2. The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge


In this meeting, we will examine the concept of the “social construction of scientific knowledge.”  We will begin with a short lecture on epistemology followed by discussions of two readings.  The first reading is by Karl Popper and outlines his ideas about the distinction between science and pseudoscience. The second reading, by the geographer Lakshman Yapa, focuses on how ostensibly objective knowledge about poverty is mediated by complex social, political, economic, and cultural factors.

By the end of this meeting, students will be able to

  1. Define epistemology.
  2. Explain the meaning of “correlation does not imply causation.”
  3. Outline the major tenets of Popper’s concept of falsification and how they relate to the ideas of the Vienna Circle.
  4. Use the concept of “improved seeds” to explain the social construction of scientific knowledge.



In addition to the required reading, you must complete two pieces of written work:

  1. In 250 words or less, answer the following question: According to Popper, when is a theory scientific?  Be sure to upload a copy of your essay to the Oncourse Dropbox before class.  Also, bring a double-spaced hard copy with you to class.  We will share our essays with each other and discuss both their merits and possible areas of improvement.
  2. You must complete the History Publication Report for Lakshman Yapa’s article.  Be sure to upload a copy to your Oncourse Dropbox before class.  Also, bring a copy (either printed or digital) with you for class discussion.


epistemology, a priori, a posteriori, rationalism, empiricism, causation, correlation, is/ought, Vienna Circle, logical positivism, Karl Popper, falsification, improved seeds, social construction of knowledge


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