Thomas Gieryn

Continuing debates over the possibility or desirability of demarcating science from non-science are, in one sense, ironic. Even as sociologists and philosophers argue over the uniqueness of science among intellectual activities, demarcation is routinely accomplished in practical, everyday settings: education administrators set up curricula that include chemistry but exclude alchemy; the National Science Foundation adopts standards to assure that some physicists but no psychics get funded; journal editors reject some manuscripts as unscientific. How is the demarcation of science accomplished in these practical settings, far removed from apparently futile attempts by scholars to decide what is essential and unique about science? Demarcation is not just an analytical problem: because of considerable material opportunities and professional advantages available only to ‘scientists’, it is no mere academic matter to decide who is doing science and who is not. This paper restates the problem of demarcation: characteristics of science are examined not as inherent or possibly unique, but as part of ideological efforts by scientists to distinguish their work and its products from non-scientific intellectual activities. The focus is on boundary-work of scientists: their attribution of selected characteristics to the institution of science (i.e., to its practitioners, methods, stock of knowledge, values and work organization) for purposes of constructing a social boundary that distinguishes some intellectual activities as ‘non-science’.

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