Sociology ETDs

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Conventional conceptions of Science hold that assessment of scientific ideas takes place without extraneous economic, social or cultural interference. Thus, while metaphysical-cultural beliefs may be integral to a theory's genesis, evaluation of scientific merit is seen to be largely based on the empirical evidence provided by observation and experiment. In fact, however, without impugning scientific knowledge it is possible to demonstrate that both substantive and ideological factors may regularly influence the course of scientific practice. Analysis of the reception afforded the ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky reveal that, as in the case of the Copernican Revolution, extra-scientific influences may intertwine with and immensely complicate the dispassionate evaluation of scientific ideas. By examining the largely unconscious infrastructure (e.g. psychological, social and cultural dimensions) of catastrophic and uniformitarian theories it is possible to demonstrate that religious beliefs and professional interests have likely, in addition to purely scientific factors, inspired the emotional and often unethical response to Velikovsky's ideas. In short, without juding the merit of Velikovsky's work, this study argues that anti-fundamentalist religious beliefs as well as the interests of professional scientists in promulgating the vision of a world amenable to rational control have been integral to the rejection of Velikovsky's catastrophism. This case, moreover, provides the occasion for demonstrating that scientific practice, despite its demonstrable effectiveness, is inherently vulnerable to extra-scientific currents which in greater measure buffet other socio-cultural domains.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

George Arthur Huaco

Second Committee Member

Dodd Harvey Bogart

Third Committee Member

Gilbert Wilson Merks



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Sociology Commons