edition, Guilford Press, 1993).
  • Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the End of Knowledge, University of Wisconsin Press, 1993 (2nd edition, with James H. Collier, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004)
  • Science, Open University Press (UK) and University of Minnesota Press (US), 1997.
  • The Governance of Science, Open University Press, 2000.
  • Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times, University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • Knowledge Management Foundations, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. ISBN 0-7506-7365-6
  • Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science, Icon Books (UK) and Columbia University Press (US), 2003.
  • The Intellectual, Icon Books, 2005.
  • The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies, Routledge, 2006
  • The New Sociological Imagination, Sage, 2006.
  • The Knowledge Book: Key Concepts in Philosophy, Science and Culture, Acumen (UK) and McGill-Queens University Press (NA), 2007
  • New Frontiers in Science and Technology Studies, Polity, 2007
  • Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution, Polity, 2007
  • Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism, Icon Books, 2008
  • The Sociology of Intellectual Life: The Career of the Mind In and Around the Academy, Sage, 2009.
  • Science, (The Art of Living Series, Ed. Mark Vernon) Acumen, 2010
  • Humanity 2.0: What It Means to Be Human Past, Present and Future , Palgrave Macmillan 2011
  • Preparing for Life in Humanity 2.0, Palgrave Macmillan 2012

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fuller, Steve (2007). Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution. Polity Press. p. 9. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Higher Doctorates for Warwick People, University of Warwick
  3. ^ "On stage, On the Origin ... author endures a dramatic trial of faith". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "Lincoln and Darwin for one night only". Sci Phi Journal. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "curriculum vitae". .warwick.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Professor Steve Fuller appointed to Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology". .warwick.ac.uk. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Academy of Social Sciences appoints three Warwick Academicians". .warwick.ac.uk. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  8. ^ (in Chinese)
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Fuller
  11. ^ Mone, Gregory (13 July 1965). "(Not Quite a) Rumble in the Theoretical Jungle | Popular Science". Popsci.com. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Read, Rupert (September 2005 v35 i3 p369-387). "Book Review: How and How Not to Write on a "Legendary" Philosopher". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  13. ^ Fuller, Steve. "Kuhnenstein: or, the Importance of Being Read". Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  14. ^ Project Syndicate
  15. ^ The Epistemology of Journalism Course Description, University of Lund
  16. ^ Head to Head: Academic Freedom, The Philosophers Magazine (subscription only)
  17. ^ Jackson, Nick (5 July 2007). "Against The Grain: It is an academic's right to cause 'reasoned' offence". The Independent (London). Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  18. ^ "A clear and present danger". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  19. ^ From Ruse to Farce, Michael Lynch, Social Studies of Science 2006; 36; 819
  20. ^ Anti-social Epistemologies, Gary Edmond and David Mercer, Social Studies of Science 2006; 36; 843
  21. ^ Corbyn, Zoe (1 February 2006). "Steve Fuller: Designer trouble". London: The Guardian. 
  22. ^ Fuller, Steve (2007). Dissent Over Descent. Icon. pp. 8–9. ISBN 9781840468045. 
  23. ^ Schools for the Enlightenment or epiphany?: Steve Fuller, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 25 December 2005
  24. ^ Brief for Amicus Curiae, Scipolicy Journal of Science and Health Policy, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
  25. ^ Steve Fuller and The Hidden Agenda of Social Constructivism, Norman Levitt, Talk Reason
  26. ^ Endorsements, Explore Evolution website
  27. ^ Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (2008 film). Rocky Mountain Pictures. Directed by Nathan Frankowski.
  28. ^ http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/talking-to-the-future-humans-steve-fuller-transhumanism
  29. ^ Review of Science Vs Religion?, Sahotra Sarkar, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 7 August 2008
  30. ^ a b Levitt, Norman (19 December 2007). "Norman Levitt Deconstructs Steve Fuller's Postmodernist Critique of Evolution". Skeptic (U.S. magazine). Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  31. ^ The Painful Elaboration of the Fatuous, Norman Levitt, eSkeptic, Skeptic magazine
  32. ^ Steve Fuller Responds to Norman Levitt's Review of Science v. Religion E-Skeptic, 16 January 2008
  33. ^ Norman Levitt Responds to Steve Fuller E-Skeptic, 23 January 2008
  34. ^ "In Snow's shoes". THES. 11 November 1994. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  35. ^ Can Science Studies be Spoken in a Civil Tongue?, S Fuller, Social Studies of Science, 1994
  36. ^ Sahotra Sarkar, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas
  37. ^ Faculty, Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas
  38. ^ a b Levitt, Norman (7 August 2008). "Science v. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution". Philosophical Reviews. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  39. ^ Poole, Steven (12 July 2008). "Trivial pursuits Steve Fuller's Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  40. ^ Ruse, Michael (3 October 2008). "A Challenge Standing on Shaky Clay" (PDF). Science (journal). Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  41. ^ The book of the week: Dissent over Descent, Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 July 2008
  42. ^ Grayling, A.C. (Volume 123 Issue 5 September/October 2008). "Origin of the specious". New Humanist. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  43. ^ Fuller, Steve (Web exclusive September/October 2008). "Against the faith". New Humanist. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 
  44. ^ a b Grayling, A.C. (Web exclusive September/October 2008). "Bolus of nonsense". New Humanist. Retrieved 10 October 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]