chapter  4
20 Pages

TWENTY INDUSTRIAL SCIENTISTS: A PRELIMINARY EXERCISE Celia Bloor and David Bloor

This essay (1) is based on an analysis of a mass of interview data provided by a sample of industrial scientists. The aim was to see whether the material could be interpreted in the light of grid/group theory. The word 'interpreted1 here refers to two distinct processes. First, could the industrial scientists be located along the grid and group dimensions? This meant trying to construct the dimensions in a way that made them applicable to the various industrial organisations in which the scientists found themselves. The analysis must be able to discriminate between these organisations, for the typology must be construed as being about sub-groups in our society rather than about societies as a whole. The second, and more exciting question, is whether knowing the position of a scientist on the grid/group diagram allows us to predict the picture of science and nature that scientists will discern in their experimental work. For example, do scientists evince 1cosmological bias* which bears analogy to the cases described by anthropologists? Here we have focused on certain salient features of cosmologies predicted in 'Cultural Bias' (Douglas 1978). We have paid special attention to the attitude to the scientist's task, the attitude to the natural world, and the attitude to other scientists, expecting to find them combined in contrasted patterns. Along these lines we found four different cosmological schemes. According to one, the work of the scientist is to discover and measure regularities, inventing the right key, as it were, to turn the lock and reveal nature's secrets, deemed in themselves to be essentially unmysterious and knowable. This scientist would value exactitude and correct performance of testing procedures; good scientists would be like good instruments, standardised, ranked commodities, complementary to one another and substitutable. Another cosmological scheme presents a complete contrast on all these points: nature is endlessly mysterious and unknowable; the task of the scientist is to make a clever gadget that works, the grand theory of how it works is not a high priority; the scientist needs flair^ imagination and skills in transacting with diverse colleagues. In this scheme the good scientist is a unique, creative individual. In a third cosmological scheme these contrasted theories about nature and scientific inquiry hardly receive any attention: such concerns are submerged beneath a welter

of confusing social problems. In the fourth case the scientist lives too segregated a life either to entertain theories about science and nature, or to experience intensely absorbing social relations.