Blisset, Marlan. Politics in Science. Boston: Little Brown, 1972.

 

Blisset, Marlan. Politics in Science. Boston: Little Brown, 1972.

Here is a typical study of science, a mailed questionnaire sent to 1500 Big Names in various
universities (of varying prestige levels), focusing on the goodness of fit between Merton's norms
of science and what scientists say of their work. The schedule includes some Likert-like scales
designed to measure the agreement-disagreement dimension of, say, neutrality or objectivity. Is
there a goodness of fit between the norms of science and what the scientists say? Not very much
save in terms of universalism. But that is only some of the "data" with which the author is
concerned. He does in depth interviews with some top people to augment his attitude test and to
study the quality of the attitude test. He does include a quote, late in the book, which should have
given him pause. A "world famous mathematician" objected to Blisset's work and says, "I don't
give a damn about this. It's off base. It's wide of the mark. Scientists aren't concerned with an
epistemological tradition. The creative ones don't give a damn about the past. All of us are
trapped by the present. That's just the way it is. You don't make a scientific discovery by
thinking about the systematic conventions of science. Science is what scientists are doing at the
moment." (p. 198) That is as clear a statement as I've seen, but Blisset doesn't "see" and so
misses the point freely given by this "world famous scientist." Rather, Blisset adds this petulant
little remark, "Despite occasional setbacks of this nature..." and goes right on with the topics he's
set for himself: his attitude scale and his interviews.

Incidentally, his questionnaire was mailed to 1500 scientists but only 853 were returned. His data
are reported on that "sample." He then draws all kinds of charts to display the centrality of his
data. His discussions, fortunately, have little to do with the attitudes he has measured, and it is as
if his data were there as dressing for his opinions, his certainties of the centrality of these norms
of science.