In a recent episode (podcast) of the CBC series “How to Think About Science,” here’s how Harvard historian of science Steven Shapin answers that question:
I believe of course that there are facts of the matter, independent of our culture, independent of our social order, independent of our language, but I believe that at the same time when we make statements of fact, those statements of fact, belong to our culture. So I believe completely that there is a world independent of our thoughts, but when we start to represent that world, we are talking about cultural entities, what else could they be.
Shapin’s interview is just the latest in a fascinating new series from the CBC that I spotlighted back in January. The series popularizes the field of science studies, an important growing discipline that was unfairly attacked during the so-called Science Wars of the 1990s. Since my original post, among the best episodes, I recommend the interviews with Brian Wynne and Evelyn Fox Keller.