Steve Fuller (social epistemologist)

Steve Fuller (social epistemologist)

Steve William Fuller (born July 12 1959 in New York City) is an Anglo-American philosopher-sociologist in the field of science and technology studies.


Fuller was admitted as a John Jay Scholar to Columbia University in 1976, from where he graduated "summa cum laude" in History and Sociology in 1979. He then studied at Clare College, Cambridge University, on a Kellett Fellowship, from which he received an M.Phil. in History and Philosophy of Science in 1981. He then received a Ph. D. in the same subject from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985, where he was an Andrew Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellow. Fuller's Ph.D. was entitled "Bounded Rationality in Law and Science", which explored the implications of the views of Herbert Simon for political theory and philosophy of science. Fuller subsequently held assistant and associate professorships at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Virginia Tech and, again, the University of Pittsburgh. In 1994, at the age of 35, he was appointed to the chair in sociology and social policy at the University of Durham, England, from which he moved in 1999 to his current post at the University of Warwick, England. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in 1995 [ [ Steve Fuller's curriculum vitae] ] .In July 2007 Fuller was awarded a higher doctorate (D. Litt.) by Warwick for recognition of "published work or papers which demonstrate a high standard of important original work forming a major contribution to a subject". [ [ Higher Doctorates for Warwick People] , University of Warwick]

Public intellectual work

Since moving to the UK, Fuller has increasingly oriented himself towards public intellectual expression, including television and radio, which he interprets as a natural outgrowth of his version of social epistemology. Two of his books have been recognised in this regard. "Kuhn vs Popper" was Book of the Month for February 2005 in the US mass circulation magazine, "Popular Science". "The Intellectual" was selected as a Book of the Year in 2005 by the UK liberal-left magazine, "New Statesman". He periodically contributes a column to the Project Syndicate, associated with George Soros' Open Society project, which appears in several languages in newspapers across the world. [ [ Project Syndicate] ] In 2006 he also taught a course on the epistemology of journalism at an international summer school at the University of Lund, Sweden. [ [ The Epistemology of Journalism Course Description] , University of Lund]

Academic freedom

Fuller has been one of the most visible supporters of the UK group, Academics for Academic Freedom. [ [ Academics for Academic Freedom] ] He distinctively believes (modeled on what he takes to be the German model) that academic freedom refers to a freedom reserved for academics, not a special case of freedom of speech. [ [ Head to Head: Academic Freedom] , The Philosophers Magazine (subscription only)] This includes the right to give offence as long as it is done within the terms of reason and evidence that is appropriate to the academic profession. He believes that it is important for academics to be able to express their intellectual opinions and to open them up to others for further debate which can result in progress.


Fuller is most closely associated with social epistemology as an interdisciplinary research program. Social epistemology is a normative discipline that addresses philosophical problems of knowledge using the tools of history and the social sciences. Fuller founded the first journal (1987) and wrote the first book (1988) devoted to this topic. The most obvious feature of Fuller's approach, already present in his 1988 book, is that he rejects out of hand the Cartesian problem of scepticism.

Fuller is a prolific author and speaker, having written more than 200 academic articles and given over 500 public talks across the world.fact His works have been translated into fifteen languages. He has been active in public understanding of science initiatives in the UK, where he moved in 1994. In 1995 he organized in Durham one of the first UK conferences on the Science Wars, which featured Lewis Wolpert, Peter Atkins and Andrew Pickering as invited speakers.

upport of intelligent design

Fuller has made many statements relating to his support for intelligent design, including two books. Fuller has stated his position in an article he wrote in "The Times Higher Education Supplement". [ [ Schools for the Enlightenment or epiphany?: Steve Fuller] , The Times Higher Education Supplement, 25 December 2005] Fuller has been criticised for his allegedly postmodernist views on science (Fuller's views can more accurately be characterised as the related viewpoint of social constructionism), as well as his support for "Intelligent Design". [ [ Brief for Amicus Curiae, Scipolicy Journal of Science and Health Policy] , Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District‎] [ [ Steve Fuller and The Hidden Agenda of Social Constructivism] , Norman Levitt, Talk Reason] Where this criticism has come from pro-Science blogs, it has largely centred on his testimony, for the defense, at the Kitzmiller trial. [ [ More Pomo commentary on ID] , The Panda's Thumb] This testimony was frequently quoted by Judge Jones, though not in a way helpful to the defense, as noted by critics of Intelligent Design. [ [ And a shout out to Steve Fuller, too!] , The Panda's Thumb] Some critics within the Science and Technology Studies community have described Fuller's participation at this trial as "naive" and have suggested that the field needs further development before it can constructively engage the legal community on the nature of science. [ [ From Ruse to Farce] , Michael Lynch, "Social Studies of Science" 2006; 36; 819] [ [ Anti-social Epistemologies] , Gary Edmond and David Mercer, "Social Studies of Science" 2006; 36; 843] Others have argued that Fuller's involvement is a model of fair-mindedness and originality in the face of uncritically held dogmas on both sides of the debate.

On 21 February 2007, Fuller debated Lewis Wolpert at Royal Holloway, University of London on whether evolution and intelligent design should be accorded equal status as scientific theories. Fuller supported the proposition.

Fuller has written a complimentary endorsement of the pro-Intelligent Design Discovery Institute's textbook "" (published in 2007), which features on this book's website. [ [ Endorsements] , website]

On September 18, 2008, Fuller delivered a talk to a packed lecture hall at the University of North Texas titled "Why Intelligent Design is Worth Fighting For." In this talk Fuller sought to shift the debate over intelligent design, emphasizing that if properly understood, intelligent design buttresses the scientific pursuit of truth through its insistence on the continued search for intelligibility in the universe. Fuller thus steered a course uncomfortable and perplexing to the dogmas of both standard science and the intelligent design community.Fact|date=September 2008


"Science Vs Religion?"

Also in 2007, Fuller wrote "Science Vs Religion?: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution". In addition to introductory and conclusionary chapters, it has chapters on the history of the relationship between religion and science‎, the thesis that that modern science has its basis in an attempt by humanity to transcend itself and reach God, how Fuller believes complexity distinguishes ID from "other versions of creationism", legal issues, and the future of "Darwinism". [ Review of "Science Vs Religion?"] , Sahotra Sarkar, "Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews", 7 August 2008]

Professor of mathematics at Rutgers University, Norman Levitt reviewed it describing it as "a truly miserable piece of work, crammed with errors scientific, historical, and even theological". Major points that Levitt raises are
*Fuller's acceptance at face value of William Dembski's claims on complexity and randomness, and his failure to come to grips with the wealth of results that this field has generated and with the trenchant criticism of Dembski's claims (or even to describe these claims accurately);
*his disparagement of evolutionary biology, without doing "serious analysis of the working methods and logical structure of biology itself" on which to base it;
*his misrepresentation of Isaac Newton's religious beliefs in order to make a point that is in fact antithetical to Newton's views;Levitt infers that Fuller's views arise from an "animosity to science as such and to its cognitive authority [that] still pervades academic life outside the dominion of the science faculty". [ [ The Painful Elaboration of the Fatuous] , Norman Levitt, eSkeptic, Skeptic magazine] Fuller later responded to these points, accusing Levitt of axe-grinding and questioning his understanding of the book, which Fuller claimed was less a defense of contemporary intelligent design theory than a demonstration of its rootedness in the history of science. Fuller also notes that Levitt actually misquotes one of only three passages Levitt cites from the book, making it mean the opposite of the original. [ [ Steve Fuller Responds to Norman Levitt’s Review of "Science v. Religion"] E-Skeptic, 16 January 2008] Levitt subsequently responded at length to Fuller, concluding that "Fuller’s misreading of the politics that generated and sustains the ID movement is so complete as to constitute a peculiar pathology all its own." [ [ Norman Levitt Responds to Steve Fuller] E-Skeptic, 23 January 2008] Fuller has long been highly critical of the views of science of his opponents in the Science Wars, including Levitt, dating back at least to 1994. [ [] THES, 11 November 1994] ["Can Science Studies be Spoken in a Civil Tongue?", S Fuller, Social Studies of Science, 1994]

Sahotra Sarkar, a philosophy professor [ [ Sahotra Sarkar] , Department of Philosophy, [University of Texas] and integrative biologist [ [ Faculty] , Section of Integrative Biology, [University of Texas] at the University of Texas at Austin also criticised Fuller's book for:
*Presenting an "analysis of the intellectual disputes over contemporary ID creationism [that] is almost vacuous".
*" [T] endentious presentation of well-worn history" that "takes great pains to emphasize the uncontroversial point that science and religion have on occasion shared goals in the past" but does not address the issue that "even if ID was once central to science, it does not follow either (i) that science has not since moved beyond that stage or (ii) that it should not now maintain a healthy distance from ID."
*Idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of philosophy, including of Kant, and of logical positivism.
*An imperfect grasp of the history of science, including making claims about Newton, Cuvier, Agassiz, Lamarck, Mendel, Pearson and Galton that are not supported by their writings.
*Failure to engage the "debate over naturalism that ID creationism has generated" with "remarks on supernaturalism [that show] him to be equally non-cognizant of the work of ... Philip Johnson".
*A definition of "Darwinian doctrine" that omits natural selection.
*Claiming that the modern evolutionary synthesis was a synthesis "between molecular genetics and natural history", that happened a decade before 1955, when molecular genetics itself was only made possible by the Watson-Crick double helix model of DNA in 1953. Sarkar states that this synthesis is more conventionally interpreted as "a synthesis in the 1930s of Mendel's theory of inheritance with Darwin's theory of natural selection".

"Dissent Over Descent"

His 2008 book on the intelligent design controversy, "Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism" was savaged in a review in "The Guardian" that concluded that " [t] he book is an epoch-hopping parade of straw men, incompetent reasoning and outright gibberish, as when evolution is argued to share with astrology a commitment to 'action at a distance', except that the distance is in time rather than space. It's intellectual quackery like this that gives philosophy of science a bad name." [ [,,2290449,00.html Trivial pursuits, Steven Poole's non-fiction choice] , The Guardian, July 12, 2008] In a "book of the week" review by retired Divinity Professor Keith Ward in the "Times Higher Education Supplement," the book was praised for providing a often-overlooked information, and provocative interpretations, but was criticised for a number of inaccuracies and misrepresentations. [Criticisms included:
*Describing "ID as 'scientifically-credentialed creationism'"
*" [L] umping together all who believe there is a creator as 'creationists'"
*Mocking " [t] he 'theistic evolution' view that ... accepts the fact of evolution, and attributes it to intelligent design by God, without holding that any specific biological data require an intelligent designer as part of their scientific explanation"
*Claiming that methodological naturalism "is a conflation of logical positivism (all factual statements must be verifiable) and metaphysical naturalism (only natural causes exist)" when "methodological naturalism is a term invented precisely to contrast with metaphysical naturalism, and no naturalist is committed to a positivist doctrine of meaning and verification."
*Arguing that "seeing humans as creatures in imago dei (which, incidentally, Muslims do not) entails seeing them as called upon to improve nature by, for instance, genetic engineering. It is odd, then, that this is precisely what many Christians do not believe."
*An "account of Biblical literalism [that] looks unlike what anyone else means by it. ... So his positive view turns out to be idiosyncratic and possibly misleading - what he defends is rarely what the people he defends think."
[ The book of the week: Dissent over Descent] , Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 July 2008
] The review concludes that " [e] ven should the book fail to convince, it will certainly not fail to stimulate." [ [ The book of the week: Dissent over Descent] , Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 July 2008 ]

Norman Levitt, Professor of math at Rutgers University, wrote: "I can report that it is a truly miserable piece of work, crammed with errors scientific, historical, and even theological, a book that will find approving readers only amongst hard-core ID enthusiasts hungry for agreement but indifferent to the quality of evidence offered in support of their position. Fuller really does make it up as he goes along, laying out arguments that hardly need serious thought to refute in that they are based on howlers and solecisms that collapse under the lightest scrutiny."cite news | url= | title=Norman Levitt Deconstructs Steve Fuller’s Postmodernist Critique of Evolution | publisher=Skeptic (U.S. magazine) |date=December 19th, 2007 | first=Norman | last= Levitt | accessdate =2008-10-10 ]

A. C. Grayling, in New Humanist, wrote the book contains a "mark of ignorance and historical short-sightedness on Fuller’s part".cite news | url=| title=Origin of the specious | publisher=New Humanist |date=Volume 123 Issue 5 September/October 2008 | first=A.C. | last= Grayling | accessdate =2008-10-10 ] In response, Fuller wrote an online response saying "if Grayling’s grasp of the history of science went beyond head-banging standards, he would realise that our current level of scientific achievement would never have been reached, and more importantly that we would not be striving to achieve more, had chance-based explanations dominated over the design-based ones in our thinking about reality." [cite news | url= | title=Against the faith | publisher=New Humanist |date=Web exclusive September/October 2008 | first=Steve | last=Fuller | accessdate =2008-10-10 ] To which Grayling wrote: "Steve Fuller complains, as do all authors whose books are panned, that I did not read his book properly (or at all)."cite news | url= | title=Bolus of nonsense| publisher=New Humanist |date=Web exclusive September/October 2008 | first=A.C. | last= Grayling | accessdate =2008-10-10 ] He continued, "I'll take on Fuller any day regarding the history and theology of the various versions of Christianity with which humanity has been burdened. ... The same applies to the history of science: Fuller cannot ever have seen that passage from Bellarmine above if he thinks modern science owes its birth to religion. If he seriously thinks this latter, he has hugely wasted his time as a putative student of the history and philosophy of science."



* "Social Epistemology", Indiana University Press, 1988 (2nd edition, 2002).
* "Philosophy of Science and Its Discontents", Westview Press, 1989 (2nd edition, Guilford Press, 1993).
* "Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the End of Knowledge", University of Wisconsin Press, 1993 (2nd edition, with James H. Collier, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004)
* "Science", Open University Press (UK) and University of Minnesota Press (US), 1997.
* "The Governance of Science," Open University Press, 2000.
* "Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times", University of Chicago Press, 2000.
* "Knowledge Management Foundations", Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002. ISBN 0750673656
* "Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science", Icon Books (UK) and Columbia University Press (US), 2003.
* "The Intellectual", Icon Books, 2005.
* "The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies", Routledge, 2006
* "The New Sociological Imagination", Sage, 2006.
* "The Knowledge Book: Key Concepts in Philosophy, Science and Culture", Acumen (UK) and McGill-Queens University Press (NA), 2007
* "New Frontiers in Science and Technology Studies", Polity, 2007
* "Science vs. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution", Polity, 2007
* "Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism", Icon Books, 2008

Further reading

*Two essays written as part of a debate on the Sokal hoax and published in The Independent on Sunday on 28 June 1998:
** [ "Who's Afraid of Science Studies"] by Steve Fuller, defending science studies.
** [ "an annotated bibliography of nonsense"] by Kenan Malik, takes a contrary view to Fuller's (but does not refer to him), criticising what he considers to be the unrealistically excessive relativism of science studies.
* [;jsessionid=1pfcalndbn495.henrietta Special Issue] of "Social Epistemology" (2003) on Fuller's Kuhn thesis.
* Remedios, F. (2003). " [ Legitimizing Scientific Knowledge: An Introduction to Steve Fuller’s Social Epistemology] ", Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, USA.

* Fuller, S. (2004). [ The Case of Fuller vs Kuhn] , "Social Epistemology" 18, 3-49. (Fuller's response to the "Social Epistemology" Special Issue)

*Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005):
** [ Fuller expert report]
** [ Transcript Day 15 AM] (Steve Fuller direct)
** [ Transcript Day 15 PM] (Steve Fuller cross, redirect & recross)

* Lambert, K. (2006). [ Fuller’s Folly, Kuhnian Paradigms, and Intelligent Design] , "Social Studies of Science" 36, 835-842.
* Edmond, G. and Mercer, D. (2006). [ Anti-social Epistemologies] , "Social Studies of Science" 36, 843-853.

External links

* [ Fuller’s Homepage (includes audio lectures)]
* [ Social Epistemology’s Homepage]
* [,,1698284,00.html Profile in "The Guardian", January 2006]
* [ Profile in the US Chronicle of Higher Education, September 2000]
* [ "Steve Fuller and The Hidden Agenda of Social Constructivism"] , Norman Levitt, TalkReason essay
* [ Steve Fuller lecture at ThinkTank Science Museum in Birmingham UK discussing the Dover, PA Intelligent Design Trial]
* [ Discussion of Fuller's contribution to the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial]
* [ Audio recording] of the debate between Fuller and Wolpert.
* [ Video of Steve Fuller, October 28, 2007, at the Evolution Panel Discussion. Battle of Ideas Festival 2007, London]
* [ Long video of Fuller at Alchemists' Cafe in Dublin, 15 May 2008, speaking on the revival of 'human nature' and including an extensive discussion of evolutionary theory and audience questions]

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