Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Knowledge, nature, and representation : clearings for conservation in the Maine Woods Demeritt, David 1996

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


831-ubc_1997-195694.pdf [ 34.93MB ]
JSON: 831-1.0088007.json
JSON-LD: 831-1.0088007-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 831-1.0088007-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 831-1.0088007-rdf.json
Turtle: 831-1.0088007-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 831-1.0088007-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 831-1.0088007-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

KNOWLEDGE, NATURE, AND REPRESENTATION: CLEARINGS FOR CONSERVATION IN THE MAINE WOODS by DAVID D EMERITI B.A., The University of Maine, 1988 M.Sc, The University of Maine, 1990 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Geography) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA November 1996 © David B. Demeritt, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by. the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date Mtsrtstku K \L DE-6 (2/88) Abstract This thesis concerns the cultural and scientific practices involved with turn-of-the-century struggles to conserve the Maine Woods. Conservation was underwritten by the powerful and productive fiction that an essential nature exists as something completely apart from the elaborately organized exhibitions by which it has been staged for our benefit. The absolute distinction between nature and culture is profoundly problematic but tremendously productive as well. Drawing on a variety of historical and theoretical sources, this thesis describes the various ways in which the essential nature of the Maine Woods was set up and represented as something demanding protection and conservation. The thesis is divided into three parts. Part I sets the stage for the historical discussions that follow by assessing debates in geography and environmental history about the social construction of knowledge and nature. Recent scholarship has been caught on the horns of a theoretical dilemma: while understanding of the present environmental crisis and its historical roots seems to demand recognition of the independent agency of nature, social theory suggests the impossibility of stepping outside the bounds of culture to represent an independent nature as it really is. Different responses to this dilemma are discussed. It is argued that environmental critique demands a more humble approach to truth, one sensitive to the meanings of its metaphors and the politics of its practices. Part II assesses the forest conservation movement. The objects of scientific forestry depended fundamentally upon the ways in which the forest was framed as an object of knowledge. Very different programs of action flowed from competing metaphorical definitions of the Maine Woods as a crop, a mine, or a kind of capital. The ascendency of technical and quantitative knowledge of the forest and its displacement of local understandings are described as are public policy disputes in Maine about the regulation of private property, the institution of publicly owned forest reserves, and the role of the state in forestry. Part in deals with the conservation of wildlife for sport. Flocking to the forest to hunt, wealthy sportsmen articulated a variety of sexual, class, and racial anxieties about the debilitating embrace of modern life. The transfomation of the Maine Woods into a vacationland for their manly recreation demanded the institution of game laws and the criminalization of traditional lifeways to save the game for sport. In these struggles, conservationists had to contend not only with local residents, who resisted this construction of the Maine Woods, but also with a variety of non-human actors, such as deer, predators, and pathogens, whose presence, though difficult to deny outright, was culturally framed and mediated in materially significant ways. ii Table of Contents Abstract i i Table of Contents iii List of Figures v Acknowledgements vi Preface 1 PART I. HISTORY, SCIENCE, AND SOCIAL THEORY 10 Chapter 1: Science, Representation, and Reality 11 representing science in geography 16 sociology of science 26 climatic change and the sociology of scientific knowledge 34 reflexivity and SSK 38 articulating practices of science 41 Chapter 2: Ecology, Objectivity, and Environmental History 50 revision in ecological science 52 social constructivism 60 linguistic turns 65 beyond foundationalism 72 Chapter 3: The Nature of Metaphor 76 cross-sections and vertical themes in the history of landscape 80 metaphors of cultural production in cultural geography 83 environmental history and the agency of nature 95 metaphors of nature 107 PART II. THE OBJECTS OF FORESTRY 114 Chapter 4: Picturing the Forest . 1 2 4 forest for the trees 126 truth in numbers 147 Chapter 5: Forest Knowledges and the Famine 167 local knowledge 169 the authority of science 177 Chapter 6: Properties of the Forest 193 crops, mines, and capital 194 forestry and the state 219 PART HI. THE WILDLIFE AND THE RE-CREATION OF MAN 250 Chapter 7: Call of the Wild 261 masculine anxieties 263 primitive resorts 277 class and sexual tensions 287 iii Chapter 8: Rules of the Game moral economies code of the sportsmen law and the game wars the values of wild life Postscript Bibliography List of Figures Figure 1.1 Symmetrical Explanation of Science 27 Figure 1.2 Room for Doubt: Volcanic Eruptions and Averaged Annual Temperatures in the Northeastern United States 35 Figure 1.3 Converting the Doubtful: Superposed Epoch Analysis of Annual Temperature (C°) Anomalies Before and After Volcanic 36 Eruptions Figure 4.1 Greeley's Picture of Diminishing Forest Supplies 125 Figure 4.2 "Forest and prairie lands of the United States" by Joseph Henry, 1858 132 Figure 4.3 "Map of Maine Showing the Distribution of Pine and Spruce" by C.S. Sargent, 1883 142 Figure 4.4 "Density of Forests" by C.S. Sargent, 1883 144 Figure 6.1 Optimum Rotation Age for Various Interest Rates 208 Figure 6.2 Great Northern Paper Co. View of Forest Conservation 242 Figure 7.1. Residence of Visitors to Parmanchenee Club, Parmanchenee Lake, Maine, 1896-1905 276 Figure 7.2 Promoting the Backwoods Experience 284 Figure 8.1 Moose and Deer Shipped by Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, 1895-1910 338 Figure 8.2 Effect of Removal of Predators on Deer Populations on Kaibab Plateau, Arizona 341 v Acknowledgements In the six years I have been working on this project I have come to rely on the advice, support, and assistance of a large number of people. My supervisor, Graeme Wynn, was a keen editor and, perhaps equally important for a supervisor, provided me with some funding to bridge me after the end of my fellowship. The members of my cornmittee, Trevor Barnes, Derek Gregory, and Cole Harris, were always accessible for a chat or word of advice. From the University of Washington, Richard White was also able to chip in with a word of advice whenever I needed to call upon him. Perhaps because my tenure here at U B C has been so long, there is a long list of people who helped me along the way, either by reading something of mine, suggesting a reference, or chipping in with a helpful idea: Allison Blunt, Kate Boyer, Noel Castree, Brett Christophers, Dan Clayton, Robyn Dowling, Averill Groeneveld-Meijer, David Ley, Maureen Reed, Matt Sparke, Lynn Stewart, and Bruce Willems-Braun. It's fair to say, however, that I would never have completed a Ph.D thesis without the encouragement, to say nothing of the impatience, of Loretta Lees who kept telling me to hurry up and finish so we could go hiking. In Orono, I relied (and still rely) on the support and company of Kathleen Hornsby, Stephen Hornsby, and Dave Smith. At the University of Maine Library, Muriel Sahford and the other people in Special Collections (especially Mary Ellen and Betsy) always made working there a pleasure. Through it all, I have been sustained by family: my father and my late mother who encouraged and supported me in my work. Thank you all. vi Pre face That which is can only be, as a being, if it stands within this clearing. Only this clearing grants and guarantees to us humans a passage to those beings that we ourselves are not, and access to the being that we ourselves are. Thanks to this clearing, beings are unconcealed in certain changing degrees. — Martin Heidegger1 On 5 November 1996, the people of Maine will go to the polls to decide, in a state-wide referendum, whether to "ban clear-cutting and set other new logging standards." Alarmed by the environmental impacts of industrial forestry and frustrated by the refusal of the legislature to do anything about it, the Maine Green Party, with the support of other environmental activists in the state, has gathered the 53,000 signatures necessary to put the question directly to the voters. The actual bill does much more than just ban clear-cut logging. It mandates that no more than one-third of the standing volume of wood per acre may be removed in any fifteen year period. Mathematical formulae establish the maximum size of allowable canopy openings and the required basal area of residual standing timber for various stand types. As the most far-reaching government intervention in the Maine Woods since the 1930's, the referendum campaign has focused unprecedented public attention on the forest and on the sciences of forestry and ecology underwriting its conservation. Highly critical of applied forest science, supporters of the referendum believe that it will "[e]liminate practices that remove Maine's forests and replace them with herbicide- and insecticide-dependent monoculture tree plantations with no genetic diversity and little biodiversity." This critique of industrial forestry has a powerful aesthetic appeal, to be sure, but its 1 Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art," in M. Heidegger, Poetry. Language. Thought.trans. A. Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 53. 1 principal authority is scientific. Environmentalists insist that "clearcutting is harmful to the forest ecosystem."2 Referendum opponents disagree, and they also appeal to science to support their claims. In addition to arguing that the referendum will create "more government bureaucracy and red tape" and "damage our state's entire economy," they insist the ban will actually "[d]amage the health of our forests and wildlife habitats," by "prohibit[ing] many sound, scientific forest management practices that are needed to... encourage the growth of healthy, commercially valuable trees ... and to maintain the diversity of wildlife habitats."3 In defense of its forest stewardship, the Great Northern Paper Company cites "a growing body of scientific knowledge about the very important role that clearcutting plays in the management of many wildlife species, including several threatened migratory songbirds, ruffled grouse (partridge), moose and white-tailed deer." GNP's manager of forest policy, Dan Corcoran asserts that the clear-cutting ban will "replace scientific forestry with political forestry" appealing to "public emotions" rather than rational consideration of the scientific facts.4 Knowledge, even scientific knowledge, is not easily divorced from its social context Scientific representation of the forest as an integrated and autonomous eco-system, subject to external disturbance by human action, both plays on and reinforces popular understandings of the Maine Woods as a sort of wilderness, relatively untouched by human hands. Former Green Party gubernatorial candidate and Ban ClearCuts spokesperson, Jonathan Carter argues that restrictions on the volume and intensity of logging are necessary to put "the forest in balance as a natural system" so that we "will be living off the growth, not undermining the capital."5 The metaphor of natural capital may 2 Maine Greens, 1996 Clearcutting Referendum (n.p., Sept 1995). 3 Citizens for a Healthy Forest and Economy, Information About The Green Party's Drastic Forestry Ban (n.p., 1996). 4 "Green Party Referendum Would Do a Lot More Than Just Regulate Clearcutting" GNP News (January 1996), n.p, photocopy circulated to me by Dennis W. Tompkins, communications co-ordinator, Maine Forest Products Council, 20 February 1996. 5 Quoted in Andrew Kekacs, "Vote to Ban Clear-Cutting Sought" Bangor Daily News 16 November 1995. 2 seem an ironic choice for a group committed to biocentric minking and opposed to the narrow-minded instrumentalism of the paper companies, and it is. But more generally, it suggests the way in which the metaphorical is necessarily (and consequentially) mixed up with the production and representation of nature. The significance of such widely accepted scientific concepts as habitat and ecological community depends on their cultural and figurative dimensions as well as their natural and scientific ones. Making any absolute distinction between the social and the natural or the scientific and the metaphorical is highly problematic. Although some of the practices at stake in the 1996 referendum are new— clear-cut logging, for example, has only been common in Maine for thirty years or so— public anxiety over the future of the forest and its conservation is not. Indeed, the Maine legislature debated very similar regulations on forest practice in 1896 and again in the years immediately thereafter. In fact, the very idea of conservation itself came into focus over a century ago, when the rapid pace of exploitation and the closing of the frontier raised the dual specter of a national timber famine and a landscape devoid of any wildlife. Concerns about the depletion of the Maine Woods and the wildlife in it were underwritten by and advanced a new, technical vocabulary of natural limits, sustainability, and carrying capacity. These scientific concepts framed the forest and its natural resources as finite quantities that might be used up or dissipated if not conserved. They led to the passage of new laws and the development of new conservation practices, the creation of parks, and the institution of government forestry and wildlife protection bureaucracies to regulate individual behavior so as to protect the environment. In short, the conservation movement established a new and far-reaching regime of knowledge and power to protect and conserve the Maine Woods and its essential properties. Yet, the turn-of-the-century crusade to conserve the forest was as heralded in Maine as it was hated. Then as now, many people bitterly resented and resisted interference from government and from conservation activists, many of whom hailed from away. 3 This dissertation considers these earlier struggles, but with the present scene very much in mind. Far from being anachronistic, the story of past efforts to protect the Maine Woods provides an opportunity to pose some important questions about the practice and meaning of environmental conservation. Who, for instance, constitutes the public in whose interest the forest is to be conserved? The outcome of the 1996 clear-cutting referendum will be decided in the suburban wards of southern Maine, far from the northern forest and the communities most directly dependent upon it. Is this metropolitan public the appropriate public to decide the fate of the forest? Or should it be determined more locally? In Maine, the late nineteenth century controversy over game laws and wildlife conservation turned on this very question of scale. It pit the interests of local residents in hunting against those of the vacation industry and big city sportsmen, whose culturally specific (and sexually charged) experience of the hunt was institutionalized by the new game laws. Proponents of these measures argued that strict new game laws were necessary to protect the wildlife from extinction at the hands of rapacious poachers and pot hunters. They succeeded to the degree that they were able to identify the game laws with a universal public interest and to cast local opposition as opposing, special interests, inimical to the wildlife and the public interest in their conservation. Similarly, much of the debate in Maine about forest conservation turned on identifying and speaking for the public interest in the forest Turn-of-the-century forestry advocates, like present-day supporters of the clear-cut referendum, held that private property owners, interested chiefly in short-term and immediate profits, could not be trusted to protect and conserve the diffuse and often unpriced public benefits derived from the forest Public policy debates about the regulation of private property, the institution of publicly-owned forest reserves, and the role of government in forestry were about re-distributing the costs and benefits of environmental conservation among competing actors, and it is important to recognize that they were uneven contests, with real winners and losers. 4 But the forest conservation movement, like the furor over game laws and wildlife protection, was also a contest between different ways of knowing and representing the forest. Proponents of scientific forestry, concerned about the depletion of the Maine Woods and the forest supplies in it, contrasted their conservative approach to the forest, which treated the forest as a crop or a kind of capital to be conserved, with wasteful and short-sighted lumbering that exploited the forest as if it were a mine, a non-renewable resource with no future beyond its immediate stumpage value. The ascendancy of their scientific view of the forest paved the way for scientific forest management, but it also displaced local understandings of the woods embedded in personal experience and local practice. Much of the current agitation over industrial forestry stems from the very particular ways in which the science of forestry was established in Maine and the forest framed as an object of its knowledge. There is a contemporary ring to the 1911 lament about the displacement of the "Primeval type of forest" by the normalized forest of applied forestry: Time, unaided, makes the forest. Man makes a very different thing, the 'forested' forest, or tree garden. In the forest, nature's whole symbolic process of vegetation stands before our eyes, integral as the whole circle of the planet's orbit. Its arc is the entire sequence of tree-life, from the tiny seedling up to the zenith of growth, and down, first through the early stages of decay of the grand old standing giant, long serving as a home for birds and quadrupeds, then through the slow and beautiful process of the fallen trunk, moss- and fern-covered, back to earth again. In this pageant, in these quiet shades, one has the whole of life before one. Man's culling-out of mature trees, proper and needful as it is in practical forestry, destroys the completeness of this pageant, doing away with those lofty sentry-posts of birds, and those solemn prostate forms crumbling away to fertile mould beneath.6 Such sentiments provided an important source of support for conservation and for the institution of scientific forestry at the turn-of-century, but they were systematically 6 Abbott H. Thayer, "The Worth of the Primeval Type of Forest" in Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Report (1911): 28-29. 5 marginalized by foresters who successfully promoted their science as both useful and objective. Perhaps the greatest difference between contemporary struggles over conservation in Maine and those of a century ago is that the authority of forestry and of science more generally, once the unquestioned foundation of all discussion about conservation, has worn thin. A dizzying array of postmodern and post-structural theories challenge, in one way or another, the idea of science as a mirror to nature. Instead, they suggest a variety of ways in which science and the world it studies and represents are socially constructed. If the nature of the forest and our knowledge of it are, in some sense, the products of active and interested representation rather than reflections of an independent and objective reality, what does this mean for efforts to conserve them? As a product of this skepticism, I have had to work through these questions for myself in trying to understand and to narrate the story of conservation in the Maine Woods. Paradoxically, it would seem, conserving the forest has also involved what the philosopher Martin Heidegger calls making a clearing or a lichtung— literally a clearing or glade in the forest, but with the sense also of brightening and lighting. For Heidegger, the term suggests an open space in which one can encounter other beings-in-the-world in the light of a particular understanding. And yet, Heidegger insists, this process of making a clearing, what we might more conventionally understand as representation, is also necessarily and simultaneously a process of misrepresentation. He writes, "The clearing in which beings stand is in itself at the same time concealment."7 The act of illuminating the world and making it clear and visible inevitably casts shadows, such that representation delimits as it discloses. Heidegger's account of the dual character of representation is a complex and difficult one, but his ideas underwrite much of the recent critical thinking, both within the 7 Heidegger, "Origin of the Work of Art," in Heidegger, Poetry. Language. Thought 53. For an explication of his notion of the lichtung, see Hubert L. Dreyfuss, Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time. Division I (Cambridge: M I T Press, 1991), 163-66. 6 discipline of geography and without, about the politics of representation and the social construction of knowledge and truth. Derrida and Foucault, for instance, are both heavily indebted to Heidegger for their critiques of the disembodied gaze and grids of intelligibility, as, indirectly, are many feminist and post-colonial critics. Within science studies, Heidegger's critique of representation resonates most clearly in the writings of Donna Haraway. Important as these various ideas about the relations between knowledge, power, and representation are to this thesis, it is not my intention to gloss or summarize them here. Rather, I want to work with them productively to consider the meaning and practice of environmental conservation. The thesis triangulates between theory, historical evidence, and contemporary concerns to provide a history of the present. It explores critically both the seams connecting and the ruptures separating current debate about environmental conservation in Maine from its particular historical geography. The thesis itself is divided into three parts. The three chapters in Part I, which have been published previously in slightly different form, set the stage for the historical narrative that follows by assessing debates in geography and environmental history about the social construction of scientific knowledge and nature.8 These theoretical discussions highlight the necessarily partial and contextual character of knowledge. They emphasize the political and theoretical significance of paying careful attention to the particular practices of representation in science and conservation as well as in critical and historical accounts of them. Part U assesses the turn-of-the-century forest conservation movement in relation to this broader set of ideas about the connections between knowledge, power, and representation. The aims and objects of scientific forestry depended fundamentally upon the ways in which the forest was framed as an object of knowledge. Debate about the depletion 8 Chapter 1 was previously published as "Social Theory and the Reconstruction of Science and Geography" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 21 (1996): 484-503. Chapter 2 was published as "Ecology, Objectivity, and Critique in Writings on Nature and Human Societies" Journal of Historical Geography 20 (1994): 22-37. Chapter 3 was published as "The Nature of Metaphors in Cultural Geography and Environmental History" Progress in Human Geography 18 (1994): 163-85. 7 of the forest and prospects of a timber famine was predicated upon new technologies and practices of representation that set up the nation's forests as an interrelated and interchangeable, quantitative whole. Pictures of the forest as a rapidly depleting natural resource imparted both an urgency and a certainty to calls to conserve it This mathematized view of the forest won widespread acceptance for the idea of conservation, but as practice it was not entirely clear what forest conservation actually meant Scientific forestry was founded on the metaphorical transformation of the forest from a mine into a renewable resource, but very different programs of action flowed from competing visions of the forest as a crop or as a kind of capital providing a regular and renewable dividend of arboreal growth. In Maine, debate about the regulation of private property, the institution of publicly owned forest reserves, and the role of the state in forestry— public policy questions at the heart of the present clear-cutting referendum campaign— turned on these competing representations of the Maine Woods. Part HI deals with the conservation of wildlife for sport and the cultural conflicts attendant upon the development of the Maine Woods as a vacationland. Starting in the late nineteenth century, large numbers of wealthy, urban sportsmen flocked to the forests to hunt big game. These tourists imagined the Maine Woods as a primeval wilderness where they could escape the deadening routines of everyday life and re-create the essential primitive manliness threatened by the debilitating embrace of modernity. Their experience of the forest articulated a variety of sexual, class, and racial anxieties about the rapid transformation of American cities, and as such it was very different from that of most rural Mainers, who looked to the forest as a place of work and a source of essential resources to sustain everyday life. The transformation of the Maine Woods into a vacationland for the manly recreation of urban sportsmen demanded the institution of game laws and the criminalization of traditional lifeways to save the game for sport In these struggles, conservationists had to contend not only with local residents, who resisted this construction of the Maine Woods, but also with a variety of non-human actors, such as deer, predators, 8 and pathogens, whose presence, though difficult to deny outright, was culturally framed and mediated in materially significant ways. Whether saving wildlife or forest growth, the objects of conservation depended in large part upon the ways in which the forest was framed as an object of knowledge. This thesis explores these various representations of the Maine Woods and the stakes in their construction. 9 I. H I S T O R Y , S C I E N C E , A N D S O C I A L T H E O R Y 10 1 . Sc ience, Representa t ion , and Rea l i t y We live in a momentous age. In an era of AIDS and greenhouse warming, genetic engineering and microchips, it is harder than ever to be agnostic about the doings of tiny molecules— or the sciences by which they are constructed and brought into view. In this brave new world of ours, science is serious business. It has helped make possible unprecedented levels of affluence, but it has also helped fabricate many of the environmental specters that make the future of that way of life seem so insecure. Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that nature and the sciences are looked upon so ambivalently. Nature, we are told, is threatened with extinction, yet uncontrolled climate change threatens our lives. Science is celebrated as our guiding light in the wilderness and exorcised as the cause of our expulsion from the garden. Such old fashioned rhetoric about the path to Enlightenment and the fall from Grace should signal that these concerns about knowledge, nature, and the human condition have a long ancestry. Despite millennial declarations about being "post" this and "post" that, unease about the nature of knowledge and the knowledge of nature is nothing particularly new. Yet, with the rise of those various modes of thought and intellectual practice so often dubbed "postmodernism," such concerns about science are now enunciated with new found fervor. In the face of global environmental changes that would seem to make science more vital than ever, many people dismiss scientific knowledge as pure fiction. Science, it is said, is merely a social construction, and the nature it studies an artifact of the way that it is represented to be. No different than other kinds of knowledge, scientific knowledge is made up, just like fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Such social constructivism is big business in the humanities these days. It undermines the authority given to science by those philosophers of science who defined the 11 scientific method as the pinnacle of rationality. Social constructivists maintain that the facts do not speak for themselves; that scientific observations are not independent from social influences and pre-conceptions; that the truth value of scientific statements is not determined by the degree to which they correspond to a world external to them. Different social constructivists, of course, explain the social construction of scientific knowledge differendy, but they share these essentially negative reactions to the traditional stories told about science by realists, empiricists, and logical positivists. With our own rich traditions of debate about positivism and spatial science, geographers have greeted the new social constructivisms with a decidedly mixed reaction. Some human geographers dismiss these epistemological criticisms of scientific objectivity as naive relativism while others celebrate the play of difference made possible by the passing of any faith in true, objective knowledge. Physical geographers meanwhile seem to carry on more or less as always, largely oblivious to the arcane debates of their colleagues in human geography.1 Those geographers who have taken up social constructivism, particularly in its "postmodern" and "deconstructive" modes, have cast their claims in such sweeping and yet such opaque terms that they are easily dismissed as simply "anti-science."2 There is some truth to this accusation, since critiques of science and objectivity in human geography, as elsewhere, have been energized by reactions against modern technology and western rationality, but such instant dismissals are unfortunate. Claims to knowledge are claims to power. This is especially so of scientific knowledge. Since the Enlightenment, science has been synonymous with the revelation of truth about the world. Debates about science, objectivity, and scientific fact are debates about what will count for real knowledge and whose voices will be heard in struggles to 1 But see Bruce L. Rhoads and Colin E. Thome, "Geomorphology as Science: The Role of Theory" Geomorphologv 6 (1993): 287-307 and Bruce L. Rhoads and Colin E. Thome, "Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives on Physcial Geography with Emphasis on Geomorphology" Geographical Review 84 fl994): 90-101. 2 The most prominent example of this would be Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1994). 12 define it. These are vital questions- matters of life and death. By claiming to speak scientifically and thus to know nature objectively as it really is, scientists have silenced other voices interested in environmental matters. This great social power is what made the sciences such an attractive target for social constructivists. While it is certainly true that the effect of social constructivism has been to level the playing field between the sciences and the humanities in the academy, social constructivism cannot be written off as green-eyed physics envy, however much those like Michael Dear may promote it as a way to claim for themselves some of the cultural authority accorded to science.3 The critique of epistemology is about power, to be sure, but it can hardly be reduced (and thereby dismissed) to a power play. In this chapter I articulate some important theoretical questions about science and the social construction of knowledge underwriting my discussion of conservation in the Maine Woods. I begin with the critical reassessments of the epistemological foundations of scientific objectivity offered by human geographers. These critiques provide a potentially valuable corrective to the self-image of science, but sadly, the tone of debate in the discipline has not been conducive to much serious discussion across the human/physical divide, a necessary though by no means sufficient step in the radical reform of environmental science. Ironically, bold pronouncements by postmodernists of the death of Enlightenment meta-narratives have been written in such a way that the next of kin-empiricist and positivist physical geographers— missed the funeral. If we geographers are really serious about changing the way that science is socially constructed, then we must find some way to address practicing scientists. To this end I find the social constructivist arguments advanced in the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) to be invaluable. The name of this merry band is somewhat misleading (and partisan), given the work by scholars in so many other disciplines, but it 3 Michael Dear, "The Post-Modern Challenge: Reconstructing Human Geography" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 13 (1988): 262-74. 13 offers a convenient shorthand to describe a heterogeneous body of scholarship underwritten by the premise that science studies are cultural studies. Like contemporary critiques of science in geography, SSK enthusiasts are aggressively anti-realist about scientific representations. That is, they dispute the traditional stories told about scientific knowledge as an objective reflection of the natural world as it really is. However, unlike the discussions in geography, which tend to refer in grand terms to Science with a capital "S", as if it were a monolithic enterprise speaking with one voice, the proponents of SSK advance their epistemological arguments about the social construction of scientific knowledge in more specific and empirically substantiated terms.4 Scrupulous attention to the messy details of scientific practice makes for a compelling social constructivism much more difficult to dismiss out of hand. A brief, SSK-inspired analysis of my own research on the climatic impact of stratospheric volcanic aerosols demonstrates both the power and the potential problems of an SSK critique of the normative accounts of scientific epistemology offered by empiricist, realist, and positivist philosophers of science. Troubling ambiguities beset the notion of social construction in SSK. In the rush to debunk the epistemological claims of science to represent the world "as it really is," social constructivists have not distinguished sufficiently between epistemological anti-realism about scientific theories and ontological anti-realism about scientific entities. These distinctions are slippery, but essential. It is one thing to say that scientific knowledge of the world is socially constructed, but it is quite another to say that the world itself is fabricated as well. To do so, suggests that the world is entirely of our own making and plays into the sense that social constructivism leads to a stark choice between, on the one hand, some kind of objectivism grounded in the rational evaluation of a subject's representations in terms of their correspondence to a real, objective world, and on the other, some sort of 4 For recent reviews, see Joseph Rouse, "What Are Cultural Studies of Scientific Knowledge?" Configurations 1 (1992): 1-22; Sharon Traweek, "An Introduction to Cultural and Social Studies of Sciences and Technologies" Culture. Medicine, and Psychiatry 17 (1993): 3-25; Emily Martin, "Citadels, Rhizomes, and String Figures" in S. Aronowitz, B. Martinsons, and M. Menser, eds., Technoscience and Cvberculture (New York: Routledge, 1996), 97-109. 14 anything-goes-relativism about a world absolutely of our own making. Despite their careful empirical accounts of scientific practices, proponents of SSK have become mired in the same unhelpful and polemical discussions of scientific representation, truth, and epistemology that have distracted geographers trying to come to grips with the postmodern challenge. Perhaps as a result, they have been unable or unwilling to make political interventions in support of or against particular scientific practices. For the most part it would seem, SSK enthusiasts are more interested in telling stories about how science works than in trying to change the content of the scientific practices they describe with detached and indifferent eyes. Social constructivism is important because it is political, but the discussions in human geography and SSK have not made the most of this potential. The epistemological guarantees of objectivity are without question a major source of power for modern science, but so too is scientific practice, and here, social constructivists have not made the necessary political interventions. Tilting at the windmill of epistemology, science critics in human geography have been little concerned with scientific practice. But even their counterparts in SSK who study scientific practice do so in order to make anti-epistemological arguments. This is a mistake. Such a narrow focus on epistemological questions simply feeds the unfortunate sense that social constructivism presents an exclusive choice between objectivity and anything-goes relativism. I neither accept this formulation, nor believe that recognizing the social construction of scientific knowledge makes it impossible to evaluate different scientific claims rationally. And yet framed as it has been in geography and SSK, social constructivism leads almost inevitably to endless school-boy philosophy squabbles about the truth of scientific representations. Ultimately, such metaphysical debates are unresolvable. They serve merely to distract attention from more immediately practical and explicitly political considerations of the scientific practices by which the facts of science are actually produced. As a result, discussions in the humanities about the social construction of scientific knowledge have not contributed significantly to the radical reform of science. 15 In the final part of this chapter, I will try to suggest how changing the terms of the conversation about social construction so as to pay more attention to the politics of particular scientific practices might go some ways towards fulfilling this political potential and adding a badly needed moral and proscriptive dimension to social studies of science and scientific knowledge. representing science in geography Geographers have long entertained their own discussions about science and the nature of scientific knowledge. Far from being a fixed identity, the word scientific has been ascribed over the centuries to a wide variety of practices and beliefs, many of which we would characterize today as magical and fantastic, the very antithesis of science itself.5 The status accorded to a "science" proved to be an invaluable commodity for professional geographers trying to institutionalize the discipline in universities, just as the epitaph unscientific provided a powerful weapon for those hostile to qualitative methods.6 Rather than trying to review the entire history of these debates, I will restrict my discussion to the criticisms directed over the last twenty-five years at the self-image of geography as an objective science. While these debates have a long ancestry, much of the recent ferment in the discipline has proceeded as if the noble dream of geography as a positive science had been invented in the 1950's and 1960's. Indeed as David Livingstone describes it, this has been just as true of those appropriating the label positivist to describe long standing positions within an empirical tradition of geography, as it has been of those reacting against such epistemological proscriptions. While actual practice diverged considerably from the 5 Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth Century England Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 1994). 6 David Livingstone, The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise Cambridge: Blackwell, 1991); Trevor Barnes, Logics of Dislocation: Fragmented Stories for Economic Geographers (New York: Guilford, 1995). 16 normative description provided by positivism, most of the controversy about science in geography has swirled around this particular theory of knowledge.7 Critiques of scientific geography coming in the wake of the positivist revolution have been aimed most vigorously at the idea of geography as a social science. Humanistic and marxist geographers insisted that positivism was inappropriate to human geography, albeit for rather different reasons. Geographers have had much less to say about the philosophies of science underwriting physical geography and the natural sciences. Humanistic geographers, of course, were largely uninterested in the world of natural facts or in the ways they might be understood. They took for granted the distinction between objective knowledge about the natural world— the realm of science and physical geography-- and subjective knowledges about the meanings of social worlds— the domain of human geographers. Marxism was also built around the fundamental distinction between scientific truth and socially relative belief. Because of the particular history of the discipline, marxist geographers have not had much to say about what Margaret Fitzsimmons (1989) calls "the matter of nature" or the particular ways it has come to be understood.8 Marxist scholarship in geography has been more focused on urban and economic questions than on environmental, scientific, or epistemological ones. There are exceptions, however. In an early paper, David Harvey argued that geographic discussions of natural hazards were distorted by the fiction that environmental phenomena and thus environmental problems are pristinely natural.9 Environmental problems, Harvey contended, are really social ones. They can only be understood by coming to grips with the capitalist relations of production that not only produce so called "natural hazards" like the CFC's responsible for ozone depletion, but also the social relations by which their "impact" is felt (unequally). This line of critique by no means 7 Livingstone, Geographical Tradition. 322. 8 Margaret Fitzsimmons, "The Matter of Nature" Antipode 21 (1989): 106-20. 9 David Harvey, "Population, Resources, and the Ideology of Science" Economic Geography 50 (1974): 256-77. 17 precludes the possibility of objective knowledge; it suggests, rather, that only perspectives cognizant of certain social relations can hope to represent the world as it really is. 1 0 Marxist geographers concerned with development and environmental problems in the "Third World" have produced compelling accounts of the social nature of natural hazards and disasters. Although they insist that the object of their study— nature— is socially constructed, they have said relatively litde about the social construction of their own knowledge of this object.11 With the rise in geography of critical realism and the various epistemic projects associated with post-marxism, this has begun to change.12 Nevertheless marxist analysis of scientific knowledge remains much better developed outside the discipline of geography. Much of this early radical criticism of science came from actual scientists, as physicists, for example, opposed the militarization of scientific research through the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Critical of what might be called the economics of untruth, marxists revealed how scientific practice has been corrupted by ideologies and structured by interests whose lingering hold produced false knowledge.13 In his book First the Seed. Jack Kloppenberg describes how the division of scientific labor between "basic" and "applied" research in agronomy and genetics has functioned to the tremendous profit of agri-business.14 Others 1 0 Though feminist standpoint epistemologies ground their objectivity claims in the structures of patriarchy rather than in capitalist relations of production, feminist standpoint theories, as Donna Haraway notes, depend upon the same Hegellian problematic in which objective knowledge is only possible from particular positions within structures of oppression. Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender. Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (New York: RouUedge, 1989), 6. 1 1 See, for example, Andrew Sayer, "Epistemology and Conceptions of People and Nature in Geography" Geofonim 10 (1979): 19-43; Michael Watts, "On the Poverty of Theory: Natural Hazards Research in Context" in K. Hewitt, editor, Interpretations of Calamity (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1983), 231-62; Michael Watts and Richard Peet, "Development Theory and Environment in an Age of Market Triumphalism" Economic Geography 69 (1993): 227-53. 1 2 See, for example, Lakshman, Yapa, "What Are Improved Seeds? An Epistemology of the Green Revolution" Economic Geography 69 (1993): 254-73; Andrew Sayer, "Postmodernist Thought in Geography: A Realist View" Antipode 25 (1993): 320-44; Noel Castree, "The Nature of Produced Nature: Materiality and Knowledge Construction in Marxism" Antipode 27 (1995): 12-48 1 3 See, for example, Jerome Ravetz, Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971); Richard Lewontin, Steven P. R. Rose, and Leon J. Kamin, Not in Our Genes: Biology. Ideology and Human Nature New York: Pantheon, 1984); Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, The Dialectical Biologist (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985). 1 4 Jack R. Kloppenberg Jr., First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology. 1492-2000 (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press 1988). 18 have criticized the military-industrial imperatives directing scientific research since the Cold War.1 5 This line of critique should be familiar to geographers who have begun to explore the complex lineaments connecting the rise of their discipline with European colonialism.16 Recent geographical scholarship on knowledge has followed the course charted by radical science critics in other ways as well. By scrutinizing all science as a labor process structuring continued class domination, radical critics like Robert Young seemed to erase the precious distinction between science and ideology, sparking a fierce controversy on the Left reminiscent in some ways of contemporary debates in human geography and SSK about reflexivity.17 In a similar vein, feminist geographers have criticized the sexist biases distorting geographic knowledge. Science, it is said, has not lived up to its own high standards guaranteeing objective, value-free representation of the world. Feminists have exposed discrimination in the sciences hindering the promotion and advancement of women. Despite some progress, the sciences, and in particular the physical sciences and engineering, remain bastions of white males.18 Physical geography is no exception. Even when they have been able to attain graduate degrees and research positions, women in science have often been passed over and their achievements ignored. The crystallographer Rosalind Franklin made the crucial observations behind the discovery of DNA, but Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize.19 In geography, Mona Domosh has called for a new historiography of the discipline that would recognize the achievements of female travel 1 5 Hilary Rose, Love. Power, and Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Transformation of the Sciences (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994), 4-10. 1 6 See, for example, Livingstone. Geographical Tradition: Felix Driver, "Geography's Empire: Histories of Geographical Knowledge" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10 (1992): 23-40; Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994). 1 7 Robert Young, "Science Is Social Relations Radical Science Journal 5 (1977): 65-129; Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, "Radical Science and Its Enemies" The Socialist Register (1979): 317-35. For retrospective accounts of this debate, see Rose, Love. Power, and Knowledge. 260; Robert Young, "Science, Ideology, and Donna Haraway" Science as Culture 15 (1992): 165-207. 1 8 National Science Foundation, Characteristics of Recent Science and Engineering Graduates: 1990 (Washington, DC: NSF 92-316, Detailed Statistical Tables, 1994). 1 9 The story of Franklin, Watson and Crick, and the Nobel Prize is retold in Anne Sayre, Rosalind Franklin and DNA (New York: Norton, 1975). 19 writers and naturalists passed over by traditional histories of geography.20 This liberal critique of scientific bias implies that if only the black marks of sexism and society could be more completely bleached out of science then somehow science and scientific representations could be made truly objective. Other feminist geographers have called for a much more thorough-going deconstruction of the entire architecture of objectivity claims in science. This line of feminist critique, which Sandra Harding dubs "feminist postmodernism," deploys post-structuralist theory to insist that all knowledge, even feminist knowledge, is necessarily partial and relentlessly social.21 It is skeptical of what Nancy Harstock calls "the totalizing and universalistic theories ... of the Enlightenment," because what counts for scientific objectivity has been defined in terms of the disembodied mind abstracted from social prejudice and position.22 These standards are neither fair, nor universal, because universalism has almost always been a code word for certain unmarked social norms: masculine, white, western heterosexual. Reason and theory, according to feminist geographers like Louise Johnson, are gendered.23 Cartesian dualisms like mind/body, reason/emotion, and nature/ culture enthrone an abstract masculinity. They repeat the kinds of stories that men, at least men in the West, tell about themselves to identify real men as distinct from women said to be more emotional, more subjective, more attached to nature and to Mother and consequently less rational, less intellectual, less individuated, and less objective.24 By appealing to these powerful social constructs, Robert Park and the Chicago School of urban sociology were able to declare unscientific, and thus illegitimate, 2 0 Mona Domosh, "Toward a Feminist Historiography of Geography" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 16 (1991): 95-104. 2 1 Sandra Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986); Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1991). 2 2 Nancy Harstock, "Rethinking Modernism: Minority Versus Majority Theories" Cultural Critique 7 (1987): 190-91. 2 3 Louise Johnson, "(Un)Realist Perspectives: Patriarchy and Feminist Challenges in Geography" Antinode 19 (1987): 210-15. 2 4 Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason: 'Male' and Female' in Western Philosophy (London: Methuen, 1984). 20 the work of female social workers whose gender and radical politics they found suspicious.25 The ideal of the detached, impartial observer is a peculiarly masculinist one, because vision, say many feminists, is a masculinist epistemic system. The objective gaze of the scientist is eroticized. It objectifies the feminized body of nature. Feminists like Carolyn Merchant, Evelyn Fox Keller, and Annette Kolodny have advanced this line of critique by examining the erotic (and heterosexual) language that saturated the scientific revolution.26 Francis Bacon, "father" of the experimental sciences, compared experimentation to seduction and rape. In planning experiments on the body of nature, Bacon counseled that the scientist should "make no scruple of entering and penetrating into these holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole object" because, as he put it, "nature betrays her secrets more fully [when subdued]... than when in enjoyment of her natural liberty."27 Feminist critiques of scientific rationality have also originated from psychoanalytic theory. Gillian Rose contends that the scientific desire for objectivity is driven by a psychological crisis of individuation. The scientist's masculine gaze individuates HIS self as distinct from the (m)Other and establishes his rationality in the contrast with the seen object. Physical geographers, she writes, relish their field work because research allows them to "assert and establish their manliness in the face of Nature."28 Objectivity, by her psycho-analytic account, is the dream of masculinist subjectivity. To some, this kind of psychoanalytic critique of science may perhaps seem all a bit much. When I first encountered it, I had just completed a climatological study of volcanic 2 5 David Sibley, "Gender, Science, Politics, and Geographies of the City" Gender. Place, and Culture 2 (1995): 37-49. 2 6 Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women. Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980); Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1985); Annette Kolodny, The Lav of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters (Chapel Hill: Univ. North Carolina Press, 1975). 2 7 Quoted in Merchant, Death of Nature. 168,172. 2 8 Gillian Rose, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (Minneapolis: Univ. Minnesota Press, 1993), 108. 21 stratospheric aerosols (more about which below).29 Unwilling to write off my struggles with heterogeneous data series, instrument problems, and programming glitches as some vestigial separation anxiety lingering from days on baby formula and strained prunes, I dismissed this important psychoanalytic critique of objectivity as wild, impractical, and soft-minded. My feelings of pride and satisfaction at having conquered these difficulties and completed my first independent scientific research seemed beside the point. Yet even as I discounted this feminist critique for introducing subjective psychological factors into the objective consideration of the facts of nature, I was constructing a thoroughly social and intensely gendered hierarchy of knowledge to distinguish my own objective scientific knowledge from silly and subjective social theory. I imagined my own critical assessment as reasoned, realistic, and practical. I might as well have said masculine, for I now realize that this is usually the next couplet in the long chain of mutually reinforcing dualisms by which the rigorous and rational hard sciences are differentiated from soft and sentimental forms of feminine thought Sadly, my initial knee-jerk reaction to this feminist critique seems to be all too typical. It would be much more difficult to dismiss the post-structural critiques of feminist geographers if they took on more of the technical details of scientific practice, rather than, as has been more typically the case, seizing a few sexist metaphors as the basis on which to indict "Science" as the very embodiment of sexism and patriarchy. Metaphors and discourse are, of course, a vital part of scientific practice, and it would be easy to make too much of the distinction between them. Still, feminist geographers have tended to pick on more incidental uses of sexist language rather than those that are fundamental to some particular scientific practice. The recent exchange between Peter Gould and Linda Peake is a case in point. In a most unfortunate turn of phrase, Peter Gould referred to himself as "one of Geographia's many lovers," an expression that deeply offended Peake (and many others) who seized upon this flight of rhetorical fancy to condemn sexism in geography. 2 9 David Demeritt, "The Effects of Volcanic Eruptions on Surface Temperatures in Northeastern North America, 1800-1978" (unpubl. M.Sc. thesis, Institute for Quaternary Studies, Univ. Maine, 1990). 22 Gould, in turn, discounted Peake's feminist critique as a tempest in a teapot that said nothing about the substantive core of his research on AIDS. 3 0 1 don't happen to agree with Gould; I found his expression ill-considered and certainly unnecessary, but I wonder if the energy spent on this debate would have been better spent elsewhere. To critique the violence committed in the name of scientific objectivity it is far better to aim for the technical details from which both the great power and objectivity of science are said to derive. Here, Gillian Rose's criticisms of the masculinism implicit in Hagerstrand's time geography, or Michael Brown's critiques of medical geography's stigmatism of gay men with AIDS, are both much harder to dismiss out of hand as mere rhetoric, and, more importantly, likely to be more effective in changing actual scientific practices 3 1 For the most part, however, feminist geographers have been more concerned with the language of scientific representations than with the details of scientific practice. With a few notable exceptions, it has been left to feminists from outside the discipline to pursue the critique of masculinist practice in science.32 Other geographers have also been inspired by postmodern and poststructural critiques of scientific objectivity and representation. Michael Dear proclaimed that the "postmodern challenge is to face up to the fact of relativism in human knowledge."33 Dear helped inaugurate a vigorous discussion in human geography about the foundations of knowledge and representation. Readings in post-structural and psychoanalytical theory made many other human geographers feel that their representations of the world did not reflect the world as it really was; rather their knowledge was necessarily structured, mediated, interpreted, and constructed in language. Geographers have fiercely debated the 3 0 Peter Gould, "Sharing a Tradition: Geographies from the Englightenment" Canadian Geographer 38 (1994): 196,194-202; Linda Peake, '"Proper Words in Proper Places Or, of Young Turks and Old Turkeys" Canadian Geographer 38 (1994): 204-206. 3 1 Rose, Feminism and Geography. 1740; Michael Brown, "Ironies of Distance: An ongoing Critique of the Geographies of AIDS" Environment & Planning D: Society and Space 13 (1995): 159-83. 3 2 Geographical fieldwork is just beginning to recieve the critical scrutiny it deserves. See Anna Skeels, "A Passage to Premodernity: Carl Sauer Repositioned in the Field" (unpubl. M.A. thesis, Univ. British Columbia, 1993). Robyn Longhurst, "Reflections on and a Vision for Feminist Geography" New Zealand Geographer 50 (1994): 14-19. 3 3 Dear, "Post-Modern Challenge," 271. 23 implications of this linguistic turn and the crisis of representation it ushered in. Many insist that empiricism, positivism, realism, hermeneutics, pragmatism, or some other theory of knowledge present viable alternatives to the epistemic uncertainty brought on by post-structural and postmodern social theory. Others maintain that old foundations of scientific objectivity still hold and that the fascination with continental philosophers is a fad that will soon pass. I cannot pretend to resolve this discussion, but by way of gloss I would like to make three points about the debate on postmodernism and scientific objectivity in geography. First, this conversation was focused almost exclusively on epistemological questions about how (or whether) representations reflect the truth about the world. Michael Dear claimed the postmodern challenge meant that knowledge "claims are ultimately undecidable."34 Likewise, Strohmayer and Hannah declared, "The truth of any statement, scientific or otherwise, which ultimately must rely on some anchoring in order to avoid being completely arbitrary, is undecidable."35 Marxist geographers, such as David Harvey, dispute this dim assessment of the possibility for true representations of the world. They characterize postmodernism as a conservative movement debilitating any critique of the objective conditions of capitalist oppression.36 Other human geographers suggest that the resolution to the objectivist/ relativist debate involves re-imagining geography as an interpretive discipline concerned with understanding social meanings of a social world. By this account, human geography would forgo its long ambition to the objectivity and authority accorded a social science and instead be content with a place in the humanities.37 Despite their differences, these various takes on the postmodern challenge all consider the 3 4 Dear, "Post-Modern Challenge," 265-66. 3 5 Ulf Strohmayer and Matt Hannah, "Domesticating Postmodernism" Antipode 24 (1992): 36. 3 6 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernitv (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989); Harvey, "Postmodern Morality Plays" Antipode 24 (1992): 300-26. 3 7 See, for example, James S. Duncan, and David Ley, "Introduction: Representing the Place of Culture" in, J.S. Duncan and D. Ley, eds., Place/culture/representation (London: Routledge, 1993) 1-21. 24 important questions to be epistemological ones about knowing the truth of geographic representations of the world. Second, this largely epistemological debate about representation and its relationship to the world has been conducted, at least in geography, at a high level of theoretical abstraction. Marcus Doel's aping of Derrida's playful style is perhaps typical: "modern human geography has become a MEANINGLESS MOMENT: a succession of a-signifying events... modern human geography was never able to accept that there is no separation, real or imagined, between existence (things) and writing (words) (or, more formally, between ontology and epistemology)."38 Derrida's account of the impossibility of grounding of grounds for representation is a complex and sophisticated one that might easily be dismissed by the uninitiated as empty rhetoric or simply as bizarre. Skeptics quite reasonably ask, what, if anything, this sort of talk has to do with them and the very serious business of making sense of the world. For the most part, those pursuing the critique of representation in geography have not been interested or concerned with reaching out to those not already "in the know." Doel's essay displays a considerable familiarity with the style and substance of Derrida's critique of metaphysics, but it does little to suggest to those not already familiar with Derrida why they should pay any attention to it or him. Finally, the very rarefied tone of the debate about representation in geography has served to exclude physical geographers and other natural scientists, arguably the people who need to consider the critique of objective representation most urgently. In part this is by design. Michael Dear explicitly exempted physical geography and the natural sciences from his postmodern challenge. Derek Gregory chose not to consider physical geography in his sweeping account of Geographical Imaginations. Such a project, he said, would be a different book 3 9 True enough, but the collective effect of these silences has allowed 3 8 Marcus Doel, "Proverbs for Paranoids: Writing Geography on Hollowed Ground" Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 18 (1993): 378. 3 9 Dear, "Post-Modern Challenge," 262; Gregory, Geographical Imaginations: Gregory, "Response" Annals of the Association of American Geographers 85 (1995): 175-86. 25 physical geographers to ignore the critiques of scientific objectivity and representation. If human geographers are serious about convincing their colleagues in physical geography to own up to the social construction of scientific knowledge, they will have to frame this discussion differently. sociology of scientific knowledge Geographers might learn some different, and, I believe, more useful ways to speak about the social construction of scientific knowledge by eavesdropping on conversations in the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK). Although I will use the singular to describe SSK, this is a purely artificial designation. Historians, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and literary critics, but sadly few geographers, have been active in the study of science as a socially and culturally constructed activity.40 Their different approaches to science, knowledge, and their social construction are heterogeneous and their merits hotly contested. In general, however, conversations in SSK have paid close attention to the details of scientific practice. As a result they can provide a much more compelling way to frame the social construction of scientific knowledge than the rather abstract debates about postmodernism and representation ongoing in human geography. The SSK movement is founded on the methodological relativism of what David Bloor dubbed the symmetry principle: scientific beliefs held to be true should be analyzed in the very same, socially constructivist terms as those held to be false (FIGURE 1.1).41 In contrast to asymmetrical explanations of scientific belief, such as those offered by marxism or by Manheim's classical sociology of knowledge in which a firm distinction was drawn between the true beliefs of science that were explained by nature and the false beliefs of 4 0 But see Trevor Barnes, "Whatever Happened to the Philosophy of Science?" Environment and Planning A 25 (1993): 301-304; Keith Bassett, "Whatever Happened to the Philosophy of Science?: Some Comments on Barnes" Environment and Planning A 26 (1994): 337-42; Trevor Barnes, "Five Ways to Leave Your Critic: A Sociological Scientific Experiment in Replying" Environment and Planning A 26 (1994): 1653-58. 4 1 David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976), 4-5. 26 Figure 1 . 1 Symmetrical Explanation of Science ASYMMETRICAL EXPLANATION OF SCIENCE Nature Pole Subject/Society Pole Truth is explained by Nature Falsehood is explained by Society SYMMETRICAL EXPLANATION OF SCIENCE Nature Pole Nature explains neither truth nor falsehood Subject/Society Pole Truth and falsehood are explained by Society After Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern. 95. 27 ideology that were explained by bias, interests, or some other social influence, the symmetry principle demands epistemic agnosticism about the truth of all knowledge and belief. As Harry M . Collins explained, the symmetry principle led proponents of SSK to ask skeptically about "what comes to count as scientific knowledge and... how it comes so to count " 4 2 It treats scientific knowledge as socially constructed and amenable to sociological analysis and explanation all the way down to its most technical details. That said, SSK has advanced a number of distinct programs for understanding how scientific knowledge is socially constructed. Much of the earliest work in SSK was done out of the University of Edinburgh, where members of what became known as the Edinburgh school challenged conventional accounts of science and scientific objectivity on several fronts. First, they insisted that scientific knowledge is a local construction dependent upon local practices that cannot be generalized into theories and laws as the hypothetico-deductive model of science suggests. As David Bloor explained "meaning is created by acts of use. Like a town, it is constructed as we go along. Use determines meaning; meaning does not determine use."43 By this account, scientific knowledge is literally a social construction since its meaning is represented and brought into view through various practices from which knowledge itself cannot be abstracted, as realist accounts of scientific representation imply. Scientific understandings grow through what Barry Barnes called "bootstrap induction" whereby self-referentially explanatory metaphors construct the nature of the world: "Trees are nothing more nor nothing less than what are called trees, electrons are what are called electrons."44 His polemical conflation of epistemological anti-realism about theories (our ideas about electrons are made up) and ontological anti-realism about objects (electrons themselves are socially constructed objects) is perhaps typical of much of the work in SSK, which has been involved in an 4 2 Harry M . Collins, "The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge: Studies of Contemporary Science" Annual Review of Sociology 9 (1983V 267. 4 3 David Bloor, Wittgenstein: A Social Theory of Knowledge (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 25, quoted in Barnes, Logics of Dislocation. 119. 4 4 Barry Barnes, "Social Life as Bootstrapped Induction" Sociology 17 (1983): 540. 28 epistemological dispute with philosophers of science.45 By conflating these two senses of social construction, proponents of SSK offer the strongest possible critiques of correspondence theories of truth, but they expose themselves to fierce debates about reflexivity and the self-referentiality of their own representations of science.46 Second, members of the Edinburgh school insist that the verification and falsification of scientific theories are social processes in which social interests are hopelessly intertwined, for as Barry Barnes puts it "any 'context of justification' must always rest upon negotiated conventions and shared exemplars."47 They represent scientific facts as the socially constructed outcome of contingent social relations between scientific actors with different and conflicting interests in the construction of what will pass for scientific fact. These "interests" are not so much the external economic interests of marxism but the local interests of practicing scientists themselves. The Edinburgh school dissolved the old divide between internal and external explanations of science by insisting that social interests are internal to the practice of science. Interests are the social force that determines at the end of the day how scientific "conventions are maintained, applied, and developed."48 Empirical case studies of statistics, phrenology, particle physics, and early experimental science demonstrate that scientific controversies were resolved through power plays and local negotiations between competing scientists struggling to extend particular models, metaphors, and practices by which the world can be known and represented— not by reference to the data alone, as normative accounts of science by realist and positivist philosophers suggest.49 The geographer Trevor Barnes has followed the Edinburgh school 4 5 1 should say though that Barnes (1983: 541) advanced this claim only to step back from what he termed the reflexive "epistemological left" which denies any grounds for representation: "I do not accept the assertion that reference reduces to self-reference, but treat it on a par with the alternative scientistic claim which wrongly discounts self-reference altogether." Barnes, "Social Life as Bootstrapped Induction," 541. 4 6 For an insighful analysis of the various senses of social construction current in SSK, see Sergio Sismondo, "Some Social Constructions" Social Studies of Science 23 (1993): 515-53. 4 7 Barry Barnes, Scientific Knowledge and Sociological Theory (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 154. 4 8 Barry Barnes, T.S. Kuhn and Social Science (London: Macmillan, 1982), 101. 4 9 Donald MacKenzie, "Statistical Theory and Social Interests: A Case Study" Social Studies of Science 8 (1978): 35-83; Steven Shapin, "The Politics of Observation: Cerebral Anatomy and Social Interests in the Edinburgh Phrenology Disputes" in H.M. Collins, ed., Sociology of Scientific Knowledge: A Source Book 29 model to explain the ascendance of quantitative methods and theory in economic geography as the outcome of a struggle between a rising generation of new scholars eager to make their mark in the discipline and an old guard resistant to these new methods and theories. Unlike Peter J. Taylor's Mertonian explanation of the quantitative revolution, Barnes emphasizes that these negotiations and social struggles shaped the very core of economic geographers' beliefs in quantitative theories and methods: "we might best view their work as the consequence of a set of locally-derived metaphors and social interests."50 In contrast to the Edinburgh studies of social interests, proponents of SSK based at the University of Bath in England prefer micro-studies of scientific controversy as the best way to expose the social construction of scientific knowledge. Following Pierre Duhem's contentions about the theory-ladenness of observation and thus of the difficulty of empirical falsification, they describe how scientific controversies