A scientific laboratory is a very interesting venue where a tremendous amount of knowledge is processed. Be it far-fetched or feasible, conversations and gestures among researchers and scientists often demonstrate how information becomes a fact, and the level of how experts accept them. The development and construction of facts is composed of smaller processes that synergistically work towards a more stable use, from a level where a statement is only speculated upon up to the level where it is accepted and do not require to be stated (Latour, 1986).
For persuasion of scientific experts is only accomplished if the best argumentation is presented to them, as supported by evidences that indicate truth. Using these arguments and evidences, one is assisted in reaching the proper understanding, as they direct individuals concerned towards the appropriate direction and focus on the what is essential for the production of knowledge. Not taking such evidences into consideration disregards the validity of the entire argument (Longino, 2006).
Latour’s book entitled “Laboratory Life” is an excellent depiction of the everyday life inside a scientific laboratory. It contains the daily activities done by the scientists, how their researches progress, and their personal thoughts on their work. It humanizes a very intellectual venue, as it creates an atmosphere that allows readers to perceive the environment as a typical workplace with exceptional level of knowledge. In the book’s fourth chapter, the author included several conversations among colleagues. It presents scenarios of the different social aspects that transpire within a laboratory environment, enabling us to understand the microprocesses within the scientific process (Latour, 1986).
In pages 154 and 155 of the book, we can put the conversation between Wilson and Flower, later joined by Smith although did not contribute a line, under examination. Wilson gave the first line in the conversation, where he affirmed ACTH and endorphin are basically the same, as it was supported by the curves they computed. This is an example of a Type 3 statement, where it positively reinforces the information he possesses. However, in the second part of the conversation, a sudden shift occurred.
A less stable statement, Type 2, were Wilson started to discuss a research conducted by his friend Brunswick. Here, information that was claimed to be accurate, as Brunswick claimed that he had found a significant releasing factor, was discredited by the results of the curves between CRF and haemoglobin. Coming from a type 3 statement, where it was positively affirmed that the scientist has found the important releasing factor, it became a type 2 and definitely a less stable statement (Latour, 1986).
Another interesting conversation in the book was that between Dieter and Rose in page 160. It can be observed that the first statement, given by Dieter, is classified, as a Type 1 for it is a question that indicates only a possibility of a relationship between MSH and Beta LPH. Then when Rose responded, she gave a type 4 and a very stable statement, as she was very sure of the fact that MSH has similarities with Beta LPH. Then she continued with a question to Dieter, which is a shift to a type 1 statement.
With an affirmative response, Dieter shifted the conversation towards a type 3 statement. Then Rose replied with another question, which is again considered a type 1 statement. This shift was necessary as Rose was attempting to confirm an important aspect of the information. The conversation was concluded by Dieter’s response, a type 2 statement, negatively affirming that a paper indicated that the proteolytic enzymes Rose was inquiring to have been found in the synaptosome were not obtained (Latour, 1986).
It is indeed interesting to observe the different shift in the levels of stability from statement after statement of individuals working in a laboratory setting. It is fascinating to see the necessity of fluctuations in stability among statements within a conversation in order to understand further the truths of the findings in scientific laboratories. We need little processes in order to create a more integrated and relevant body of knowledge, and arrive at the most stable knowledge in order to find the fact we need.
Latour, Bruno and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.
Longino, Helen. “The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge.” 31 August 2006.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 08 March 2008 <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-knowledge-social/>