Chapter

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Harry Collins

in The One Culture?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780226467221
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226467245 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226467245.003.0012
A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

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The opening poem in this chapter describes a Martian's view of earthly things seen for the first time; it is a stranger's view. There has to be something strange about the sociologist's view of science, too. It is the job of the sociologist to estrange him or herself so that those things that are taken for granted in the native society—those things that seem just common sense—become things that require explanation. Accounts of the everyday life of a society from an estranged perspective can seem threatening. Consider how the sociologist might talk of religious beliefs. Imagine the sociologist trying to understand how it is that south of a certain line in a certain country it is generally believed that a certain kind of religious ceremony can turn wine into blood, whereas north of that line it is generally believed that no such thing occurs. The sociologist's account would be in terms of the histories of the respective beliefs; the processes of socialization through which the young are inducted into the beliefs; the separate social networks which reinforce the separate beliefs; the divergent conceptual structures in which the separate beliefs are embedded; the day-to-day actions in which the conceptual structures are expressed; the economic and political interests which drive the upholders of these beliefs apart; and, perhaps, the social psychology of cultural polarization.

Keywords: sociology of science; religion; socialization; cultural polarization; social psychology; political interests

Chapter.  4730 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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