“The Master said, ‘To study and not think is a waste.
To think and not study is dangerous’.” -Analects of Confucius 2:15
Philosophy of Science
The philosophy of science is a humanities about science. Philosophers of science think critically about scientists doing science. They are like film critics, book reviewers, and sports judges, medical practitioners checking your vitals, and mechanics doing a maintenance check.
Although all scientists think about doing science, not all thinkers of doing science are doers of science.
Philosophers of science ask questions such as: What is science? What is the purpose of doing science? What is a hypothesis, fact, law, and theory? How can we be confident that a theory is reliable? Read more
Why this matters: Understanding the meaning of words commonly used in science will help with communication about science. Improving communication helps create healthy relationships, and creating healthy relationships in science improves communication about it.
Sociology of Science
Sociologists of science study scientists’ interaction with one another, public attitudes towards science, and the interaction between scientists and the public. Sociologists do more than think about science. They observe and record. Sometimes they only describe what they observe, and other times they gather data and statistically analyze it.
Sociologists of science do not yet study interaction among military scientists. Military science is secretive. Discoveries are not published in journals, and papers are not peer-reviewed. Sociologists of science do not study scientists in this context.
There are three general fields within the sociology of science:
Sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) is about scientists’ interaction with one another and society’s influence on them. These sociologists study cultural influences, values, political and religious views and how affect science, the peer review process, censorship, and cooperation and competition. Read more
Sociology of scientific ignorance (SSI) concerns the lack of scientific understanding among both the public and scientists. When studying scientists’ ignorance, sociologists give the word ‘ignorance’ either a positive or neutral connotation. ‘Ignorance’ among scientists is considered neutral because it is inevitable, or positive because it inspires more research (scientists’ lack of understanding motivates question-asking). However, when studying the lack of understanding among the public, ignorance is viewed as problematic because it is not believed to be inevitable nor to inspire members of the public to ask questions.
Science and technology studies (STS) focuses on the technology created by the engineers who applied the science, and the public’s interaction with that technology.
Why it matters:
Science is sometimes used to control what people think. Understanding science as a human activity helps to prevent scientists and policy-makers from denying you your right to think for yourself. Although politicians and scientists know a lot about politics and science, you should always recognize their potential for error and critically analyze their arguments. This independent thought is not possible without viewing science as a human activity that is capable of error.