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Professionalization of American Scientists: Public Science in the Creation/ Evolution Trials

Thomas F. Gieryn, George M. Bevins and Stephen C. Zehr
American Sociological Review
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Jun., 1985), pp. 392-409
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095548
Page Count: 18
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Professionalization of American Scientists: Public Science in the Creation/ Evolution Trials
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Abstract

The boundary between science and religion has long been a site for cultural and professional conflict. We examine the testimony of scientists at the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925 and at the McLean "Creation-Science" trial in 1981-82. The two trials were public occasions for scientists to present ideologies of science that legitimated their professional claims to cognitive authority, public financing and control over part of the public school curriculum. The rhetoric of scientists at each trial was directed toward a separate professional goal: at Scopes, scientists differentiated scientific knowledge from religious belief in a way that presented them as distinctively useful but complementary; at McLean, the boundary between science and religion was drawn to exclude creation scientists from the profession. Both goals-(1) differentiation of a valued commodity uniquely provided by science, and (2) exclusion of pseudoscientists-are important for scientists' establishment of a professional monopoly over the market for knowledge about nature. Each goal, however, required different descriptions of "science" at the two trials, and we conclude that this ideological flexibility has contributed to the successful professionalization of scientists in American society.

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