Merton thesis

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The Merton thesis is an argument about the nature of early experimental science proposed by Robert K. Merton. Similar to Max Weber's famous claim on the link between Protestant work ethic and the capitalist economy, Merton argued for a similar positive correlation between the rise of Protestant Pietism and early experimental science. [1] The Merton thesis has resulted in continuous debates. [2]

Robert K. Merton American sociologist

Robert King Merton was an American sociologist. He spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University, where he attained the rank of University Professor. In 1994 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his contributions to the field and for having founded the sociology of science. He is considered a founding father of modern sociology while also gaining a status for the work he contributed to criminology.

Max Weber German sociologist, philosopher, and political economist

Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist. His ideas profoundly influenced social theory and social research. Weber is often cited, with Émile Durkheim and Karl Marx, as among the three founders of sociology. Weber was a key proponent of methodological anti-positivism, arguing for the study of social action through interpretive means, based on understanding the purpose and meaning that individuals attach to their own actions. Unlike Durkheim, he did not believe in mono-causality and rather proposed that for any outcome there can be multiple causes.

<i>The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism</i> book

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a book written by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. Begun as a series of essays, the original German text was composed in 1904 and 1905, and was translated into English for the first time by American sociologist Talcott Parsons in 1930. It is considered a founding text in economic sociology and sociology in general.

Contents

Although scholars are still debating it, Merton's 1936 doctoral dissertation (and two years later his first monograph by the same title) Science, Technology and Society in 17th-Century England raised important issues on the connections between religion and the rise of modern science, became a significant work in the realm of the sociology of science and continues to be cited in new scholarship. [3] Merton further developed this thesis in other publications.

Thesis

The Merton thesis has two separate parts: firstly, it presents a theory that science changes due to an accumulation of observations and improvement in experimental technique and methodology; secondly, it puts forward the argument that the popularity of science in England in the 17th century, and the religious demography of the Royal Society (English scientists of that time were predominantly Puritans or other Protestants) can be explained by a correlation between Protestantism and the scientific values. [4]

Methodology is the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied to a field of study. It comprises the theoretical analysis of the body of methods and principles associated with a branch of knowledge. Typically, it encompasses concepts such as paradigm, theoretical model, phases and quantitative or qualitative techniques.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Demography The science that deals with populations and their structures statistically and theoretically

Demography is the statistical study of populations, especially human beings. As a very general science, it can analyze any kind of dynamic living population, i.e., one that changes over time or space. Demography encompasses the study of the size, structure, and distribution of these populations, and spatial or temporal changes in them in response to birth, migration, aging, and death. Based on the demographic research of the earth, earth's population up to the year 2050 and 2100 can be estimated by demographers. Demographics are quantifiable characteristics of a given population.

Merton focuses on English Puritanism and German Pietism as being responsible for the development of the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries. He explains that the connection between religious affiliation and interest in science is a result of a significant synergy between the ascetic Protestant values and those of modern science. [5] Protestant values encouraged scientific research by allowing science to identify God's influence on the world and thus providing religious justification for scientific research. [1]

Spener may refer to:

God Divine entity, supreme being and principal object of faith

In monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, and principal object of faith. The conceptions of God, as described by theologians, commonly include the attributes of omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-present), and as having an eternal and necessary existence. Depending on one's kind of theism, these attributes are used either in way of analogy, or in a literal sense as distinct properties. God is most often held to be incorporeal (immaterial). Incorporeality and corporeality of God are related to conceptions of transcendence and immanence of God, with positions of synthesis such as the "immanent transcendence". Psychoanalyst Carl Jung equated religious ideas of God with transcendental aspects of consciousness in his interpretation.

Criticism

The first part of Merton's thesis has been criticized for insufficient consideration of the roles of mathematics and the mechanical philosophy in the scientific revolution. The second part has been criticized for the difficulty involved in defining who counts as a Protestant of the "right type" without making arbitrary distinctions. It is also criticized for failing to explain why non-Protestants do science (consider the Catholics Copernicus, da Vinci, Descartes, or Galileo) and conversely why Protestants of the "right type" are not all interested in science. [4] [6] [7]

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space, and change.

Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes are like complicated machines or artefacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external influence on the parts.

Nicolaus Copernicus Renaissanse-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated the heliocentric model of the Universe

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe, in all likelihood independently of Aristarchus of Samos, who had formulated such a model some eighteen centuries earlier.

Merton, acknowledging the criticism, replied that the Puritan ethos was not necessary, although it did facilitate development of science. [8] He also noted that when science had acquired institutional legitimacy, it no longer needed religion, eventually becoming a counterforce, leading to religious decline. Nonetheless, early on, in Merton's view religion was a major factor that allowed the scientific revolution to occur. [1] While the Merton thesis does not explain all the causes of the scientific revolution, it does illuminate possible reasons why England was one of its driving motors and the structure of the English scientific community. [9]

Support

In 1958, American sociologist Gerhard Lenski's empirical inquiry into The Religious Factor: A Sociological Study of Religion's Impact on Politics, Economics, and Family Life in the Detroit area (Michigan) revealed, among other insights, that there were significant differences between Catholics on the one hand and (white) Protestants and Jews on the other hand with regard to economics and the sciences. Lenski's data supported the basic hypotheses of Max Weber's work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. According to Lenski, the "contributions of Protestantism to material progress have been largely unintended by-products of certain distinctive Protestant traits. This was a central point in Weber's theory." Lenski noted that more than a hundred years prior to Weber, John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist church, had observed that "diligence and frugality" made Methodists wealthy. "In an early era, Protestant asceticism and dedication to work, as noted both by Wesley and Weber, seem to have been important patterns of action contributing to economic progress." However, Lenski said, asceticism was rare among modern Protestants, and the distinctive Protestant doctrine of "the calling" was largely forgotten. Instead, modern (white) Protestants and Jews had a high degree of "intellectual autonomy" that facilitated scientific and technical advance. [10] By contrast, Lenski pointed out, Catholics developed an intellectual orientation which valued "obedience" to the teachings of their church above intellectual autonomy, which made them less inclined to enter scientific careers. Catholic sociologists [11] [12] had come to the same conclusions. [13]

Lenski traced these differences back to the Reformation and the Catholic church's reaction to it. In Lenski's view, the Reformation encouraged intellectual autonomy among Protestants, in particular the Anabaptists, Puritans, Pietists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. In the Middle Ages, there had been tendencies toward intellectual autonomy, as exemplified in men like Erasmus. But after the Reformation, the Catholic leaders increasingly identified these tendencies with Protestantism and heresy and demanded that Catholics be obedient and faithful to ecclesiastical discipline. In Lenski's opinion, his study showed that these differences between Protestants and Catholics survived to the present day. As a consequence, "none of the predominantly and devoutly Catholic nations in the modern world can be classified as a leading industrial nation. Some Catholic nations – such as France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile – are quite highly industrialized, but none of them are leaders in the technological and scientific fields, nor do they seem likely to become so. Recently [1963] some Brazilian Catholic social scientists compared their country's progress with that of the United States and concluded that the chief factor responsible for the differential rates of development is the religious heritage of the two nations." [14]

Puritans and Pietists both contributed to intellectual autonomy and provided intellectual tools and values important for science. [15] As an example, pietism challenged the orthodoxy via new media and formats: Periodical journals gained importance versus the former pasquills and single thesis, traditional disputation was replaced by competitive debating, which tried to gain new knowledge instead of defending orthodox scholarship. [16] It is a part of the forces that lead to modernity. [17]

According to Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States by Harriet Zuckerman, a review of American Nobel prizes awarded between 1901 and 1972, 72% of American Nobel Prize laureates identified a Protestant background. [18] Overall, 84.2% of all the Nobel Prizes awarded to Americans in Chemistry, [18] 60% in Medicine, [18] and 58.6% in Physics [18] between 1901 and 1972 were won by Protestants.

According to 100 Years of Nobel Prize (2005), a review of Nobel prizes awarded between 1901 and 2000, 65.4% of Nobel Prize Laureates, have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference (423 prizes). [19] While 32% of Nobel prize winners have identified with Protestantism in its various forms (208 prizes), [19] Protestants comprise 11.6–13% of the world's population but most[ quantify ] of those selecting the prize winners[ citation needed ].

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Sztompka, 2003
  2. Cohen, 1990
  3. Merton Awarded Nation's Highest Science Honor
  4. 1 2 Gregory, 1998
  5. Becker, 1992
  6. Ferngen, 2002
  7. Porter & Teich 1992
  8. Heddendorf, 1986]
  9. Cohen, 1994
  10. Gerhard Lenski (1963), The Religious Factor: A Sociological Study of Religion's Impact on Politics, Economics, and Family Life, Revised Edition, Garden City, N.Y., pp. 350-352
  11. Thomas F. O'Dea (1958), The Catholic Dilemma: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Life, New York, N.Y.
  12. Frank L. Christ and Gerard Sherry (Eds.) (1961), American Catholicism and the Intellectual Ideal, New York, N.Y.
  13. Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor, pp. 283-284
  14. Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Factor, pp. 347-349
  15. Gregory, Andrew (1998). handouts for course 'The Scientific Revolution' at The Scientific Revolution, doc file online Archived 2006-05-13 at the Wayback Machine .
  16. Martin Gierl, Pietismus und Aufklärung: theologische Polemik und die Kommunikationsreform der Wissenschaft am Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997 (Pietism and enlightenment, theological polemic and the reform of science communication end of the 17. century).
  17. Shantz, Douglas H.; Erb, Peter C. (2013-03-05). An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. JHU Press. ISBN   9781421408309.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Harriet Zuckerman, Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States New York, The Free Pres, 1977 , p.68: Protestants turn up among the American-reared laureates in slightly greater proportion to their numbers in the general population. Thus 72 percent of the seventy-one laureates but about two thirds of the American population were reared in one or another Protestant denomination-)
  19. 1 2 Baruch A. Shalev, 100 Years of Nobel Prizes (2003),Atlantic Publishers & Distributors , p.57: between 1901 and 2000 reveals that 654 Laureates belong to 28 different religion Most 65.4% have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. While separating Roman Catholic from Protestants among Christians proved difficult in some cases, available information suggests that more Protestants were involved in the scientific categories and more Catholics were involved in the Literature and Peace categories. Atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers comprise 10.5% of total Nobel Prize winners; but in the category of Literature, these preferences rise sharply to about 35%. A striking fact involving religion is the high number of Laureates of the Jewish faith – over 20% of total Nobel Prizes (138); including: 17% in Chemistry, 26% in Medicine and Physics, 40% in Economics and 11% in Peace and Literature each. The numbers are especially startling in light of the fact that only some 14 million people (0.02% of the world's population) are Jewish. By contrast, only 5 Nobel Laureates have been of the Muslim faith-0.8% of total number of Nobel prizes awarded – from a population base of about 1.2 billion (20% of the world's population).

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References

Also available as: Sztompka, Piotr (2003). "Robert K. Merton". Chapter 1. Robert K. Merton. Wiley. pp. 12–33. doi:10.1002/9780470999912.ch2. ISBN   9780470999912. Extract.

Further reading