Science and Politics

Anu’s observations on Indian science and Indian science journalism wouldn’t probably any different hadn’t she based her article on the political appointees of the ’09 govt. It is easier to say an unabashed refutation of  “success of indian science” on its own would appear more systematic- because scientists in India are always clamoring to keep science (and education) clear of the political and bureaucratic meddling (by the professionals of these two fields, its okay if hobbyists do it). Nonetheless everything she says couldnt be any different otherwise. That makes me wonder how relevant the following passage is in relation to Indian science.

But nothing evokes as much hostility among intellectuals as the suggestion that social forces influence or even dictate either scientific method or the facts and theories of science. The Cartesian social analysis of science, like Cartesian analysis in science, alienates science from society, making scientific fact and method “objective” and beyond social influence. Our view is different. We believe that science, in all its senses, is a social process that both causes and is causes by the social organization. To do science is to be a social actor engaged, whether one likes it or not, in political activity. The denial of the interpretation of the scientific and the social is itself a political act, giving support to social structure that hid behind scienfic objectivity to perpechuate dependency, exploitation, racism, elitism, colonialism. Nor do absurd examples diminish the truth of this necessary enagement. Of course, the speed of light is same under socialism and capitalism, and the apple that was said to have fallen on the Master of the Mint in 1664 wold have struck his Labour Party successor three-hundred years later wit equal force. But whether the cause of tuberculosis is said to be a bacillus or the capitalistic exploitation of workers, whether the death rate from cancer is best reduced by studying oncogenes or by seizing controls of factories-these questions can be decided objectively only within the framework of certain sociopolitical assumptions.

R Levins and R Lewinton in The Dialectical Biologist

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4 thoughts on “Science and Politics

  1. >>But nothing evokes as much hostility among intellectuals as the suggestion that social forces influence or even dictate either scientific method or the facts and theories of science. The Cartesian social analysis of science, like Cartesian analysis in science, alienates science from society, making scientific fact and method “objective” and beyond social influence.

    Undercurrents of the classic Basic vs Applied science. If there is one single sweeping contribution that science can claim in changing the way humans live, then it would be vaccination (with all the debates included). And medical science can hardly be thought of as ‘not a product of social forces’….!

    >>The denial of the interpretation of the scientific and the social is itself a political act, giving support to social structure that hid behind scienfic objectivity to perpechuate dependency, exploitation, racism, elitism, colonialism.

    The media’s role in the above process was what I was pointing out. Unless the pedagogy of media studies changes to include science reporting, where the students are taught the history of science, methods, pertinent questions and the state of current research in different areas of science, its communication to the public will be a no take off in India. Thus ensuring zero engagement between society and scientists. Which is also part of the above process, nice no?

    That apart, there is no dialectic within or across disciplines, take the swine flu for instance –did you come across discussion forums where epidemiologists, physicians, extension personal and so on discussing it in the Indian context?
    Whereby regulars can follow and join the discussions?

    I also believe the halo around Indian science is passionately maintained to mainly avoid exposing the scientists ignorance to the public eye.

    • also believe the halo around Indian science is passionately maintained to mainly avoid exposing the scientists ignorance to the public eye.

      thats very true. Funny you should say that (about discussion), I think except for the 5/10 min. after power-point presentation when the floor is forced open to discussion, everyone is afraid to talk, and if it is outside our research area or methodology, we dont ever care.

      how do u feel about stating a science/science edu blog?

  2. >>how do u feel about stating a science/science edu blog?

    in general or with the specific intention of making dalit students aware of the false ivory towers?
    The latter is more interesting and meaningful for me, but i notice that i am more often dealing with the majority -very annoying, though I do realize that dialog too is important for students from the underprivileged and marginalized communities as it exposes the extent to which people go to keep up fronts. But I lose my patience with the bigots.

    Science in general- a blog with posts that reflect on articles that are relevant to Indian students of science is cool – but time is a constraint, if it involves bringing in interesting articles and maybe a couple of interviews with scientists – i’d be happy to give it a try – moderation however is too tiring 🙂 . What are your thoughts on it?

    • in general or with the specific intention of making dalit students aware of the false ivory towers?

      the later seems essential but too tricky. cause no matter how we see it, right now we just cant do anything except warn them or encourage them..

      I am interested in popular science writing as well. so science blogging with a bent on india should be it. but then some of my friends are against blogging, the question is how much of ur ideas you can just put up- without any formal credit to yourself- online? so may be not a blog but a forum..will mail u about it 🙂

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