Sociology of scientific knowledge  

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"Whatever view of science and the sociology of scientific knowledge is correct, it is a fact that in the history of science there have been many instances of new theories (e.g., germ theory of disease, finitude of the speed of light, radioactivity) being ridiculed and shunned by the greater scientific community when first proposed or discovered, only later to be adopted as more probably accurate. Even presently, "pseudoscience" has become a somewhat odious term for paradigms which incorporate beliefs or methods which are outside the pale of "orthodox" scientific paradigm." --Sholem Stein

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The sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) is the study of science as a social activity, especially dealing with "the social conditions and effects of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity." The sociology of scientific ignorance (SSI) is complementary to the sociology of scientific knowledge. For comparison, the sociology of knowledge studies the impact of human knowledge and the prevailing ideas on societies and relations between knowledge and the social context within which it arises.

Sociologists of scientific knowledge study the development of a scientific field and attempt to identify points of contingency or interpretative flexibility where ambiguities are present. Such variations may be linked to a variety of political, historical, cultural or economic factors. Crucially, the field does not set out to promote relativism or to attack the scientific project; the aim of the researcher is to explain why one interpretation rather than another succeeds due to external social and historical circumstances.

The field emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s and at first was an almost exclusively British practice. Other early centers for the development of the field were in France, Germany, and the United States (notably at Cornell University). Major theorists include Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Sal Restivo, Randall Collins, Gaston Bachelard, Harry Collins, Paul Feyerabend, Steve Fuller, Martin Kusch, Bruno Latour, Mike Mulkay, Derek J. de Solla Price, Lucy Suchman and Anselm Strauss.

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