So begins, Patricia Fara’s book Science: A four thousand year history. Another random find at the new arrivals area of the library.
What is wrong with this image?
Fara suggests the term ‘scientist’ wasn’t even invented until 1833. In her introduction to the book, she asks some rather strategic questions – the most fundamental being: how has science become so important?
As she suggests her book “investigates the financial interests, imperial ambitions, and academic enterprises that made science global.”
In black-and-white versions of the world, science is set apart, as though it were a unique type of intellectual activity yielding unassailable truth. Yet what counts as a scientific fact depends not only on the natural world, but also on who is doing the research – and where and when [I might add and who is funding]. Scientific knowledge has never traveled neutrally from one environment to another, but is constantly adapted and absorbed in different ways: it has geographies as well as histories. These processes of perpetual transformation are still continuing, so that significance of science will alter still further.
Paradoxically, as science becomes ever more succesful, non-experts are becoming increasingly skeptical. Now that governments are preoccupied with fears about global warming, genetic manipulation, and nuclear power, it is clear that scientific, commercial, and political interests are inseparably intertwined…
I am reminded of Danish physicist Niels Bohr who was a colleague of Einstein. Bohr discovered curious aspects about light.
Light is both particles and waves – however, one can only see one or the other depending on how one looks. If you look at light for its particle properties – you will only see particles and not waves. However if you look at light for its wave properties – you will only see waves and not particles.
Thus, if you are a particle believer you could spend your entire life arguing that light is particles – and vice-versa if you were a light as wave believer.
It’s this fundamental reality that can provide a whole different way of relating to the world. It’s the move from either-or thinking TO both-and thinking.
Such as: light is not either waves or particles – light is both waves and particles.
What a concept for the others-bashing that is so prevalent in wild salmon discussions. Instead of bickering on whether wild salmon should be either for sport fishers or commercial fishers; or either for aboriginal people or other folks.
Or that salmon management must be either science or traditional/local knowledge?