In the wonderful book The Golem: What You Should Know About Science, Collins and Pinch record this amusing finding: Sociologists interviewed professional research physicists about reasons for believing or disbelieving their colleagues09 experiments. In this particular case, the experiments were the detection and non-detection of gravity waves (conducted between 1969 and 1972).
Their reasons included,
- Faith in a scientist09s experimental capabilities and honesty, based on a previous working partnership.
- The personality and intelligence of experimenters.
- A scientist09s reputation gained in running a huge lab.
- Whether or not the scientist worked in industry or academia.
- A scientist09s previous history of failures.
- 08Inside information09.
- Scientists09 style and presentation of results.
- Scientists09 08psychological approach09 to experiment.
- The size and prestige of the scientist09s university of origin.
- The scientist09s degree of integration into various scientific networks.
- The scientist09s nationality.
I highly recommend this book, which presents science as a clumsy, flailing, and extremely powerful force that must be constantly and carefully controlled by its human creator (like the golem of Jewish mythology), though this is not necessarily my view of science. Also, I recommend the second book in the Golem series, The Golem at Large: What You Should Know About Technology.