Publisher description for Explaining scientific consensus : the case of Mendelian genetics / Kyung-Man Kim ; foreword by Donald T. Campbell ; commentaries by Robert Olby and Nils Roll-Hansen.


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The recognition of science as a social process in which dissent and negotiation take place is not a new concept. The role of consensus and the extent to which personal relationships affect its formation, however, are rarely discussed in the literature. Examining these phenomena, Kyung-Man Kim argues that sociologists and historians present a deficient account of how science produces reliable knowledge because they have primarily focused on the drama of conflict and disagreements rather than on the process of reaching consensus. Through a careful examination of the community of the evolutionary biologists and geneticists at the turn of the 20th century, Kim reveals the interplay among scientists that generated acceptance of Mendelian genetics. His analysis reveals the inherent weakness in contemporary accounts, and lays the groundwork for a more democratic sociological theory of consensus formation.

Based on a large survey of published articles as well as unpublished letters, Kim describes in vivid detail the history of the Mendelian debates. This history serves to illustrate his main theme, as he offers a detailed critique of Merton's structural-functional account of science, and discusses the three dominant research programs in the contemporary sociology of science, including Bloor and Barnes's strong programme, Collins's empirical program of relativism, and Latour's actor-network theory. Throughout, the role of mutual persuasion and criticism in reaching consensus among scientists of differing orientations is clearly illustrated.

Developing a unique approach to the formation of scientific consensus, Kim focuses on the so called "middle-level" scientists and their essential role in criticizing and controlling the more single-minded and prominent elite scientists. Kim contends that it is through these scientists, who are often more accessible in university settings, that new discoveries and ideas will be generally accepted in the scientific community, displayed in textbooks, and eventually, accepted into the core knowledge.

Including a foreword by Donald Campbell and commentaries by eminent historians of genetics, Nils Roll-Hansen and Robert Olby, this important new book will inform sociologists and historians of science, as well as philosophers interested in recent developments of sociology of scientific knowledge. An ideal teaching text, it will be highly useful in courses dealing with genetics, sociology, or philosophy of science


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Mendel's law History, Science Social aspects Case studies, Knowledge, Sociology of Case studies