A SENSE OF HUMOUR
In this exercise consistent study, imagination AND A SENSE OF HUMOUR, will help.
Material in the first 8 lectures will be relevant to the assignment.
There are four options upon which to write. PLEASE SELECT ONE ONLY. The four options are divided into two different types of exercise. They all take the historical case study of oxygen vs phlogiston theory as the immediate ‘object’ of concern, we are less interested in historical detail than in imaginative and clever use ofthe key concepts we have been studying. You must understand the case
study to do this exercise, but without a grasp ofthe key concepts we have been studying, you will not get very far.
Type 1: We’re familiar with media releases, sometimes with battles of media releases. In the past ‘knowledge experts’ also lived in a competitive
environment. Maybe we can imagine some ofthe ‘innovators’ blowing their own media trumpets and trying to mute the trumpets of opponents. In either ofthese cases, put yourself in the shoes ofthe expert in question, or one oftheir supporters, and produce a concise and persuasive media release on the theme noted. Rememberthat our experts may well have believed the rhetoric of scientific method and wanted to use it to help themselves and hindertheir opponents. You do not have to be restricted by any actual chronology of events-these
are imaginative exercises in using the concepts and insights you have learned.
1. DrJoseph Priestley, Birmingham, England, 3 October 1778: Discovery of Life Sustaining Dephlogisticated Air Affirms the Value and Importance of Phlogiston Theory”
2. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, Paris, France 18 October 1778 “French Chemistry Guru’s Discovery of Oxygen and Caloric undermines Chemical Fairy Tales from birmingham”
Type 2: Here instead of stepping into the shoes of historical actors, we put ourselves into the high quality, well-polished English shoes of Professor Sir Herbert Butterfield. Pretend you are Butterfield, still alive, and still sensitive to the issue of ‘whig history’. But in the years since writing your famous book, you have also studied history and philosophy of science, and become aware of the ‘theory-loading offacts’ and the ways in which human observation reports are structured by social, institutional and cultural factors. So you are ‘Butterfield’: write a 500 word comment on either ofthese remarkable historical statements.
3. “Phlogiston theory, with its groundless reliance on a weightless substance of heat and fire, prevented progress in Chemical Science in Europe during its period of dominance-1730 to 1800. The mere application of scientific method would have immediately revealed that phlogiston doesn’t exist, and, thanks to Lavoisier, eventually did!”-Professor I.M. Whiggy, The Rise of European Man 1500-1952 , (Oxford, 1952) p.
4. “Once Lavoisier brought the clear, unbiased eye of reason into his Parisian laboratory, phlogiston complexity and nonsense gave way to obvious facts and potent, convincing new theories-the scientific chemistry of oxygen, true for all time, had finally begun.” Emeritus Professor I.M. Whiggy, Heroes and Martyrs of Human Progress
Ideas and content not your own must be cited with name of author and page number. For example: (Schuster, p.12).
CONDUCT OF TUTORIALS:
(a) Organization and Aims
Although this week we will focus on organization and aims, you should begin your reading by having a
look at: JA Schuster, An Introduction to the History and Social Studies of Science, Chapter 1.
[This is available at: http://descartes-agonistes.com/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=37<emid=53]
(b) Scientists, ‘Facts’, Publics and
‘Mysterious Killer Chemical’ in Dr Karl’s ‘Great Moments in Science’. Go to the following address and read the
transcript or hit the ‘Audio’ link:
The Myth of Method and the Theory-Loading of Facts-Objectivity, Progress, Whig History
JA Schuster, An Introduction to the History and Social
Studies of Science, Review Chapter 1; read Chapters 2 and 3
Reader (From Study Kit)
A Chalmers, What is this Thing Called Science? (1982
Edition), 22-37 ‘The Theory Dependence of Observation’
Learning from our Chemical Case Study: Negotiating Discovery and Theory
Change in Science
JA Schuster, An Introduction to the History and Social Studies of Science, Chapters 4-5.
Andrew Ede and Lesley Cormac, A History of Science in Society: From Philosophy to Utility, Broadview Press, Ontario, 2004,
Thomas Hankins, Science and the Enlightenment (Cambridge UP, Cambridge, 1985), 94-105
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