Exam Question: (33 marks)
Assess Sociological explanations of science and ideology as belief systems. (33 marks)
Many sociologists argue modern science is the product of the process of rationalisation that began with the protestant reformation in the 16th century. Some sociologists, for example secularisation theorists, argue it has undermined religion by changing the way we think and how we see the world.
Science has had a huge impact on society in the last few centuries with medicines curing fatal diseases and advances in communication and technology. Science and technology has revolutionised economic productivity and raised standards of living. This success has led to a widespread belief in science; believing science can deliver the goods. However, this faith has been dimmed by science causing problems. For example pollution, weapons and global warming are products of science. While science protects us from natural dangers, it creates its own manufactured risks. However the good and bad effects of science show features distinguishing it from other belief systems – known as its cognitive power. It enables us to explain, predict and control the world in a way that non scientific or pre scientific belief systems cannot do.
Sir Karl Popper (1959) argues science is an open belief system where every scientist’s theories are open to scrutiny, criticism and testing by others. Science is governed by the principle of falsificationism. Scientists set out to try and falsify existing theories, deliberately seeking evidence that would disprove them. If the evidence from an experiment or observation contradicts a theory and shows it to be false, the theory can be discarded and the search for a better explanation can begin. In science, knowledge claims live or die by the evidence. Popper argues discarding falsified knowledge claims; is what enables scientific understanding of the world to grow. Scientific knowledge is cumulative – it builds on the achievements of previous...