David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 32 (4):739-747 (2001)
In this paper, a response to Ed Levy's discussion of medical quantification, I reflect on the ambitions of my book Trust in Numbers. I explore the idealized method of randomized clinical trials, revealed in his case study, as a social technology, one endowed with a persuasive scientific rationale but shaped also by political and social demands. The scholarly study of quantification requires not a choice between blind admiration and sweeping rejection, but a nuanced understanding. This should take into account not only the cognitive aspects of science, but also its role in relation to institutions and customs, examined with some specificity. While history is narrowed and distorted when it is written to support a position on some present issue, historical and social studies of science should at least provide tools of criticism. For this, the historian of science must look beyond narrow communities of specialists, and seek a wider perspective on science as an administrative tool and a bearer of cultural and political values.
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