The University of Wisconsin Press

Sociology of Science / Rhetoric / Philosophy

Defining Science
A Rhetoric of Demarcation
Charles Alan Taylor

Rhetoric of the Human Sciences

Defining the boundary between science and nonscience

“The most interesting entry point to the demarcation problem in science since Popper’s seminal formulation.”
—Steve Fuller, professor of sociology and social policy, Durham University

What is science? What isn’t science? And who draws the line between them? These are rhetorical concerns, as Charles A. Taylor demonstrates in this ambitious book about the theoretical and cultural underpinnings of scientific practice. By showing how boundaries between “science” and “nonscience” are rhetorically constructed and socially enforced, Defining Science reveals the political and philosophical significance of such distinctions.

Taylor examines the traditional “demarcation problem,” the problem of defining the boundaries of science, as an ongoing rhetorical negotiation involving a full range of historical interests and social actors—from researchers and lab technicians to governmental and industrial patrons, program administrators, political representatives, journalists, and educators. His case studies of the recent debates over creationism and cold fusion clearly demonstrate how the rhetorical dynamics of science operate within different fields. In both cases, presented here with concision and insight, prevailing demarcations—or defining portrayals of science—emerge as far more nuanced than traditional accounts allow.

Taylor analyzes traditional approaches to demarcation in science in order to incorporate their insights into his larger rhetorical view. His reformulation of philosophical, historical, and sociological accounts of science clearly illustrates the intellectual value of an interdisciplinary rhetoric of demarcation. Furthermore, Defining Science suggests how we, as a community, can positively influence future constructions of science and society.

“This book confronts what is arguably the late twentieth century’s definitive problem in a provocative and interesting way. It will be of interest to anyone engaged with the question of knowledge in public life.”
—Charles Arthur Willard, professor and Chair of the Department of Communication, University of Louisville

Charles Alan Taylor was, at the time of publication, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Speech Communication at Indiana University.

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The book is yellow and black with a gridded mobius strip.

July 1996
302 pp.   6 x 9

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The 1996 cloth edition, ISBN 0-299-15030-5, is out of print.

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