DOUBLE
REFRACTION
Looking twice at the history of science

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Barry Barnes and the origin of the constructivist myth

Barry Barnes, Scientific Knowledge
and Sociological Theory
(1974)
Science is a human construction. The theories of science, to say nothing of its instruments and institutions, are the outcome of (among other things) a long series of complicated human actions. Many of my fellow historians of science believe this, as do I. But many also believe that we have only recently treated science as a human construction. I believe that this is a myth, and that Barry Barnes’ Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory (1974) is one source of the myth. Last year I gave some evidence for this reading of Barnes. Last week Darrin Durant questioned that evidence. In this post I give more evidence for my reading of Barnes, and hence for my claim that there is something seriously wrong with the self-image of constructivist historians of science. Expand post.

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