Library / Norms and Counter-Norms in a Select Group of the Apollo Moon Scientists: A Case Study of the Ambivalence of Scientists


Reference

Ian I. Mitroff “Norms and Counter-Norms in a Select Group of the Apollo Moon Scientists: A Case Study of the Ambivalence of Scientists” (1974) // American Sociological Review. Publisher: SAGE Publications. Vol. 39. No 4. Pp. 579. DOI: 10.2307/2094423

Abstract

This paper describes a three and a half year study conducted over the course of the Apollo lunar missions with forty-two of the most prestigiousscientists who studiedthe lunar rocks. Thepapersupportsthe Merton-E.Barberconceptof sociologicalambivalence,that social institutions reflect potentially conflicting sets of norms. The paper offers a set of counter-normsfor science, arguingthat if the norm of universalismis rooted in the impersonal characterof science, an opposing counter-normis rooted in the personalcharacterof science. Thepaperalso arguesthat not only is sociologicalambivalencea characteristicof science,but it seemsnecessaryfor the existenceand ultimaterationalityof science.

Bib

@Article{mitroff1974,
  title = {Norms and Counter-Norms in a Select Group of the Apollo Moon Scientists: A Case Study of the Ambivalence of Scientists},
  abstract = {This paper describes a three and a half year study conducted over the course of the Apollo lunar missions with forty-two of the most prestigiousscientists who studiedthe lunar rocks. Thepapersupportsthe Merton-E.Barberconceptof sociologicalambivalence,that social institutions reflect potentially conflicting sets of norms. The paper offers a set of counter-normsfor science, arguingthat if the norm of universalismis rooted in the impersonal characterof science, an opposing counter-normis rooted in the personalcharacterof science. Thepaperalso arguesthat not only is sociologicalambivalencea characteristicof science,but it seemsnecessaryfor the existenceand ultimaterationalityof science.},
  volume = {39},
  issn = {0003-1224},
  url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2094423},
  doi = {10.2307/2094423},
  number = {4},
  journal = {American Sociological Review},
  publisher = {SAGE Publications},
  author = {Mitroff, Ian I.},
  year = {1974},
  month = {aug},
  pages = {579}
}

Quotes (5)

The Emotionally Disinterested Scientist is a Myth

The [emotionally] disinterested scientist is a myth. Even if there were such a being, he probably wouldn’t be worth much as a scientist. I still think you can be objective in spite of having strong interests and biases.

Page 588

Public Statements

If you make neutral statements, nobody really listens to you. You have to stick your neck out. The statements you make in public are actually stronger than you believe in. You have to get people to remember that you represent a point of view even if for you it’s just a possibility.

Page 588

The Mad Scientist Who Will Destroy the World for Knowledge

The uninvolved, unemotional scientist is just as much a fiction as the mad scientist who will destroy the world for knowledge. Most of the scientists I know have theories and are looking for data to support them; they’re not sorting impersonally through the data looking for a theory to fit the data.

Page 588

Trivial Understanding of Scientific Knowledge

If scientific knowledge were the product of uncommitted or weakly committed observers, its understanding would be trivial.

Page 591

Ill-Defined and well-defined Problems

At the one extreme are “well-defined” problems, at the other are “ill-defined"problems. Well-defined problems (like the chemical composition of the lunar samples) are amenableto solution in that they can be clearly posed and hence solved by relatively clear-cut, standard, analytic tech- niques; they are “consensible”(Ziman, 1968) ifnthat a relatively wide degree of consensus can be obtained regardingthe “natureof the problem;” in short, they are easily formulated. Ill-defined problems (like the origin of the moon) are almost defiantly elusive; they seem to defy a common “consensible” formulation (Mitroff and Betz, 1972). Beause of their widespreadconsensiblenature, well-defined problems seem independent of the personality of their formulators; they appearto be impersonal. Ill-defined problems, on the other hand, appearto be the intensely personal creations of their creators. Whereas the conventional norms of science are dominant for well-structured problems, the counter-norms proposed here appear to be dominant for ill-structured problems.

Page 594