Imagine a group of people discussing whether there's a lion in the bush. In reality, there is or there isn't a lion in the bush.
Their discussion may or may not conclude with an agreement that there's a lion in the bush. Whatever they decide, the discussion is not reality but it would be nice if it could correspond to the reality.
Science is a very human attempt to have the kind of discussion that concludes that there is a lion in the bush when there is and there isn't a lion in the bush when there isn't.
Imagine how this discussion might go. One person claims to have the best hearing and reports having heard a lion. Another person claims a good sense of smell and claims to have smelled a lion. Another person who is highly skilled at tracking reports seeing lion tracks.
There is a version of this conversation where they put everything together, pool their impressions, and weigh each other's abilities fairly in order to decide if there's a lion in the bush.
There's another version of this conversation where they dispute whether the person who says they heard a lion really has good hearing, and whether the one who smelled a lion really has a good sense of smell and so on.
You could imagine that if the person with the good hearing is unpopular or their good hearing caused a lot of envy that people wouldn't want to agree with that person's assessment. They might fear that the person with good hearing was gaining too much influence in the group.
The point I want to make here is whatever comes out of the discussion is a product of the social interactions themselves. It is SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED through the dialog within the group. This is how I see science. Scientific knowledge is socially constructed.
When people object to me saying science is socially constructed, I think what they mean is the lion's location is not a social construct. My point is the DISCUSSION is socially constructed and if we're lucky then the discussion corresponds to the actual state of the world.
If we knew the location of the lion, we wouldn't be having the conversation! We don't have the lion in front of us. We only have the discussion.
Assuming everybody in the discussion cares a lot whether there's actually a lion in the bush, the outcome of such a discussion is not arbitrary at all. It's the collective intelligence of everybody in the group.
The focus on data and experiments as the defining characteristic of scientific knowledge creation can be distracting because it leads us to think that that's where all the knowledge is being created. It's not.
Mathematicians, for instance, create knowledge by constructing arguments that don't make use of data or experiments. Yet arguably, math is actually MORE reliable than experimental science.
So in conclusion:

1. If we structure discussions correctly, they can produce knowledge but they have to have the right structure.

2. Scientific discourse is one such structure.

3. The knowledge science produces is socially constructed!
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