Nineteen Eighty-Four: Science Between Utopia and Dystopia

Volume 8 of the series Sociology of the Sciences a Yearbook pp 173-187

Eugenic Utopias — Blueprints for the Rationalization of Human Evolution

  • Peter WeingartAffiliated withForschungsschwerpunkt Wissenschaftsforschung, Universität Bielefeld

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Scientific Utopias reveal an aspect of science that is hidden by ‘normal science’ and its ideology. Especially at times when new research areas are opened up or when new discoveries have been made they are formulated to demarcate the explanatory claims of the field. They are also used to stake the claims of orienting perception and behavior to be based on systematic knowledge provided by the new field and replacing prior, so-called non-systematic types of knowledge; perhaps most importantly, they are used to define the ethical and institutional resistances anticipated by the sciences in implementing these claims. To look at scientific Utopias is of particular interest, therefore, because they reveal the value-base of a field in a very fundamental sense, in that they are both a blueprint for the envisaged scientific rationalization and an outline of the research strategy to be pursued to that end. Scientific Utopias spell out the direct link between the cognitive plan of discovery (definition of subject matter, methods, explanatory goods) and the social target to be reached through implementation — behavioral changes, institutional reorganization, and re-definition of values.