# Talk:Sociology of the history of science

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This article does not seem to have any actual theories and sociology of the history of science except for a brief mention of Kuhn at the end of it. All of the current content should be scrapped as original research unless it is attributed to a particular scholarly opinion. This page could be useful if it was an overview of various theories relating to the history of science, i.e. Popper, Feyerabend, Kuhn, Shapin, Latour, etc. but at the moment it is highly questionable in its usefulness or encyclopedic nature. --Fastfission 23:25, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Well, the relevant content from History of science, including the first three big names, has been moved here. I guess that's a substantial start. -- Beland 22:30, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

By the way, Popper was not a positivist.

## Kuhn and exponential growth

One of the objections to Kuhn's concept is that science would not have grown exponentially under his model. Thus, for example, when Galileo overturned Aristotle's physics, that section of knowledge was rendered nil.

That seems like an odd criticism. Kuhns model certainly accomodates an exponentially growing body of data which theories and paradigms must explain. It also recognizes that new fields and subfields of inquiry may arise, which may increase the number of paradigms guiding science. If published critics of Kuhn are actually claiming this, that's quite interesting. But could we get a more detailed explanation from one of them directly? (And if possible, a response from Kuhn or a Kuhn supporter?) -- Beland 22:30, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I've never seen anybody give this particular criticism of Kuhn. Can we get a citation of this? The criticism itself seems confused: Kuhn never said that knowledge is rendered nil once a particular paradigm is shifted out of; he specifically said that certain amounts of data are given new meanings and that some data and questions are thrown out as being irrelevant. Aside from that, there's no reason that the scientifi

c enterprise/community/etc. could not grow exponentially even if certain forms of knowledge were rendered "nil" (I'm not sure what is meant by "science grows exponentially," anyway -- does it mean "scientific knowledge"? or the "scientific community"? or the "scientific enterprise"?). I think some clarification is needed, and a citation or two... --Fastfission 00:02, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

It's just mathematics: see Logistic function#The Verhulst equation for the S-curve of growth. The initial stage is approximately exponential; then, as competition arises, the growth slows, and at maturity, stops. In the article on logistic curves, the untrammeled growth can be modelled as a rate term +kCP. But when competitors (modelled as $-kP^2$) collide with each other in the competition for some critical resource (the bottleneck), this term of the equation diminishes the growth rate, until the set ceases to grow (maturity). So to be more accurate, science grows exponentially has to be modified to science grows by fits and starts in a series of step increases. But it certainly is true, if your set is measured at the early stages, that the early growth is exponential. One of my professors, Lew Kowarski (an early director of CERN) taught me about the S-curve. Ancheta Wis 09:55, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC) (Thus in order for science to grow exponentially, the bottlenecks have to be discovered, and worked-around (so the bottleneck disappears). Then the untrammelled growth can continue, perhaps in another field of scientific study.)
What I'm asking about is not what exponential growth means, nor what it means in terms of a population (which seems to be what the equation you linked to said), but what the heck any of this has to do with history of science (which is considerably less of an ideal population than even straight biological populations in a petri dish). My question was, who actually levels this criticism about Kuhn? It doesn't make much sense to me logically, but I'm more interested in just seeing if this is an actual stated, common objection (I've never seen it). I'm not even sure where to begin in questions of modeling knowledge as a quantitative curve (and then wondering whether or not it conforms to certain mathematical transformations) -- it sounds patently ridiculous to me as a historian, it seems unlikely that even an economist would make such a strange argument against Kuhn. --Fastfission 22:36, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC)
It's a mechanical statement. Scientific knowledge (or anything else that can be said in words), as expressed in number of characters, or bytes, can be measured by doing a character count, like the bytes on a web page. Thus the growth of scientific knowledge (at this level of description) can be measured as a byte count, in the simplest formulation. Just like a Torah has a required byte count (about 304K) or else it is not a valid copy and must be destroyed, so too, it is possible to measure the amount of knowledge by a byte count. There is an institute in Santa Fe which studies Complex Systems, funded at least partly by Murray Gell-Mann, which has written up these kinds of things. I know that they have studied the minimum byte count as a way to measure the complexity of a system. Ancheta Wis 00:16, 9 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Scientific knowledge is not usually graded on a quantitative scale but a qualitative scale. That is, we would generally say that it had "growth" if we assumed the data was accurate. I think this is a really silly thing to put in with things like Kuhn which have nothing to do with this sort of geeky quantitative analysis and no historian would accept this sort of value as having any meaning (much less on whether or not Kuhn was accurate or not). --Fastfission 00:53, 9 Apr 2005 (UTC)

## The role of poetry

Added this observation by a recent Nobel laureate in Physics

Ancheta Wis 08:10, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Just wondering if the cited Akademie der Wissenschaften (without Wikipage, established 1700) is the same as the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften Prussian_Academy_of_Sciences, also founded 1700.

## Internal vs. External history of science

On pages 198-200, 222-3, 231-2, 327, 332, 346, 478, and 503-4 of H. Floris Cohen's book The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry, he draws a distinction between an internal history of science as a discussion of ideas and an external history of science as a look at the wider social setting in which scientists existed. I was expecting to find a similar distinction draw here or in some other wikipedia article, but I don't see it. Anyone else seen concepts on wikipedia along these lines? It's no problem to start such material, just want to try and check with other editors first to ensure that nothing obvious is being overlooked. --Firefly322 (talk) 14:08, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

## Sources of support

In antiquity, the few people who were able to engage in natural inquiry were either wealthy themselves, had rich benefactors, or had the support of a religious community. In contrast, today there are more scientists alive now than have lived in all previous times. Scientific research has tremendous government support and also ongoing support from the private sector.

What's the contrast? We mention the rich benefactors of antiquity and assert a "contrast" to today's tremendous government support along was private sector support. Am I the only one who sees this as a similarity rather than a contrast? In both ancient and modern times, scientists received support. While in the past, it may have been chiefly from individuals, now it is from government and the private sector.

I don't think enough attention has been given to how the source of support for a scientist may influence his findings. I have heard opponents of various theories claim that money can sway a scientist to oppose the AGW theory if funding comes from Big Oil, but it is rare to hear anyone suggest that any other source of funding could sway a scientist.

Is there a general rule that if your funding source supports a position, you would be inclined to publish findings that support that position? --Uncle Ed (talk) 16:52, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

## Impact of feedback

The article says:

• The community also provides a feedback mechanism, often in the form of practices such as peer review and reproducibility.

But I wonder how much impact such feedback has on the championing of scientific theories. There is also the problem of "incestuous" peer review. In small fields, publication might be dominated by referees who all share a certain viewpoint and may (consciously or not) be biased against new ideas. There is also the tendency, as some critics say, for scientists to produce findings for personal gain rather than for the sheer delight of making and sharing scientific discoveries: "publish or perish" and the desire for professional advancement and continued research grants.

Do we need to mention these problems, along with the need for independent review? --Uncle Ed (talk) 14:30, 23 February 2010 (UTC)