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Assess Sociological Explanations Of Science And Ideology As A Belief Systems

1818 words - 8 pages

Assess sociological explanations of science and ideology as a belief system.
Science has obviously had a massive impact on the world and some sociologists argue that science is a open belief while some sociologists argue that science is instead a closed belief system, resisting change.
A belief system is a set of beliefs and ideas that help people to make sense of an interpret the world, for example, Christianity believes that God created the world in seven days and their sacred text is the Bible that guides them on their daily lives. Science’s achievements in medicine have eradicated many once fatal diseases. Science and technology has revolutionised economic productivity and raised ...view middle of the document...

Merton argues that science can only thrive as a major social institution if it receives support from other insitituations andf values. He argues that this first occurred as a result of values and attittudes caused by the Protestant Reformation, especially Puritanism. Puritanism stressed social welfare and and they were attracted by the fact that science could produce technological inventions to improve conditions of life. Merton identifies four norms that make scientists act in ways the serve the goal of increasing scientific knowledge. Communism is the idea that scientific knowledge must be shared with the scientific community by publishing their findings, otherwise knowledge could not grow. Universalism is that the truth of scientific knowledge is judged by universal, objective criteria such as testing. Disinterestedness means being committed to discovering knowledge for its own sake. Having to publically publish their findings makes it harder for scientists to practice fraud. Organised Scepticism refers to the concept that no knowledge claim is regarded as sacred – every idea is open to questioning, criticism and objective investigation.
Unlike science, religious knowledge is literally sacred and calims to have perfect knowledge of the truth. Horton distinguished between open and closed belief systems. Like Popper, he sees science as an open belief system. By contrast, religion, magic and many other belief systems are closed. They make knowledge-claims that cannot be successfully overturned. When the fundamental beliefs are threatened, a closed belief system has a number of devicesthat reinforce the system and prevent it from being disproved.
Evans-Pritchard’s study of the Azande shows Horton’s idea of a self-reinforcing, closed belief system. The Azande believe that natural events have natural causes but do not believe in coincidence or chance. Thus when something negative happens, they blame it on witchcraft. In these cases, the injured party would then accuse the suspected witchand the matter may be resolved by consulting the prince’s magic poison oracle and the diviner would administer a potion to a chicken, and ask the potion whether the accused is the source of the witchraft and telling it to kill the chicken if the answer is ‘Yes’. If the chicken dies, the sufferer can go and publically demand the witchcraft to stop. This also allows the accused to proclaim surprise and horror, and to promise and apologise that the betwitching would stop. Evans-Pritchard argues that this belief system performs useful social functions. It not only clears the air and prevents grudges from festering but it also encourages neighbours to behave considerately towards the other. Also, the Azande believe that witchcraft is hereditary so children have a vested interest in keeping their parents in line, since a successful accusation against the parent also damages the child’s reputation. The belief system is important in social control. This...

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