Wednesday’s class centered on establishing background in some theories in the philosophy of science, as well as drawing connections between these theories and the main subject matter of our GISP. We began by discussing Thomas Kuhn, a philosopher of science who asserts that what we think of as “normal science” exists within a given “paradigm,” and argues that transitions between paradigms are important “scientific revolutions,” which are highly influenced by non-objective/non-scientific forces. We then moved to discussing Helen Longino’s “Science as Social Knowledge,” which stresses the social factors that play into the production of scientific knowledge, and begins to critique the purported objectivity of science based on this intrusion of social forces. We then discussed the implications of these readings for the main subject matter of this GISP, i.e. race and gender in the scientific community. We discussed how social forces could lead to underrepresentation and bias within scientific fields, as well as how the social nature of science plays into paradigm choice. Of particular interest near the end of our discussion was how to translate the lessons learned from these readings into actual change. For instance, we discussed the difficulty of bringing up these issues with scientists who have never thought about them before.
On Friday, influenced by Kuhn's definition of paradigm, we discussed who gets left out of the scientific community and why. We looked at the peer review process and noticed that this process allows the current scientists to shape the future generations of scientists, allowing for a conservative social structure. We then thought about what a more fair system for determining merit in the scientific community might look like. During our discussion we asked ourselves whether survival (i.e. integrating into the scientific community, and perhaps forfeiting one's unique identity in the process) or resistance (i.e. broadening the definition of a scientist to include oneself) is more important for underrepresented individuals in the scientific community. We ended our discussion with a conversation about our midterm projects, which will focus on data collection and fact finding at Brown.