The history and philosophy of science is an area of study that emerged in response to the apparent facts that science is “in” time, “done” by humans, and came from somewhere at some time for some reason. This implies that science is not a case of divine intervention and thus could not be freely moving or acting, or independent of humans and nature.
Are the subject matters split by scientific disciplines natural categories, or are they just the easiest way for humans to organize their practices and concepts? If the latter, than why should we expect there to be “physical”, “biological”, and “psychological” categories of thing? If no such categories exist, why should we expect the master category in which the subject matter of all three categories operate to be like any of those three categories?
I generally accept that “science” is not a single entity. The word may refer to a store of information (IE: “Science says X”), a method of acquiring knowledge (which not all “sciences” follow all the time), multiple communities who may or may not interact with the prior two things and whose claims to being “scientific” appear more or less strong (physicists, sociologists or biologists). Is a “scientific” approach defined by the system one chooses to study, the way its studied, or the core assumptions made about it?
Finally, “technology” is often grouped as “science”. This tends to elicit disagreement depending on whether a person views science as the search for truth, as the control of nature, or both. Some believe that science and technology are just two sides of the same coin, that technology is only applied “science”. The latter accommodationist position prompts the question of whether “science” as an agreed upon and complete store of information always, or ever, precedes the technology that is purported to use.
The accommodationist stance also prompts the question of whether something needs to be fully understood in order to be controlled for the purposes of the one doing the controlling. It is hard to imagine what “control” could mean, if not something being manipulated relative to the purposes of the user, even if such purposes were simply to satisfy impulses or desires. Yet, Homo Neanderthalensis created blades out of stones and thus successfully manipulated a number of natural systems to fulfill their purposes. Such systems included the structure of the stone and the physical principles of the blade. Does this imply that they had a complete knowledge of the natural phenomena they manipulated, ranging from geology, to chemistry, to physics? If not, then by what standard, could we know that we have complete knowledge of the natural phenomena that we can we manipulate now to the satisfaction of our ends?
This is just one of many fascinating historical and philosophical questions that emerge from noting that “science” occurs in time, is done by humans, and groups up a number of different ideas, objects, and practices.
Having noted these points, there are two ways of tackling the issue of science as a temporally and conceptually embedded family of objects. One is to view oneself as trying to disentangle, describe and (maybe) explain the astonishing complexities of the temporal, social, cultural, geographical, and philosophical contexts in which science has and continues to occur. This work can be done without moralizing or political agitation.
There is, unfortunately, another way to tackle the subject which emerges in reaction to the recognition that “science” is not cut and dry. This reaction is to view oneself as an “activist”, and to reduce all the complexities all scientific contexts at all times and at all places to a single principle, that of “power structures”.
To me, this latter approach epitomizes the “pseudo-science” that underwrites the Marxist worldview. Marxism is presumed by believers in Marxism itself to be the authoritative science of the social. If all scientific truth claims can be reduced to social activities, then the ultimate scientific truth of all things at all times in all places can only be told by whomsoever claims final epistemic authority over social truth.
Those who claim such authority are the “critical” studies that presume the single law governing all that can be known about the world is the existence of three categories, power, oppressors and oppressed. The “activists” in HPS who view the area as being obliged to “speak truth to power” presume all cultural, social, and intellectual objects to be nothing more than cases of power asymmetry to be “deconstructed” and revealed as such.
Remarkably, despite all norms, standards and truth claims purportedly being dependent on power structures, this Marxist approach to HPS also presumes an objective morality. This morality is like their ontology which presumes all social, cultural, or intellectual objects to be reducible to power structures. It is an unbelievably flat, simple and childish belief that the only true moral imperative that any human can pursue is the perfect equality of all power relationships at all times.
It is worth noting an irony. Having established that there is some social dimension to knowledge, the “activist” approach to the History and Philosophy of Science immediately assume that it is the only dimension. They also assume that the domain functions in accordance with a single law bound system. That system is the arrangement of social power relationships, which functions in a binary with only two modes, oppressor and oppressed. They are, thus, every bit as reductionists as the reductive physicalist “naïve realism” they purport to oppose in trying to reduce complexity to a single law operating in a single kind of domain.