SCLY3 Beliefs in Society To propagate the human genome. To maximise your potential & rid yourself of evil Thetans. Because of evolution. To contribute to society. Because you have been reincarnated. Why am I here? You were created by God to follow His word & believe in Jesus Christ as the Saviour. To be independent & economically productive. To serve Allah, to worship him alone and to construct a moral lifestyle. To repopulate the white British race. Written & compiled by The Sociology Department, KGV. August 2009.
Objectives and Specification of SCLY3 Beliefs in Society This unit will study the following area: 1 Different theories of ideology, science and religion, including both Christian and non-Christian religious traditions • Theories of ideology: Marxist, neo-Marxist, pluralist and feminist accounts; hegemony • Theories of science: the social construction of knowledge; political, social and economic contexts of science; theory and observation; falsification; paradigms • Theories of religion: Functionalist, Marxist, neo-Marxist and feminist. Subsequent units will cover the following areas: 2 The relationship between religious beliefs and social change and stability 3 Religious organizations, including cults, sects, denominations, churches and New Age movements, and their relationship to religious and spiritual belief and practice 4 The relationship between different social groups and religious/spiritual organizations and movements, beliefs and practices 5 The significance of religion and religiosity in the contemporary world, including the nature and extent of secularization in a global context 1
Before we crash on with the hard-core theory, let’s just start with an intellectual appetizer to get you thinking. ‘Religulous’ is a documentary film made by American comedian, Bill Maher in 2008 where he interviews some of religion's oddest adherents. Muslims, Jews and Christians of many kinds pass before his jaundiced eye. Maher goes to a Creationist Museum in Kentucky, which shows that dinosaurs and people lived at the same time 5000 years ago. He talks to truckers at a Truckers' Chapel. (Sign outside: "Jesus love you.") He goes to a theme park called Holy Land in Florida. He speaks to a rabbi in league with Holocaust deniers. He talks to a Muslim musician who preaches hatred of Jews. Maher finds the unlikeliest of believers and, in a certain Vatican priest, he even finds an unlikely skeptic. With quotes from major figureheads like Thomas Jefferson, George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden, Bill Maher, with a Jewish-Catholic background, sets out to prove that having faith and seeking directions from God is basically ridiculous and may be due to a neurotic disorder. Interviewing Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, scientists, gays, and atheists, he cites that the number of non-believers is increasing in North America. He attempts to prove his point by citing inconsistencies in the Bible, the controversial birth of Lord Jesus, the inability of religious heads to account for His absence for over 18 years, as well as the absence of any concrete evidence that disproves the theory of evolution. You need to focus hard on the film when we watch it together because you need to answer a lot of challenging questions that the film throws up. Use this space to make notes. Remember that this is his opinion – you do not have to agree with it, challenge it if you think he’s talking rubbish*. 2
Break-down of “Religulous”. The film open in Megiddo, Israel. According to religious writings, what will happen there? What do you think Bill Maher means by an ‘invisible product’? How does religion help people come to terms with death? Why is it ironic that George Bush believe ‘God wants everyone to be free’? Why is Maher’s sister dressed as a bride? Why do you think Maher’s mum sent her children to church even though it wasn’t her religion? What thing that the Catholic Church prohibited (banned), caused Maher’s dad to stop going to Church? Why do you think the Catholic Church prohibits this? What does the Truckers’ Chapel tell us about the place of religion in American society? Whose agenda is the foundation of the Bible, according to Maher? Why does the big bloke walk out? What had the man in the green striped shirt been into before becoming religious? What point does Maher make about the men’s incentive for living righteously? What is puzzling to Maher about Dr. Francis Collins? What evidence does Dr. Collins give for his beliefs? 3
16) How does Maher use scientific method to undermine the idea of eye-witness accounts leading to the writing of the Bible? Did gospel writers meet Jesus? What is the impact of this on the reliability of the Bible as a historical document? What does the pastor mean when he says ? What point does Maher make about the prophesies in the Old and New Testaments? What point does Maher keep making about the virgin birth? Why does Maher argue that being without faith is a luxury? So what does that comment about luxury say about the role of religion in society? Which examples of religious corruption does Maher cite? How are some modern religions becoming commercial ventures? Dr. Jeremiah Cummings is from the Amazing Life World Outreach. What does he want Maher to call him and why is this a bit shady? What evidence does Maher cite from Cummings’ interview which undermines the seriousness of religion? What link is Maher making between rock stars and religious leaders? How does Cummings attempt to justify his ‘bling’? Then you’re saying the Bible is fictitious… 30) How does Cummings end up looking like a fool when discussing the attitude of Jesus towards the rich? 4
What is Maher trying to get at, do you think, when he makes a link between Cummings’ material wealth and the congregation? What is Maher implying when he makes the point about the possibility of some young women in the congregation, having a crush on Cummings? The film shows footage of a suicide bombing after Cummings makes the comment, ‘Turn (that passion) to God and see what happens’. What point is the editing of this film trying to make with this sequence? Why is Maher outraged at the story of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah? What are ‘fags’? What is the remit (objective) of the Exchange Ministries? What is interesting about the life of Pastor John Westcott? How does Westcott try to refute the idea that homosexuality has a genetic basis? How does Maher try to rationalise or explain ex-Jew for Jesus, Steve Burg’s experiences of ‘miracles’? Why are Burg’s beliefs about Santa Claus ironic? How does Burg respond to Maher’s rather blunt comment about suicide? Why, according to Maher, are nationalism and Christianity incompatible? What were the attitudes of America’s ‘Founding Fathers’ toward religion? What did Jefferson do the Bible and why? 5
What is the difference between being Christian and being American? What point is Maher trying to make about the atheist minority of the American population? What point to Maher make to Senator Mark Pryor about the Ten Commandments? What further comment does Maher make about the Ten Commandments’ ‘Bronze Age’ beliefs in relation to modern culture? Out of 32 countries, which two doubted evolution more than any others and what does this say about American culture? What is worrying about the Senator’s comments about intelligence? How is the Creation Museum run by Ken Ham, an example of fundamentalism? Why does seeing humans and dinosaurs together jar with evolutionary and therefore scientific theory? According to Father George Coyne from the Vatican Observatory, what is the Catholic Church’s position on the theory of evolution? How does Father Coyne refute the idea that there are scientific ideas in the Bible? Why doesn’t Father Coyne accept a literal / fundamentalist interpretation of scripture? What is the opinion of Father Reginald Foster on the opulence of the Vatican? What does this tell us about the influence of people, human-beings, on religion? 6
58) What parallel is Maher trying to make between religion and fairy tales, in the gift shop at The Holy Land Experience? 59) What do you think the employee at The Holy Land means by ‘spiritual warfare’? What point is Maher making about other religious figure-heads such as Krishna in Hinduism and Mithra in Persian popular religion? Although the central tenets of Scientology seem pretty insane, at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner, what point is Maher trying to make about Christianity and other established religions? What do you think Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, meant about other interpretations of God being an abomination and what effect would this have on followers? Give two ways in which Mormon ideas of Jesus differ from Christianity’s. * * What do differences like these do to the integrity of religious beliefs? What is Mormonism saying about Black people? How was Mormonism used to justify colonialism and cultural imperialism in America? What purpose would this have? What is neuro-theology and how does it undermine religious beliefs? What is ‘speaking in tongues’ (glossolalia)? What can’t Jews do on the Sabbath and why? Tell me, how does Christianity explain the Holocaust, for example? 7
What challenging point does Maher make about the wheelchair? What point is being made about those who say they have heard the voice of God? Who does Jose Miranda of the Growing in Grace Ministry, think he is? What untraditional belief does Jose have about Jesus that he uses to explain his identity? What doesn’t Jose Miranda believe in and how does this undermine the Bible? In your opinion, is the Cannabis Ministry in Amsterdam, a religion? Explain your answer. Why was Theo Van Gogh’s film so controversial. What contradiction does Fatima Elatik, the Dutch politician, make about freedom of speech? Why does Propa-Ghandi’s argument about dissent and the case of Salman Rushdie, fall down? How are the Imam's words about the peacefulness of Islam contradicted in the film? What point is Maher trying to make about drugs and religion? How does the ‘black stone’ or the Ka’bah illustrate the idea of ‘universes of meaning’? Why is the visitor at the Temple Mount angry towards Maher and how does this undermine the words of the guide and therefore the religion? 8
What is the guide’s response to Maher’s question about women in Islam? What do you think about this response? How is fundamentalism demonstrated by what the guide says about the Qur'an? How does the giant man in Southern England demonstrate diversity in belief systems? Why do you think so many religions talk so much about the end of the world? Why does Maher think that religion is ‘dangerous’? Who do you think are the intended audience(s) of this film? What did you think of this film and how does it make you see religion as a belief system? 9
From the Edmonton Journal. What does this mean?? …and this?? You could write me a letter to tell me your thoughts… Bill Maher, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, 9150 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 350, Beverly Hills. CA90212. USA. 10
What are belief systems, exactly? The belief system of a person or society is the set of beliefs that they have about what is right and wrong and what is true and false. "The law is this: -that each of our leading conceptions, each branch of our knowledge, -passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive." Auguste Comte 1798-1857 Comte developed the Law of Three Stages as a way to understand how human understanding of our existence has developed through three distinct intellectual stages: 1. The Theocratic (or theological) stage was (and is) a period of human history where everything is explained in terms of supernaturalism and religion. He sub-divided this Theocratic stage into three: Animism – turning everyday objects into items of extreme religious purpose and worship. The use of Totems in Native American spiritualism is an example. Did you know that Native Americans are the only known ethnic group in the United States requiring a federal permit to practice their religion? Polytheism – the belief in many gods. Monotheism – the belief in one, supreme deity or god. The Metaphysical stage was when philosophy started to attempt to explain the meaning of life. The Positive stage refers to a period (such as now, in Western society), where everything is given a scientific explanation based on observation, experiment and comparison. Auguste Comte also believed that there is a hierarchy of the sciences based on the historical sequence of the sciences, with areas of knowledge passing through these stages in order of difficulty. The simplest and most remote become scientific first. These are followed by the more complex sciences, those considered closest to us. The sciences, then, according to Comte's "law", developed in this order: Mathematics; Astronomy; Physics; Chemistry; Biology; Psychology; Sociology. Have a look at the information on witch-craft, overleaf. How does the example of witchcraft illustrate Comte’s three stages? You may have to do some research, particularly on the scientific explanation of ‘bewitchment’. 11
I can't see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air. More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks. Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her and drag her back, pushing her onto - what I can now see - is a raging fire. I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya - the lynching of people accused of being witches. I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village. I dashed to the scene, accompanied by a village elder. He reacted as if what we were watching was quite normal, which was shocking for me. As a stranger I felt I had no choice but to stand by and watch. My fear was that if I showed any sign of disapproval, or made any false move, the angry mob could turn on me. Not one person was protesting or trying to stop the killing. Hours later, the police came and removed the charred bodies. Village youths who took part in the killings told me that the five victims had to die because they had bewitched a young boy. "Of course some people have been burned. But there is proof of witchcraft," said one youth. He said that a child had spent the night walking around and then was unable to talk the following morning - except to one of the so-called witches. I asked the youths whether or not people involved in this supposed witchcraft should be punished. "Yes, they must be punished, every one," said the first youth. "We are very angry and that's why we end up punishing these people and even killing them." His friend agreed: "In other communities, there are witches all round but in Kisii we have come up with a new method, we want to kill these people using our own hands." I later discovered that the young boy who had supposedly been bewitched, was suffering from epilepsy. His mother had panicked when he had had an attack. The village elder was dismissive of my horror, saying that this kind of thing happens all the time in the western district of Kisii. He told me about Joseph Ondieki, whose mother had been burned to death less than two months earlier. I found Joseph and his wife Mary Nyaboke tending vegetables in their small shamba, or homestead. Mary told me that on the day her mother-in-law had been killed she had been visiting her own parents. She had heard a noise and discovered the truth when she came home. She said that in the 20 years she had been married, she had never had any reason to believe her husband's mother was a witch. I set off with Joseph up the hill towards his house, which was far from the centre of the village. On the way we passed his mother's house. A neighbour was reluctant to talk to me and denied even knowing Joseph's mother. "Here in Kisii, people are being burned on mere allegation and most of them are old," Joseph said. "We now don't have any old people in the village to consult. "Even me I'm now approaching 50 years old - I'm afraid that they'll come for me also." I spent three days in Kisii trying to speak to the authorities, but nobody, neither the police nor the local government officials would talk to me. As night drew in, and it was time for me to leave, Joseph walked with me from his village to where my car was parked. As I drove away I passed signs pinned to trees, warning witches that they would be tracked down. "We know you by your names", someone had typed in bold. 12
Police in Nigeria are holding a goat handed to them by a vigilante group, which said it was a car thief who had used witchcraft to change shape. A police spokesman in Kwara State has been quoted as saying that the "armed robbery suspect" would remain in custody until investigations were over. But another police spokesman told the BBC the goat was being held in case its owner claimed it. The belief in witchcraft and the power to change shapes is common in Nigeria. Police reform activists have condemned the "arrest", saying it highlights the low education levels of many Nigerian police officers. Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper has a picture of the goat and reports that police paraded it in front of journalists in the Kwara state capital Ilorin on Thursday. But this was denied by national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu. "The vigilante group arrested the goat and took it to the police, then they told the media." The next morning journalists turned up demanding to see the goat, he said. "But of course goats can't commit crime." Incompetent The BBC's Andrew Walker in Abuja says communities often rely on ill-educated and badly prepared vigilante squads to fill the gaps where the police will not patrol at night. Innocent Chukwuma of the justice reform group the Cleen Foundation, told the BBC that many Nigerian police officers were poorly educated. "There are officers who don't even have a secondary school education, and the police have a big job to do in finding these people and getting rid of them." He said in the past political leaders had allowed the police to be filled with incompetent and in some cases criminal officers so they could be easily bought to protect their own criminal activities. Police have also been unable to stop vigilante squads from lynching suspects before they could investigate, he said. How do these two examples demonstrate the concept of ‘universes of meaning’? 13
You need to think about the ways in which the three major belief systems, outlined by Comte, influence explanations of behaviour labelled as witchcraft. The components of the film below are seriously useful and very interesting. Watch them and use the ideas to fill in the boxes below. 1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvXl7k9U050 2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPjxoXSg1-g&feature=related 3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD-Ksu74M-s&feature=related 4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwqyku03xnw&feature=related 5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2QMUkP9ukI&feature=related 6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wcRtq6ZwJA&feature=related 7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2UcwfF6AiQ&feature=related 8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA2LHb9Ndk8&feature=related If you’re accessing this from home – click on the Youtube link. If at college, click Belief system Explanation of bewitchment… Science Ideology Religion 14
Theories of Science The traditional view is that science is objective and evidence based… Many scientists claim there is a clear distinction between science and other ways of viewing the world. A recent example is Richard Dawkins, who in The God Delusion (2006) made the following observations about science and religion: “Fundamentalists know they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book … The truth of the holy book is an axiom, not the end product of a process of reasoning. The book is true, and if the evidence seems to contradict it, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the book. By contrast, what I, as a scientist, believe … I believe not because of wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent . That conspicuously doesn’t happen with holy books.” Scientific enquiry is open; tested ideas that turn out wrong are rejected & they keep going to find more accurate ones. Conclusions are based on evidence, not pre-conceived ideas. So; science is objective and the scientist is neutral & doesn’t bring their own opinion into it. But that traditional view of science has been challenged… Michael Lynch (1983) argued that science is far less objective than scientists claim it is. Lynch studied scientists experimenting on lab rats and concluded that scientists were more influenced by their existing theories than they should have been. When ‘anomalies’ occurred – i.e. results they weren’t expecting – the scientists often put them down to errors in the photographs they were studying, rather than seeing them as evidence towards a new theory or hypothesis. Science can be viewed as a Belief System like Religion… Polanyi (1958) suggested that a belief system was made up of three factors. Science can be viewed as fitting this model. A circulatory of beliefs – each idea within the belief system is explained in relation to others. If one is challenged or it fails it is defended by reference to another, to avoid changing the belief system. Supporting explanations are given for difficult situations – if any evidence is shown to contradict the belief there will be a reason to explain it (as with the anomalies in the experiments Lynch observed). No alternative belief systems can be tolerated – a sweeping rejection of religion could be seen as an example of this. Using Polanyi’s three factors that comprise a belief system, apply these to religion and ideology using the grid overleaf… 15
Religion Ideology A circulatory of beliefs – each idea within the belief system is explained in relation to others. If one is challenged or it fails it is defended by reference to another, to avoid changing the belief system. Supporting explanations are given for difficult situations – if any evidence is shown to contradict the belief there will be a reason to explain it (as with the anomalies in the experiments Lynch observed). No alternative belief systems can be tolerated – a sweeping rejection of religion could be seen as an example of this. 16
Sociology can be treated as a science… Positivists like Comte believe that sociology is scientific. It consists of gathering information about the social world, classifying data, and drawing conclusions about ‘the social laws’ which govern human society. The positivist Durkheim claimed that by using the technique of multivariate analysis, ‘social facts’ could be uncovered. (We’ll be looking at one of Durkheim’s multivariate analyses when we look at suicide in the next unit in January). Multivariate analysis is the attempt to isolate the impact of independent variables (the factors affecting something) on the dependent variables (the thing being affected). For instance, the level of working class achievement in school might be the dependent variable, and the material deprivation and teaching labelling the independent variables. Durkheim believed that by complex, in-depth statistical analysis the independent variables could be measured and a social law established. The early positivists used an inductive approach. This means they first collected data on their topic, which they studied and analysed. From this they composed a theory or hypothesis. They then tested their hypothesis and drew conclusions. If their results were repeatable (i.e. if people repeated their experiment and got the same results), the hypothesis was considered a social fact. Popper said scientists should use the Deductive Approach and Falsification… The deductive approach is similar to the inductive approach, only in reverse – it starts with the theory, which then leads to the investigation. Karl Popper (1959,1963) argued that theories or hypotheses could spring from anywhere , such as flashes of inspiration or even from dreams. Popper said the positivists were wrong in their belief that theories could be proved to be true. He had a different idea of scientific method – Popper rejected the idea that there are permanent social laws governing human behaviour. He claimed that any ‘law’ could at some point be falsified (proved wrong), no matter how many times it has been ‘proved’ correct in the past. The famous example he gave was the hypothesis ‘all swans are white’, which can be ‘proved’ thousands of times until you encounter a black swan. Popper said the aim of science and social science should be to constantly striveto falsify theories. This ‘falsification’ of theories arguably distinguishes science from religion and other supernatural belief systems. 17
Gomm argued that scientists’ work should be viewed in its Social Context… Roger Gomm (1982) argued that the theories scientists produce are in part a product of their social context (the situation they’re in at the time), and that scientists tend to try and prove rather than falsify their theories. Gomm gave the example of Darwin and his theory of evolution to explain this. Gomm suggests Darwin’s theories of natural selection and the competitive struggle for the survival of the fittest were not supported by all of the evidence. Darwin therefore missed the opportunity to ‘falsify’ aspects of his theories. Gomm suggests the reason for this was ideological rather than scientific. Gomm argued that the ‘survival of the fittest theory’ slotted neatly into the Victorian capitalist ideology of free market economics, individualism, and the minimalist approach to welfare of the time. Gomm therefore emphasised the importance of placing ‘science’ in its social context. Scientific knowledge can be seen, at least in part, as socially constructed. Kuhn challenged the idea that science is objective… Thomas Kuhn (1962) introduced the idea that scientists, at certain times in history, work in a paradigm. A paradigm, according to Kuhn, refers to the framework of accepted ideas in which scientists operate. It might include ideas on truth, validity and methodology. Kuhn argued that scientists will tend to work within the paradigm and so seek evidence which supports it. This will continue until anomalies are so strong as to trigger a paradigm shift or scientific revolution. When this happens, a new ‘normal science paradigm’ is established and the process begins again. “I’ll be happy to give you innovative thinking. What are the guidelines?” According to Dawkins, what distinguishes science from religion? What are the three factors which make up a system of belief, according to Polanyi? What is the difference between an inductive and a deductive scientific approach? What is meant by falsification? 18
Taken directly from Sociology in Focus, AQA A2 Level, Second Edition, Haralambos et al, Causeway Press, 2009. Science and Society 1.1 The Social Construction of Reality. In an influential work entitled The Social Construction of Reality (1967), Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann argue that human beings construct their beliefs in a social context. They manufacture universes of meaning which organise their experiences and make sense of their lives. They construct their own social worlds and work to maintain them against the threat of uncertainty and disruption. A universe of meaning requires constant legitimation. It needs repeated reinforcement and justification. Members of society must be told and re-told that their universe of meaning is legitimate – right, true and correct. Without this support, a universe of meaning would tend to crumble, life would become meaningless and the stability of society would be threatened. Belief systems are socially constructed. They form the basis of universes of meaning. And they feed back and reinforce the society the constructed them. This applies to the whole spectrum of beliefs. In this respect, there is little difference between scientific theories, political beliefs and religious doctrines. They are all socially constructed, they all help to make sense of the world and they all form a part of and legitimate universes of meaning. Here are some examples. Religious beliefs provide answers to basic questions such as the meaning of life, the origin of the human species and what happens after death. They also provide justification for the legal system. For example, many laws are based on religious beliefs about right and wrong. Religion provides ultimate support for universes of meaning – it places within a supernatural reality which believers do not question. By comparison, science offers support for universes of meaning by grounding them in reason and evidence. For example, the origin and evolution of the human species is explained in terms of Darwin’s theory of evolution which is based on evidence from fossil records. Berger and Luckmann argue that the certainty provided by universes of meaning has a precarious (uncertain, a bit shaky), foundation. Universes of meaning are real because people believe they are real. Life is meaningful because of the meaning people give to it. However, there is no universal standard or yardstick against which reality can be shown to be real, that beliefs can be shown to be true. One society’s truth may be another society’s falsehood. Common sense in one society may be nonsense in another. Universes of meaning are insecure and easily shattered. 1.2 The Social Construction of Science. In today’s society, many of our beliefs are based on the observations and theories of science. Modern genetics has unravelled the human genome and Darwin’s theory of evolution has provided an explanation for the origin and evolution of the human race. In 2008, the Large Hadron Collider, a particle collider, was built near Geneva, 100 metres beneath fields in a 17 mile circular tunnel. It aims to reveal the origins of the universe and the forces of nature by simulating aspects of the ‘Big Bang’. 19
The Origins of Modern Science. Researchers have placed the origins of modern science in 18th century Europe during a period known as the Enlightenment. Scholars from a number of countries contributed to a publication known as the Encyclopédie. It was based on two principles. First, the belief that reason could provide an understanding of the world. And second, the belief that this understanding could be used to improve the lives of human beings. Knowledge was based on reason and observation. This formed the guidelines for the scientific method – the procedure for ‘doing science’. These beliefs directly challenged the view of the world provided by the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Church, knowledge was based on divine revelation – eternal truths revealed by the word of God. In contrast, science claimed that reason and observation formed the basis for knowledge and the foundation for many beliefs. The traditional view of science. The traditional view of science in modern society is fairly straightforward. Science is based on systematic observation and measurement. Ideas about the behaviour of matter in the natural world can be tested and shown to be true or untrue. In the laboratory, for example, the scientist observes the behaviour of matter under various conditions, measuring variables such as temperature and pressure. These observations are objective – they are not influenced by the values or religious beliefs of the scientist. They can be shown to be accurate by replication – by the repetition of the experiment under the same conditions. If the results are the same, then the observations are seen to be accurate. Theories are then constructed to explain the behaviour observed. If later observations show that behaviour differs from that predicted by the theory, then the theory is modified or changed. In this way science progresses – it provides an increasingly accurate and comprehensive understanding of the behaviour of matter. In modern society scientists have high status. Their findings have generally been accepted and seen as beneficial to humankind. For example, scientific advances in medicine have been welcomed and seen as a major factor in improving health and increasing life expectancy. However, the view of science described above is overly simple. And the belief that science brings benefits to humankind has been increasingly questioned. 20
What is meant by ‘universes of meaning’? (What kind of questions might they ask and answer?) What is the process of legitimation? What does it mean when it says that belief systems are socially constructed? What do ideologies, scientific theories and religious doctrines have in common? In what main way can religions legitimise their ‘universe of meaning’? How does science legitimise its universe of meaning? According to Berger and Luckmann, does the fact that people believe their universe of meaning is real, mean that they have the truth? How did scientific theory create conflict with religion? What is meant by scientific observation and replication in science? 10) Can Sociology be seen as a science in relation to the three main criteria? YES NO Systematic observation Objectivity Replication 11) Why do scientists have high status? 12) Do you think this is justified? Yes: No: 21
Science and falsification. How do we know that scientific theories provide accurate explanations? According to Karl Popper in his influential book The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), theories can be tested through observation and experiment. In this respect, they are superior to ‘everyday’ knowledge and beliefs. However, Popper argues, we can never know with certainty that a theory is true. All we can say is that so far the theory has not shown to be false. For example, many scientists accept the ‘Big Bang’ theory of the origin of the universe – it is supported by a range of observational data. However, evidence yet to be discovered may disprove or falsify this theory. Scientists therefore accept theories ‘for the time being’ because there is a general agreement that to date they are supported by observations. As a result, ‘science does not rest upon a solid bedrock’. (Popper, 1959). According to Popper, science is based on the systematic testing of theories in an attempt to disprove them. If theories withstand this attempt, then they gain acceptance. However, they can never be finally proven. In practice, theories are eventually modified or overturned by new theories. 1) What is Popper’s basic belief about theory &, according to him, what should be done about this problem? 2) Why are theories only temporary? 3) What is falsification? 22
The fabrication of facts. Popper argued that scientific theories ‘do not rest on a solid bedrock’. Karin Knorr-Centina, in an article entitled The Fabrication of Facts (2005), makes a similar point about the ‘facts’ used to test scientific theories. In her words, ‘facts are not something we can take for granted or think of as the solid rock upon which knowledge is built’. She argues that he systematic observations and measurements made by scientists are not the objective ‘facts’ they are often seen to be. So-called ‘facts’ are fabricated – they are constructed by scientists. The ‘facts’ they observe in the laboratory or the natural world are shaped by their theories and by their measuring instruments. Theories direct scientists what to look for and how to see it. For example, the theory of evolution directs scientists to examine fossils to see how they fit into an evolutionary sequence and to look for ‘missing links’ in order to fill gaps in that sequence. And measuring instruments construct the ‘facts’ available to scientists. For example, Galileo’s telescope was essential to provide the observations that supported his theory that the Earth went around the Sun. As new measuring instruments are invented, new observations are possible and new ‘facts’ can be manufactured. In this respect, science is based on the fabrication of facts. 4) What does Popper mean when he says scientific theories ‘do not rest on a solid bedrock’? 5) What does it mean when it says ‘facts’ are fabricated? 6) What role do scientists have in fabricating facts? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDsSIH-c324 Click on to this link to access a movie on the sociology of science as a belief system. 23
Extension work Falsification and Conjecture. Karl Popper. The traditional view of scientific discovery and knowledge is that of the process of verification. The scientist observes the results of carefully controlled experiments from which an idea, hypothesis or theory emerges about the behaviour of a particular type of matter. The scientist searches by further experiments for evidence to verify (prove) his hypothesis which, if successful, grows in stature (importance and confidence) into a scientific theory or law upon which he and other researchers can not only accumulate further knowledge about the wonders of nature but can actually ‘predict’ its behaviour. This process of accumulating fresh facts, this constant searching for new ideas by observation and experiment is known as induction, and this method is seen as the dividing line between scientific and non-scientific knowledge. Using a highlighter, take notes from the following passage and condense them onto one side (this is on page26). In The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), Sir Karl Popper pointed out two key flaws in this traditional picture of scientific method and knowledge: That, in reality, many of the major scientific discoveries had resulted not from systematic observation and analysis but from wild speculation, inspiration and chance. That no matter how scientifically arrived at, no theory can be totally verified, absolutely correct. Rather as the eighteenth-century philosopher, David Hume, argued, there is always the possibility that sometime in the future it will be ‘falsified’, proved wrong. All it takes is one or two contrary examples. It only takes the observation of one black swan (as has occurred in Australia) to refute the thesis that all swans are white. Equally, while we can predict that the sun will rise tomorrow, we cannot prove it will happen until it does. Thus, in Popper’s view, all scientific hypotheses are only temporal and as yet unrefuted: all scientific knowledge is provisional, workable and the best available so far. Popper therefore proposed that the real essence of scientific method was not and could not be verification but was and should be falsification, that good science would involve a process of trial and error or conjecture and refutation by which scientists were actively encouraged to develop bold new ideas and hypotheses and then set up tests and experiments, not to prove them correct but to refute or falsify them. In this way weak and inadequate theories could be swiftly eliminated and only the strongest ideas would survive for future testing and form the basis for some temporary advances in scientific knowledge and understanding. 24
A good scientific theory for Popper, therefore, is one that is falsifiable, one that makes definite claims and predictions about the natural or social world that can then be put to the test. Newton’s theory of gravity fulfilled such a criterion by making a wide variety of highly testable claims which survived examination for over a century, and so gradually eroded its authority and opened the way for Einstein’s grandiose (big) and spectacular theory of relativity which, so far, has survived the tests of the twentieth century. A bad scientific theory is one that is not empirically or rationally testable, one that is so general and wide-ranging that there is nothing definite to test, or one whose supporters ignore such criticism and simply keep amending it whenever its predictions prove false. Popper was especially scathing here about Marxism and psychoanalysis, both of which he regarded as pseudo-sciences because they were untestable and made grandiose predictions about a utopian future but offered no basis for evaluating them. Thus for Karl Popper, what distinguished science from non-science was the falsifiability of its ideas and knowledge and, though this meant that we could never absolutely prove any scientific theory, such continual testing did bring us gradually nearer to the truth, slowly peeling away the many layers of reality. More important, for immediate, practical purposes it gave us ‘relatively’ solid ground upon which to base our technology and social policies; ground solid enough for piecemeal social reform but not solid enough for the sort of large-scale social engineering proposed by more radical writers. Popper therefore believed that the social sciences are capable of becoming ‘scientific’, provided they adopted the scientific approach he proposed of conjecture and refutation. He was scathing, however, in his criticism of sociological theories, particularly Marxism that went beyond this and sought to claim that their predictions of future society were both scientific and inevitable. In The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), Popper launched a major critique on such historicist theories and argued that the closed mentality of such dogmas excluded alternative or critical perceptions or evidence – the very essence in Popper’s view of falsification, the only practical way to prove and establish scientific theories. Falsification, by definition, could only operate in an open society encouraging open minds so that all theories are continually subjected to an ongoing process of conjecture and refutation. Those that survive such a rigorous process of conjecture and refutation. Those that survive such a rigorous process deserve critical acclaim. The long a theory survives the test of time, the closer it is likely to be to the truth. Closed societies in his view had closed minds. They deliberately exclude criticism and alternative views in favour of a faith and belief in the governing orthodoxy. Such societies, such creeds could not, in his view, progress or find the real truth. Hence his virulent and passionate opposition to Marxism as a philosophy and as a basis of future society. As an Austrian by birth and having seen the devastation caused by fascism in his home country and by communism in Eastern Europe, the passion that Popper brought to his criticisms of Marxism and other ‘totalitarian’ theories is perhaps understandable. Explain this point… 25
Using your skills of note-taking, condense the article on Popper’s Falsification and Conjecture onto this one sheet: 26
The social construction of scientific knowledge. Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) challenged the traditional view of science. He saw science as socially constructed within scientific communities. This rejects the view that science is based solely on rationality and objectivity. According to Kuhn, scientists work in communities centred on particular branches of science and particular research projects. They operate in terms of shared paradigms. A paradigm is a framework stating which theories should be developed, what kinds of data should be collected and which research methods are appropriate. Scientists tend to look for data which supports the paradigm and refine theories contained within the paradigm. The paradigm shapes the way they see the world. This outlook is supported by communities of scientists. In this respect, the paradigm is socially constructed and socially legitimated. Kuhn argues that for most of the time scientists conduct normal science, that is within the framework of the current paradigm. Normal science develops and refines the paradigm rather than challenging it. Most scientists are committed to the existing paradigm – their career has been based upon it, their reputation has been built in terms of it and they find it difficult to see the world in any other way. There is a tendency to ignore or explain away contradictory evidence which challenges the paradigm of the day. According to Kuhn, significant changes – scientific revolutions – occur when sufficient evidence accumulates which cannot be explained in terms of the existing paradigm. A new paradigm which appears to explain this evidence then develops. However, there is often considerable resistance to a new paradigm. For example, Newton’s theories, which formed the basis of a new paradigm in physics, took over 50 years to become established. Once accepted, a revolutionary paradigm becomes the order of the day and normal science is then conducted within its framework. Summarise all this text here: 27
Extension Opportunity Paradigms. Thomas Kuhn. The term ‘paradigm’ refers to a set of ideas, a theoretical framework, a theoretical model of how society or nature works. Almost all academic or scientific disciplines operate within a particular paradigm or involve a debate between competing paradigms as to the nature of society or the underlying forces of the physical or natural world. Examples of major paradigms would be Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity in physics and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology. Examples of competing paradigms would be Marxism and structural functionalism in sociology and behaviourism and Gestalt theory in psychology. Go further... In his key work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn, an American philosopher of science, used the concept of paradigms not to simply explain how scientific and academic research develops but to challenge the accepted view that science and the accumulation of scientific knowledge is a gradual, evolutionary process based on objective and impartial analysis in which scientists and academics collaborate on an agreed agenda in the pursuit of truth and the discovery of facts. Instead, using the notion of paradigms, Kuhn proposed the radical and quite revolutionary thesis that in fact the history of modern science is not a gradual and cumulative one, rather it is one of revolutions in thinking and the professors that go with it. Far from the academic world being one all embracing community, Kuhn describes it as an inner world of competing theories and competing communities racing to make the next great discovery, plotting to take over and dominate academic theory in their particular discipline or science. As traditional theories and practices are discarded in favour of a new paradigm or supertheory, so a new very different view of the world of nature emerges and with it a new approach to scientific research and a new team of key theorists. Using a highlighter, take notes from the following passage and condense them. Thomas Kuhn defined paradigms as ‘universally recognised scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners’. A paradigm is a unified and coherent framework, a way of thinking that a particular field of science has about the universe and the way it works. It guides scientists towards certain problems and provides many solutions; it governs their research programmes and is increasingly reinforced by the theories that develop from it. It is like a puzzle. It sets out the rules of the game, poses the challenges for each new generation of scientists and the aim is to solve the problems it poses and to discover the missing pieces required to complete its picture of nature. It sets the standards against which new discoveries will be acclaimed or rejected. It is the accepted view of what constitutes science in a particular discipline and the members of each scientific community are so committed to it, so take it for granted, that it is rarely questioned or criticised. 28
Modern examples of paradigms would be the dominance of Einstein’s theory of relativity in physics or Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology. New generations of young scientists are socialised into the paradigm’s underlying theory and research methods by their teachers and their textbooks. They are taught only the paradigm’s principles and theories and rarely exposed to alternative ones. They gain entry to the ‘scientific community’ by producing the expected solutions in their experiments, passing examinations set by professors steeped in the paradigm’s principles and setting up research projects directed at the paradigm’s problems. The picture Kuhn therefore presents of modern science is of a series of tight-knit academic communities each based on a rather closed, even dogmatic, view of reality from which alternative visions are rigorously excluded and in which the standard of judgement is not objective reality but the subjective evaluation of one’s peers. Who, or what, is the scientific community? Kuhn divided the development of science into three main stages: Pre-paradigm – a state in which there is no general consensus or agreed theoretical framework within a particular discipline but a wide variety of competing theories as to the nature of their subject matter, appropriate research methodology and the types of problems that require solutions. Normal science – the mature stage at which a particular scientific community agrees to unite behind a particular paradigm, its achievements and its guidelines as to research. The general aim is to fill in the puzzle and ‘mop up’, rather than to innovate. Though anomalies in the paradigm do arise they are either forced into the existing framework or the scientist involved is blamed as incompetent. Summarise Kuhn’s three stages of the development of science here: Paradigm revolution – however, in time, as the anomalies grow, as more and more questions arise that the dominant paradigm cannot answer and new phenomena are discovered that it cannot explain, so a crisis develops in the discipline to the point where even its ‘leading lights’ feel uneasy. There follows a period of hectic debate about fundamentals and a sudden willingness to try anything which is solved either by a new development in the existing paradigm or the emergence of a new paradigm or the emergence of a new paradigm with a new view of nature and a new puzzle to solve. During this revolutionary stage the disciple tends to divide into traditionalists and radicals and a battle for power and allegiance develops. This takes place at two levels: the theoretical and the political. Gradually, more and more of the scientific community are won over to the new paradigm, not be reasons – because initially it lacks substantial proof and cannot by definition be tested by the old methods – but by ‘conversion’, a leap of faith, what Kuhn (962) calls a ‘Gestalt shift’, a sudden vision of the new wonders offered by the new paradigm – ‘Lavoisier ... saw oxygen where Priestly had seen dephlogistated air and where others had seen nothing at all’ – and, once converted, not only is it impossible to revert back to the old view of nature, but it is impossible to hold, simultaneously, two paradigm visions because people, holding different theories ‘see different things and they seem them in different relations to one another’. After a paradigm revolution scientists simply see and so respond to a different world. Such incompatibility of paradigms Kuhn called ‘incommensurability’. 29
As conversions to the new truth spread, as evidence and research experiments in its favour grow, so too, in time, the older traditional professors of the discipline will have to give way to the new young converts wager for power and ambitious for authority. Once in power they will now preach the new orthodoxy, select the research projects and teams, rewrite the textbooks and set the exams. As the dust settles and the new paradigm gains general acceptance so a further phase of normal science is set in motion as a new generation of scientists explores the fresh challenges and novel problems posed by the new framework, until that too reaches its limits. As Max Planch remarked: ‘a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’ As examples of scientific revolutions, Kuhn sites the developments associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier and Einstein, each of which involved the overthrow and rejection by the scientific community of one time-honoured theory for another, each of which produced a shift in the problems available for scrutiny and the standards by which their solutions were to be judged, each of which transformed the scientific imagination in such a way as to transform the world within which scientific work was done. Add all your notes together here… 30
1.3 Science in late modern and postmodern society. A number of sociologists argue that societies like the UK have moved from the modern era to the postmodern era during the last quarter of the 20th century. Other sociologists see this change as less dramatic, arguing that we have entered late modernity, an extension of the modern era. However, both groups agree that this has involved important changes in attitudes towards science. Anthony Giddens – science in late modern society. Giddens (1991) argues that people in late modern society have serious doubts over Enlightenment beliefs about the promise and potential of science. No longer is science seen as bringing certainty and ‘securely founded knowledge’. This change of outlook is based on the realisation that no matter how well established a scientific theory, it will probably be revised or discarded in the light of new ideas and findings. Many people find this uncertainty troubling. The Enlightenment view that science will improve the human condition is now treated with increasing scepticism. Science may bring benefits to humankind but it also brings risk and danger – for example, the dangers of nuclear energy as revealed by the explosion of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986. According to Giddens, these negative views of science are balanced by more positive ones. In late modern society, science is seen as creating risk and danger but also as promising benefits for humankind. Attitudes towards science are often contradictory – ‘approval and disquiet, enthusiasm and antipathy’. Concepts in the sociology of science: Using the information in this study guide and from elsewhere, you need to come up with clear definitions of the following concepts that you must use in when answering a question on the sociology of scientific belief systems: A good way to do this is to make concept cards…
Paradigm A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline. …the concept on one side & the definition on the other. 31
Ulrich Beck – risk and globalisation. According to Ulrich Beck (1992), late modern society is characterised by uncertainty and risk. Risk is magnified by the process of globalisation – the increasing interconnectedness of parts of the world. This can be seen by the global nature of financial crises, terrorism and nuclear accidents, all of which cross national boundaries. Many of the risks and uncertainties of late modern society are seen to be associated with science and technology. This has led people to be suspicious of so-called ‘scientific advances’ such as genetically modified (GM) food crops and stem cell research. Their suspicion has been heightened by disagreements between scientists – for example, about the advantages and disadvantages of GM food. As a result, the credibility of beliefs based on scientific research has been reduced. Extension Opportunity Risk Society – Ulrich Beck. Modern societies are full of risks. We live in a risk society where every day we face the risk of accidents, illness and major disasters on a scale that is greater than those faced by societies in the past – AIDS, nuclear warfare, global warming and, after September 11th 2001, international terrorism that can strike ordinary citizens just as much as they hit big business and military installations. A variety of writers have sought to use the concept of risk as the defining characteristic of post-modern society and to build a theory of social and political change upon its framework. One of the leading figures in this field is Ulrich Beck, a German academic who has studied in London, Cardiff and Berlin, and who has served on the current government’s Future Commission. Beck’s most famous publication Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (1992), was originally published in 1986 shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union. In it, Beck laid out the new theoretical framework for understanding post-modern society, a framework that sought to supersede neo-Marxism and the revival of liberal theories of society and on the other hand sought to link together a vast array of apparently disconnected and unconnected events and activities – events as far flung as Chernobyl, 9/11 and Third World debt – with such social and political movements as feminism, anti-consumerism and the decline of class warfare. For Ulrich Beck, risk is the defining characteristic of post-modern society. We live in a risk society. Beck (1992) defines risk as ‘a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernisation’. Go further... What does Beck mean by risk, in your own words? Condense and summarise here: 32
Beck thus characterises modern society in terms of risk and distinguishes pre-industrial and post-industrial society by the fact that risks today are largely major and global. In pre-industrial society, risk and dangers were largely natural and out of man’s control – floods, famines, plagues. In industrial society, man began to dramatically gain control of his own environment, began to gain control to nature and overcame the threat of natural disasters by building flood barriers, growing his own food and by developing medicines to reduce and prevent deadly diseases. He began, however, to create new, mainly man-made dangers; dangers that threatened man’s health and well-being but on a local or national scale rather than on an international one – the smog of the new industrial cities of the nineteenth century, the pollution of the new industrial factories. Today in post-modern society, man has not only increased his power over nature, he has sought to gain control of nature itself and in so doing he has also put his universe at risk of total destruction. Splitting the atom gave man the power to generate nuclear energy. It also gave him the means to create weapons of mass destruction; deciphering DNA has given man not only the secret of genetic life but also the power to play God and to create human clones; fossil fuels have given mankind 200 years of global energy but man’s exploitation and wasteful use of such fuels now threaten to destroy the planet through global warming. As man gains more and more control of his universe so, paradoxically, the risks to life and to the earth itself seem to become far greater and to effect all humankind, not just individual nations and communities in the East or the West, the North or the South. This paradox is equally reflected in the social structures of societies today. As the individual becomes freer and more independent so, paradoxically, the social structures that previously protected people start to collapse. The church, the community, the family, even the class structures of modern Western societies all provided people with a sense of belonging, identity and purpose within what appeared to be a stable social order. In post-modern society the individual is increasingly on his or her own, isolated, vulnerable and without protection. ‘Social ‘ crises appear as individual crises and social problems are increasingly perceived as personal rather than collective problems; problems to be dealt with at the psychological level rather than at the social or political level by the government, the school or the family. Beck identifies a new and fundamental shift in the relationship between society and the individual; a new mode of socialisation as society seeks to prepare its young for the risks of the future. While the aim in class-based societies was the pursuit of wealth and happiness, in a risk society the primary goal is simply to survive. The pursuit of security and stability has superseded the pursuit of profit. Condensing column: Click on the links below to access clips on risk from Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Colombine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W79Zn_V2JUk - part 6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NjEoHXEb-s&feature=related - part 7 33
The ravages of risk now affect all societies, all communities, all classes. No-one can completely escape the potential risks of HIV, BSE or biological warfare. Managing risk is now as much a personal dilemma as a social one. In an age where the individual seems freer than ever before – materially, psychologically and spiritually – people are ironically more vulnerable and helpless, less in control of their lives and the world around them. To survive, people must become more ‘self-reflective, more self-disciplined and self-controlled’. They have to learn to take more control of their own lives, their own lifestyles. They have to learn how to evaluate and manage risk and to take responsibility for their own actions if they are to survive and thrive. Personal decision-making thus becomes the basis of social decision-making. Politicians and those in authority can no longer tell people what to do in a modern democracy; they have to inform them of the risks ahead and encourage rather than command conformity. In the open and opportunistic societies of today it is individual decision making, decision making about lifestyle, about personal habits and personal mores that will determine the future – decisions about smoking and drug-taking; decisions about sexual habits and personal relationships that will encourage or eliminate, for example, the spread of cancer or HIV. Personal decisions now have international consequences at a time when the world at large seems to be out of control and totally unpredictable. We have therefore entered, in Beck’s view, not a post-modern world but a ‘second modernity’ in which risk and the management of risk are the defining characteristics; an age of ‘reflective moderation’ in which every action at whatever level – individual, social or international ; the unintended consequences are on an unpredictable scale. As we know more through modern science and technology, and communicate more through the global medium of the Internet, so we control less. We become more fearful, more risk conscious, more security minded about the foods we eat, the drugs we take, the planes we catch and we may equally become more fatalistic, even carefree and careless. Why not live for today when who knows what tomorrow may bring? In his more recent writings, Beck has gone on from the personal and social level to consider the nature of society at large. We live, in his view, not just in a global world but a ‘world risk society’, a modernity in which progress cannot be assumed and in which every advance produces its own set of risks, its dangers, its dark side. Every new medical treatment, every new technological development has its downside, its negative effects, the impact of which, like global warming and radiation, will only begin to be apparent in the years, even the generations ahead. We no longer trust the experts, we no longer defer to our politicians, our scientists, our doctors. We know the risks exist in all walks of life and we now demand that they be exposed, evaluated, and that we should be informed so that we can personally assess the risks for ourselves. The traditionally institutional decision makers, the traditional decision-making processes, are now more open to public scrutiny and debate. New developments lead to new debates and occasion to struggles over the decision-making agenda; struggles reflected in the growth of mass protest movements – protests over the environment, over genetic engineering, over global capitalism; protests that reverberate around the globe spread by the mass media and the Internet. As more is known, more is feared. Nature has been politicised and the risks of tampering with it are far better understood. In this view, today nature and society are intertwined; ‘nature is society and society is nature ‘ (1992). Condensing column: 34
National governments are being by-passed by the new breed of sub-politics, those groups who have identified new sources of risk and who are prepared to take action against them, be they the oil rigs of the petroleum giants or the scientific factories of the pharmaceutical companies. Risk is a feature of modern life. It is generating a new breed of social citizen, aware of and capable of ‘reflecting’ on and assessing such risks and making individual decisions accordingly. However, while risk and class may no longer be directly related, risk and wealth do enjoy an inverse relationship. The poor and those at the bottom of the social scale are particularly vulnerable to risk; those at the top can at least ‘purchase safety and freedom from risk’ (Beck 1992), even if they cannot avoid it. Such a relationship, such an exposure to risk is equally applicable to the relationship between the First and Third Worlds. While HIV, floods and disease impact on Western societies, the poor nations of the world are devastated by them and have no defences. Yet ironically the poor, too, are able to reflect on risk, assess its causes and mobilise to reduce and minimise its impact through international protest or, in extreme cases, through international terrorism. THE IDEA IN ACTION Ulrich Beck’s thesis of risk and his belief that post-modern society is a risk society has proved to be a major contribution of the debate about the nature of society today and to the culture that underpins it. His notion of risk has not only informed the development of his own writings but has also influenced the ideas and theorising of writers as prominent as Anthony Giddens. The whole notion of risk as a feature of society and as a determining influence on modern man has equally risen to the forefront of popular thinking with the events of September 11th 2001 and the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Risk consciousness and reflection on risk has given rise to new heights as people throughout the world reassess their lifestyles and the risks associated with them. Security is top of the agenda as people reassess the risks of travelling, communicating and even opening their post. The ‘sub-politics’ described by Beck have reached new heights as the protest groups of the poor convert the technologies of travel into weapons of mass destruction. The world of today seems even riskier than that of yesterday. Nothing is sacred, nothing is secure in the emerging world of international politics. Once can only assess the risks and make personal choices. The new politics of terrorism have equally supported Beck’s contention that although we are moving into a new world order, a second modernity, we have not yet reached it. We are in transition from industrial society to a risk society but many of the features of the past persist, not least the risks created by the industrial age. What a contrast then, to see America, the greatest and most modern society in the world taken on in September 2001 by terrorists claiming to represent Islam, one of the most traditional and fundamentalist of religious movements, as a way of resisting modernisation – and Western control. Condensing column: 35
The central issue in classical modernity was the creation of wealth and its distribution. The central feature of post-modern society, according to Beck, is risk, its distribution, prevention and control. Safety and security have replaced equality and freedom as primary political goals. Risk today knows no boundaries and while the poor and the people of the Third World seem more exposed to risk through what Beck calls the ‘boomerang effect’, the First World will ultimately be forced to face up to the hazards and dangers they have created in the past – be it the arms Western nations supplied to nations like Iraq and ironically used against them in the Gulf War, or the exploitation of Third World economies that has produced the poverty and anger that have fuelled anti-American fervour and fanaticism, or the destabilising impact on the world economy of the booms and slumps of the world’s stock markets. Ulrich Beck’s Key Idea has struck a real chord in modern experience and modern imagination. The future is frightening but modern man, in his view, is capable of coping. Whether he will survive remains to be seen. Whether Beck has captured in his concept of risk they key feature and underlying dynamic of post-modern or late modern society is equally debateable. It has nevertheless contributed to the debate as well as reflecting our own ‘gut’ feelings that the world today is a riskier place to live; it’s a world on the edge of a new social order – or the verge of self-destruction. What’s a risk society? Which theoretical framework is Beck trying to replace? What do you think has made our society feel riskier? What’s the difference in risk between pre- and post-modern industrial society? Give an example of a ‘man-made danger’. Give two ways in which human have used science which now threatens the earth’s survival. What’s the paradox of scientific progress? How is this paradox exhibited in society? Why are traditional social structures like the church & family breaking down & how does this affect individuals? According to Beck, how has socialisation changed? What do people have to do in order to survive in a risk society? What’s the role of politicians in a risk society? Why do personal decisions have international consequences in a risk society? What does Beck mean by a ‘secondary modernity’? Give examples of worries that many individuals living in a risk society may have and why. What does Beck mean by a ‘world risk society’? Whom don’t we trust anymore and why do you think this is? What does the spread of mass protest movements tell us about our society? What does Beck mean by the ‘politicization of nature’? Who, according to Beck, is most vulnerable to risk and why? What response to risk may the most vulnerable in society have and why? How has 9/11 contributed to our understanding of risk society? According to Beck, what is the central feature of post-modern society? What are the two sides of the debate concerning the idea that the “world today is a riskier place to live”? 36
Jean-Francois Lyotard – science in postmodern society. According to the French writer Lyotard (1984), people in postmodern society have lost faith in the metanarratives of modern society. A metanarrative is a ‘big story’ like the Enlightenment view of progress, Christianity’s view of life and Marx’s view of history. In postmodern society, metanarratives no longer inspire, they no longer direct action, they no longer form the basis for beliefs. Science is a metanarrative – a big story about the origin of the universe, behaviour in the natural world, and the evolution of species. Lyotard believes there is widespread disillusionment with science in postmodern society. Science has failed to deliver on the Enlightenment promise of progress. (It’s just rooting out more depravity – internet…?). People no longer trust scientists and have lost faith in the grand claims of science. Rather than being concerned with human betterment, science is becoming the servant of industry and commerce. Scientists are increasingly concerned with technology, focusing their attention of producing goods for sale. This can be seen from the rapid advances in electronic goods. From this point of view, science is becoming technoscience, concerned with producing commodities for the global marketplace (Irwin and Michael, 2003). Q1. Using the item above, identify and explain why science as a metanarrative is under threat. [9 marks] AO1 Knowledge & Understanding 3/9 * Good sociological knowledge & understanding. * Relevant concepts explored, understood & used correctly. AO2 Interpretation, Application, Analysis & Evaluation 6/9 * Do you select appropriate points with which to answer the question? * Is your discussion detailed & focused on the question? Q2. What does Kuhn mean by a paradigm, and how is it important in the theory of science? [18 marks] AO1 Knowledge & Understanding 6/18 * Good sociological knowledge & understanding. * Full, detailed and accurate evidence / issues to support claims. * Relevant concepts explored, understood & used correctly. AO2 Interpretation, Application, Analysis & Evaluation 12/18 * Accurate and sociological interpretation of the question. * Do you make use of appropriate & relevant material? * A balanced evaluation that pulls out both strengths and weaknesses of the material you use. * Clear rationale, followed by appropriate deductions you’ve made. Q3. To what extent can religion and science be seen as different varieties of belief system? [33 marks] AO1 Knowledge & Understanding 15/33 * Good sociological knowledge & understanding. * Full, detailed and accurate evidence / studies to support claims. * Range of theoretical perspectives. * Relevant concepts explored, understood & used correctly. AO2 Interpretation & Application, 9/18 * The introduction fully breaks down the question. * A range of relevant and appropriate studies / evidence. * Do you explain how the evidence you use supports or rejects the points you’re trying to make? AO2 Analysis & Evaluation 9/18 * A balanced evaluation that points out both strengths and weaknesses of the evidence you use. * A discussion that creates an argument through a series of separate points. 37
AO2 is pretty hard, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s not beyond you. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way. * Use the following trigger words to get you thinking critically: On the other hand… The effect of this is… Therefore This will lead to… This is likely to result in… However… The consequence of this is… The impact of this is… The disadvantages / advantages of this are… Skill How to show it The balance of AO1 and AO2 is always as follows in the question: Question 1 [9 marks] 3 / 6 Question 2 [18 marks] 6 / 12 Question 3 [33 marks] 15 / 18 (9/9) Knowledge Am I showing the examiner that I have sociological knowledge? Understanding Am I explaining all the concepts I’m using? Interpretation Am I focused on the question – am I answering it? Application Am I using relevant evidence and concepts? Analysis Am I reading between the lines & introducing new ideas? Evaluation Am I pointing out the strengths & weaknesses of the evidence used? 38
Hawking: Archbishop leads religious response Hannah Devlin and Ruth Gledhill September 3 2010 12:01AM Religious leaders united yesterday in a fightback against Stephen Hawking’s assertion that science leaves no role for God in the creation of the Universe. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, dismissed the conclusions of Britain’s most eminent scientist, telling The Times: “Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. “Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.” Dr Williams’ response was bolstered by similarly staunch rebuttals from the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and one of Britain’s most senior imams. In a fierce response, Lord Sacks writes today: “Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation ... The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the Universe came into being.” The debate was ignited by an extract of Professor Hawking’s forthcoming book that appeared exclusively yesterday in TheTimes’ science magazine Eureka. He concluded that far from being an incomprehensible event that could only be accounted for by a leap of faith, the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” he wrote. His words triggered a debate yesterday between scientists and people of faith across the world, and became one of the main talking points online. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who will argue the case for religion in The Times next week, said: “I would totally endorse what the Chief Rabbi said so eloquently about the relationship between religion and science.” Ibrahim Mogra, a leading imam and Muslim Council of Britain committee chairman, said: “If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty creator.” Professor Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, is published on September 9, ahead of the Pope’s visit to Britain the next week. Leading atheists welcomed the intervention, a departure from the professor’s previous published views. In A Brief History of Time, he suggested that while physics had put constraints on when a possible God might have created the Universe, it had not ruled out his existence altogether. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, told The Times, “Darwinism kicked God out of biologybut physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace.”
How Hawking kept the door to God open Analysis Mark Henderson Science Editor September 3 2010 12:01AM Among his friends, and in the scientific community, few people have ever had much doubt that Professor Stephen Hawking is an atheist. Yet the great physicist, mathematician and cosmologist has long allowed a different impression to linger in the minds of the wider public. Though Professor Hawking has never professed himself to be religious, his pronouncements on the subject have often carried a subtle implication that he was open to the existence of a deity of some description. He told Reuters in 2007, for example, that he was “not religious in the normal sense”, hinting that there might be a place in his world view for a little agnosticism or spirituality. He also accepted lifetime membership of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences — which one cannot quite imagine Richard Dawkins doing. And, of course, there is the famous ending to his signature popular work, A Brief History of Time. A complete theory of physics, Professor Hawking wrote, “would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God”. Professor Hawking nearly cut the line from his text, fearing negative reactions from other scientists (which followed in spades). Yet as he acknowledges, including it was a pivotal factor in the book’s unprecedented success: 237 consecutive weeks on the Sunday Times bestseller list, and hardback sales of 6 million. By appearing to suggest that he had sympathy with a Creator’s role in the origins of the Universe, Professor Hawking added an extra dimension to his popular appeal. Here was a scientist who was prepared to dabble in the numinous, to step beyond equations to consider the meaning of it all. Professor Hawking’s God, however, was never more than a metaphor. In a 2001 interview with The Independent, his first wife Jane, herself a Christian, made it perfectly clear that her former husband was not in any way a believer. “Stephen, I hope, had belief in me that I could make everything possible for him, but he did not share my religious — or spiritual — faith,” she said.
Close readers of A Brief History of Time had already figured that out. The astronomer Carl Sagan even suggested as much in his foreword to the book: “Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a Universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do.” Other scientists have even chided Professor Hawking for usingGod as a sloppy and misleading metaphor for the laws of physics. As Steven Weinberg, the Nobel prize-winning physicist, put it: “If language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try to preserve the meaning of words, and ‘God’ historically has not meant the laws of nature.” Professor Hawking’s studied religious tease has certainly done nothing to diminish a profile that is higher than that of any other modern physicist. The research achievements of the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge — a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton and Paul Dirac — would be celebrated by scientists even were he not a household name. Together with Sir Roger Penrose, he made groundbreaking contributions to the physics of black holes — particularly the discovery they they emit particles now known as “Hawking radiation”. There is a chance that his theory could be proved by the Large Hadron Collider — which would put him in pole position for a Nobel Prize. Professor Hawking’s fame has been enhanced by the extraordinary fortitude with which he has found amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease, which was diagnosed when he was only 21. Though he was initially told that he would not live for more than a few years, he will celebrate his 69th birthday in January. When his illness cost him the power of speech, he learnt to communicate via a voice synthesiser, using muscles in his cheek over which he still has control to enter predictive text to a computer. His wheelchair and voice have made him instantly recognisable — even during guest appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Hawking: God did not create Universe Hannah Devlin Last updated September 2 2010 12:00AM Modern physics leaves no place for God in the creation of the Universe, Stephen Hawking has concluded. Just as Darwinismremoved the need for a creator in the sphere of biology, Britain’s most eminent scientist argues that a new series of theories have rendered redundant the role of a creator for the Universe. In his forthcoming book, an extract from which is published exclusively in Eureka, published today with The Times, Professor Hawking sets out to answer the question: “Did the Universe need a creator?” The answer he gives is a resounding “no”. Far from being a once-in-a-million event that could only be accounted for by extraordinary serendipity or a divine hand, the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, Hawking says. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist,” he writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” he finds. Professor Hawking’s book is a significant breakaway from previous views he has published on religion. In A Brief History of Time, he was accommodating of religious beliefs, suggesting that God as Creator was not incompatible with a scientific understanding of the Universe. “If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God,” he wrote in the 1988 bestseller. In his new book, The Grand Design, published on September 9, a week before the Pope’s visit to Britain, he sets out a comprehensive thesis that the scientific framework leaves no room for a deity. In the book, co-authored by the American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking deconstructs Sir Isaac Newton’s belief that the Universe could not have arisen out of chaos due to the mere laws of Nature, but must have been created by God.
Hawking writes that the first blow was the confirmed observation in 1992 of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun. “That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions — the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass — far less remarkable and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings,”. Not only other planets, but whole other universes, known collectively as the multiverse, are likely to exist, according to Professor Hawking, who until he retired last year held the same post as Newton, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. If God’s intention was to create mankind, then these many untouchable worlds would surely be redundant, he suggests. Richard Dawkins, a biologist and fierce proponent of atheism, welcomed the book, describing it as Darwinism for the very fabric of Nature, not just the creatures living within it. “That’s exactly what he’s saying,” said Professor Dawkins. “I know nothing of the details of the physics but I had always assumed the same thing.” However others, such as Professor George Ellis, an emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town and President of the International Society for Science and Religion, were less impressed. “My biggest problem with this is that it’s presenting the public with a choice: science or religion. A lot of people will say, ‘OK, I choose religion, then’ and it is science that will lose out,” he said. In the book, Professor Hawking also suggests that philosophy as a science is dead but intriguingly leaves open the prospect of life in other universes. He predicts that physics is on the brink of writing a theory of everything, a single framework that can entirely explain the properties of Nature. Such a theory has been the holy grail for physicists since the time of Einstein but until now it has been impossible to reconcile quantum theory, which explains the sub-atomic world, with gravity, which explains how objects interact on the cosmological scale. Professor Hawking suggests that M-theory, a form of string theory, will achieve this goal. He writes: “M-theory is the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find. The fact that we human beings — who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature — have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.” While agreeing that advances in theoretical physics were impressive, others argue they had little to contribute to a debate about the possible existence of God. Frank Close, a theoretical physicist at the University of Oxford, said: “Given the vast numbers of stars in our known Universe, God’s efficiency may already be called into question: if the sole aim was to create you, me and Stephen Hawking, would not one solar system have been enough? I don’t see that M-theory adds one iota to the God debate, either pro or con,” Rather than being a single master equation, Professor Hawking suggests that M-theory will be a “whole family” of theories existing within a consistent theoretical framework. Much like the way different maps — political, geographical, topological — can map a single region without contradicting each other, M-theory will map different aspects of the material world.
Chief Rabbi leads fightback against Stephen Hawking The Chief Rabbi led the religious fightback today against Stephen Hawking’s assertion that modern physics leaves no role for God in the creation of the Universe. Writing for The Times, Lord Sacks said that Professor Hawking’s conclusion that scientific developments exclude the possibility of a God was an “elementary fallacy” of logic. The debate was ignited by an extract of Professor Hawking’s forthcoming book, which appeared exclusively in Eureka, published today with The Times. Britain’s most eminent scientist argues that far from being a once-in-a-million event that could only be accounted for by extraordinary serendipity or a divine hand, the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist,” he writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” he finds. In a fierce rebuttal, Lord Sacks writes: “There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation...The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the Universe came into being.” He goes on to describe the mutual hostility between religion and science as one of “the curses of our age”, warning that it would be damaging to religion and science in equal measure. Dr David Wilkinson, an astrophysicistand also principal of the Church of England theological college, St John’s, Durham, said: “There is much that Stephen Hawking says that I want to agree with on the basis that the kind of God he is saying does not exist is a God of the gaps, a God who simply intervenes with the start of the Universe, fixes the conditions and then has nothing more to do with it. But that is not the God that Christians talk about or believe in. The God Christians believe in is a God who is intimately involved with every moment of the Universe’s history, not just its beginnings.” However, others welcomed the book, which is a marked departure from previous views Professor Hawking has published on religion.
Stephen Hawking is the voice of reason on religion Analysis Ruth Gledhill Last updated September 2 2010 12:01AM When it comes to religion, Stephen Hawking is the voice of reason. Not for him the polemical style that has propelled Richard Dawkins to the fore of national consciousness in the God debates. His argument is likely in the long term to be more dangerous to religion because it is more measured than The God Delusion. His book A Brief History of Time was on bestseller lists for four years, one reason being his agnosticism on the possibility of a creator God. He wrote: “However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God.” He later confessed that he had almost cut the last sentence. He has now moved to a point where far from wondering whether science might one day reveal the mind of God, he believes that science and religion are irreconcilable. He said: “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
Later this month, the Anglican convert to Catholicism, Cardinal John Henry Newman, will be beatified by the Pope in Birmingham. This is a ceremony made possible thanks to a miracle of healing for which no scientific explanation could be found. Another miracle is needed if Newman is to take the final step towards sainthood. Hawking would consider this miracle wishful thinking. “The universe is governed by the laws of science,” he said. “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” Hawking has a rare ability to make us believe that we can understand difficult ideas, with or without a God. Religious belief systems, in which people attempt to shape God into a mould of their own design, will be threatened by this book. But faithwill continue beyond the day that a scientist explains the root of Hawking’s “spontaneous creation”. At the atheist summer camps supported by Dawkins, children try to show that unicorns do not exist. They learn the difficulty of finding proof for the non-existence of being. People of faith the world over will read this book and marvel. Then they will pray, not because faith is logical, but because it works. You say I don’t exist because you’ve never seen one of me. But you say three-toed sloths do exist. Have you ever metone? So why don’t you say that three-toed sloths don’t exist?