David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Social Studies of Science 39 (2):257-288 (2009)
In August 2002, three Indian computer scientists published a paper, ‘PRIMES is in P’, online. It presents a ‘deterministic algorithm’ which determines in ‘polynomial time’ if a given number is a prime number. The story was quickly picked up by the general press, and by this means spread through the scientific community of complexity theorists, where it was hailed as a major theoretical breakthrough. This is although scientists regarded the media reports as vulgar popularizations. When the paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal only two years later, the three scientists had already received wide recognition for their accomplishment. Current sociological theory challenges the ability to clearly distinguish on independent epistemic grounds between distorted and non-distorted scientific knowledge. It views the demarcation lines between such forms of presentation as contextual and unstable. In my paper, I challenge this view. By systematically surveying the popular press coverage of the ‘PRIMES is in P’ affair, I argue--against the prevailing new orthodoxy--that distorted simplifications of scientific knowledge are distinguishable from non-distorted simplifications on independent epistemic grounds. I argue that in the ‘PRIMES is in P’ affair, the three scientists could ride on the wave of the general press-distorted coverage of their algorithm, while counting on their colleagues’ ability to distinguish genuine accounts from distorted ones. Thus, their scientific reputation was unharmed. This suggests that the possibility of the existence of independent epistemic standards must be incorporated into the new SSK model of popularization.
|Keywords||popularization distortion science and media social epistemology computer science mathematical proof sociology of scientific knowledge|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Peter Woelert (2013). The 'Economy of Memory': Publications, Citations, and the Paradox of Effective Research Governance. Minerva 51 (3):341-362.
Similar books and articles
Howard Sankey (2001). Scientific Realism: An Elaboration and a Defence. Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 98 (98):35-54.
Loet Leydesdorff (1996). The Possibility of a Mathematical Sociology of Scientific Communication. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 27 (2):243-265.
Massimiano Bucchi (2004). Science in Society: An Introduction to Social Studies of Science. Routledge.
Michael Lynch (1993). Scientific Practice and Ordinary Action: Ethnomethodology and Social Studies of Science. Cambridge University Press.
K. Brad Wray (2007). Who has Scientific Knowledge? Social Epistemology 21 (3):337 – 347.
Ingo Brigandt (2012). The Dynamics of Scientific Concepts: The Relevance of Epistemic Aims and Values. In Uljana Feest & Friedrich Steinle (eds.), Scientific Concepts and Investigative Practice. De Gruyter 3--75.
David Bloor (2005). Toward a Sociology of Epistemic Things. Perspectives on Science 13 (3):285-312.
Loet Leydesdorff (1992). The Knowledge Content of Science and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 23 (2):241-263.
Amnon H. Eden (2007). Three Paradigms of Computer Science. Minds and Machines 17 (2):135-167.
Anita L. Allen (2009). The Poetry of Genetics: On the Pitfalls of Popularizing Science. Hypatia 24 (4):247 - 257.
Added to index2009-08-13
Total downloads25 ( #159,094 of 1,911,083 )
Recent downloads (6 months)5 ( #142,835 of 1,911,083 )
How can I increase my downloads?