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Science Transformed?

Debating Claims of an Epochal Break

edited by Alfred Nordmann, Hans Radder, and Gregor Schiemann

Publication Year: 2011

Advancements in computing, instrumentation, robotics, digital imaging, and simulation modeling have changed science into a technology-driven institution. Government, industry, and society increasingly exert their influence over science, raising questions of values and objectivity. These and other profound changes have led many to speculate that we are in the midst of an epochal break in scientific history. This edited volume presents an in-depth examination of these issues from philosophical, historical, social, and cultural perspectives. It offers arguments both for and against the epochal break thesis in light of historical antecedents. Contributors discuss topics such as: science as a continuing epistemological enterprise; the decline of the individual scientist and the rise of communities; the intertwining of scientific and technological needs; links to prior practices and ways of thinking; the alleged divide between mode-1 and mode-2 research methods; the commodification of university science; and the shift from the scientific to a technological enterprise. Additionally, they examine the epochal break thesis using specific examples, including the transition from laboratory to real world experiments; the increased reliance on computer imaging; how analog and digital technologies condition behaviors that shape the object and beholder; the cultural significance of humanoid robots; the erosion of scientific quality in experimentation; and the effect of computers on prediction at the expense of explanation.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The idea for this edited volume originated in a research group on “Science in the Context of Application” at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research / Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung (ZiF), University of Bielefeld, Germany. All but two of...

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Science after theEnd of Science?

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pp. 1-16

In the february 2008 issue of Nature Nanotechnology, physicist Philip Moriarty published a commentary that aims to reclaim academic science from postacademic science. Even though many of his readers are not at all familiar with the terms “academic” and “postacademic” science, Moriarty makes clear that the stakes are high. He is...


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pp. 17

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The Age of Technoscience

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pp. 19-30

Mode-2 research, postacademic science, technoscience, postnormal science, new natural history, entrepreneurial science—all these various labels speak of more or less profound changes in the organization of research. Do these changes amount to an epochal break that transforms scientifi c knowledge production as a...

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We Are Not Witnesses to a New Scientific Revolution

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pp. 31-42

Do the changes that have taken place in the structures and methods of the production of scientifi c knowledge and in our understanding of science over the past fi fty years justify speaking of an epochal break in the development of science? Some philosophical and sociological descriptions of these changes do indeed assert that such..

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“Knowledge Is Power,”or How to Capturethe Relationshipbetween Science andTechnoscience

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pp. 43-53

It is difficult, if not impossible, to judge the continuities or ruptures involved in a historical process of which oneself is a part. Historians are aware of the human tendency to view one’s own period as a turning point in history. Epochal breaks have been diagnosed galore, which we hardly remember anymore. Take the now almost....

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Climbing the Hill

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pp. 54-65

Alfred nordmann, in this edited volume, lays out several sophisticated and plausible arguments for seeing today’s science as undergoing an epochal break. Unlike many epochal break believers, Nordmann recognizes the near-impossibility of convincing epochal break skeptics simply by inundating them with fact...

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Breaking Up with the Epochal Break

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pp. 66-79

Epochal breaks abound. After a short session on Google one learns that apart from the break between modernity and postmodernity, epochal breaks have taken place also between the...

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Science and Its Recent History

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pp. 80-92

The epochal break thesis comes in several versions. What they have in common is the claim that during a limited period of time, science, as it is actually practiced, has changed substantially or even essentially. Moreover, this change is taken to mark the start..

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Knowledge Makingnin Transition

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pp. 93-105

The making of knowledge has become an ever more integral part of our contemporary way of life. But much of the knowledge that is being made has little in common with what is usually referred to as “science.” As social life has come to be infused with an overarching commercial mentality, science has lost much of its autonomy...

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Alliances between Styles

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pp. 106-116

Biotechnology and nanotechnology have acquired, or almost acquired, a paradigm status of what science is today. Science is technoscience now, and philosophers of science are catching up with the recent status of technology vis-à-vis science. For better or for...


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pp. 117

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Experimenting with the Concept of Experiment

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pp. 119-134

For a couple of years now a chorus of rather cacophonic voices has been heralding the fact that over the past few decades science has undergone a profound transformation. This has been answered by another chorus, more precise and concordant, that there has been no such transformation—at least no break or sharp discontinuity...

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Intensification, Not Transformation

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pp. 135-146

Part of the current context in which scientifi c practice occurs is the increasingly frequent use of digital media to produce and communicate knowledge. Of course, this context is not science’s alone; rather, it permeates many aspects of developed- and developing-world societies. Discussions about the signifi cance of digital media’s...

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Technologies of Viewing

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pp. 147-158

“Medium” is a very broad term, denoting the transmission of a certain message with the help of specifi c tools. Its defi nition extends from technological, audiovisual media to speech, drawing, language, or writing. Accordingly, the history of science is also...

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Technoscience as Popular Culture

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pp. 159-176

The increasing market orientation of universities and other research institutions, the worldwide competition for key technologies, as well as the race for research funding and public attention are changing not only the relation between mass media and technosciences but also research strategies and paradigms of the technosciences...

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The Good Old Days

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pp. 177-188

There was never a golden age when medical research was all sweetness and light. Only fools could think otherwise. Yet, in many respects, former times were better times. The quality of research has suff ered from the assault infl icted upon it from corporate interests and their scientifi c hirelings who are more concerned with mammon...

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Toward a New Culture of Prediction

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pp. 189-200

Computers and simulation methods play prominent roles in a wide range of present-day scientifi c and engineering research. Without doubt, the computer, computational science, and scientifi c and engineering research have all mutually shaped one another—what is computationally possible informs the questions scientists...

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pp. 201-206

At this point it should be clear that the epochal break thesis involves a wide-ranging and ambitious claim concerning recent science and its history. The preceding chapters display a diversity of views on this thesis. Hence, drawing a single, straightforward conclusion from these chapters, for or against the epochal break thesis,..


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pp. 207-212


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pp. 213-222

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822977506
E-ISBN-10: 0822977508
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961635
Print-ISBN-10: 822961636

Publication Year: 2011