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12 MARCH 2011

Scientists revise their criteria of rationality as they enter new domains

"The conventional model of science, technology and society locates sources of violence in politics and ethics, that is, in the application of science and technology, not in scientific knowledge itself.

The fact–value dichotomy is a creation of modern, reductionist science which, while being an epistemic response to a particular set of values, claims to be independent of values. According to the received view, modern science is the discovery of the properties of nature in accordance with a 'scientific method' which generates 'objective', 'neutral', 'universal' knowledge. This view of modern science as a description of reality as it is, unprejudiced by value, can be rejected on at least four grounds.

All knowledge, including modern scientific knowledge, is built through the use of a plurality of methodologies. As Feyerabend observes:

There is no 'scientific method'; there is no single procedure, or set of rules that underlines every piece of research and guarantees that it is 'scientific' and, therefore, trustworthy. The idea of a universal and stable method that is an unchanging measure of adequacy and even the idea of a universal and stable rationality is as unrealistic as the idea of a universal and stable measuring instrument that measures any magnitude, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists revise their standards, their procedures, their criteria of rationality as they move along and perhaps entirely replace their theories and their instruments as they move along and enter new domains of research (Feyerband, 1978, p. 98).

The view that science is just a discovery of facts about nature does not get support from philosophy either. If scientific knowledge is assumed to give true, factual knowledge of 'reality as it is', then we would have to 'conclude that Newtonian theory was true until around 1900, after which it suddenly became false, while relativity and quantum theories became the truth' (Bohm, 1981, p. 4)."

(Vandana Shiva, 1990)

1). Shiva, V. (1990). 'Reductionist science as epistemological violence'. 'Science, Hegemony and Violence: A Requiem for Modernity'. A. Nandy, Oxford University Press: 314.

Paul Feyerabend, Science in a Free Society (London: New Left Books, 1978).

David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981).

TAGS

analytical thinkingCartesiancultural valuesdescription of realitydiscoursediscoverydiscursive fieldepistemologyethicsfactual knowledgehierarchy of legitimacyIsaac Newtonknowledge • logical-analytical • logical-analytical paradigmmeasuring instrument • model of science • Modernmodern science • modern scientific knowledge • myth of neutralityobjectiveobjective reality • Paul Feyerband • plurality of methodologies • positivismproperties of naturerationalityreductionism • reductionist science • researchresearch methodsciencescientific knowledgescientific method • scientific options • sociology • stable knowledge • stable rationality • theorytraditiontrust • trustworthy • truthuniversal • universal knowledge • universal methoduniversal rationalityVandana Shiva

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
09 MAY 2006

Education within a context of fast-moving advances in science and technology

"Baroness Greenfield rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what account they are taking of the impact of fast–moving advances in science and technology on how young people think and learn in planning future education policy.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the 21st century is offering society an unprecedented raft of challenges. All at once science is now delivering a diverse range of information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology, with a speed and convergence that we could never have predicted even a decade ago.

For example, one recent survey of eight to 18 year–olds claimed that children were now spending on average 6.5 hours a day using electronic media. Most recently, the trend to multi–tasking – that is, using one or more devices in parallel – amounted to an effective 8.5 hours a day. Could this screen and multimedia culture impact on thinking and learning? The journalist Kevin Kelly summed up the issue very well:

'Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts and half–baked ideas. It is a flow of gossip tidbits, news headlines and floating first impressions. Notions don't stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled by the audience'.

When we of the 20th century read a book, most usually the author takes you by the hand and you travel from the beginning to the middle to the end in a continuous narrative series of interconnected steps. It may not be a journey with which you agree or that you enjoy, but none the less as you turn the pages one train of thought succeeds the last in a logical fashion.

We can then of course compare one narrative with another. In so doing we start to build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further journeys, which in turn will influence our individualised framework. One might argue that this is the basis of education – education as we know it. It is the building up of a personalised conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance. Traditional education has enabled us, if you like, to turn information into knowledge.

Now imagine that there is no robust conceptual framework. Imagine that you are sitting in front of a multimedia presentation where you are unable, because you have not had the experience of many different intellectual journeys, to evaluate what is flashing up on the screen. The most immediate reaction instead would be to place a premium on the most obvious feature, the immediate sensory content – we could call it the 'yuk' or 'wow' factor. You would be having an experience rather than learning. Here sounds and sights of a fast–paced, fast–moving, multimedia presentation would displace any time for reflection or any idiosyncratic or imaginative connections that we might make as we turn the pages and then stare at the wall to reflect."
(House of Lords debates, 20 April 2006, 3:18 pm : Column 1220)

Baroness Susan Greenfield. (2006). 'Education: Science and Technology', Lords Hansard, UK.

Fig.1 Michelangelo (circa 1511). 'The Creation of Adam'.

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24 APRIL 2005

Post-traditional order contesting the hierarchy of legitimacy

"The notion of a post–traditional order is linked to the growth of scientific rationality as a critical methodology which undermines its own basis. In modern society no authority can hope to stand simply on the traditional basis of its position in the hierarchy of legitimacy. Any claim to know what is best can be called into question. Government and experts must always be able to justify themselves and can no longer expect to call upon the kind of deference [...] that Almond and Verba saw as characteristic of successful democratic culture (Almond & Verba:1963)."

(Peter Taylor–Gooby, p.7)

Almond, G & Verba, S. 1963 The Civic Culture, Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press.
[2] Peter Taylor–Gooby. (2001). Risk, Contingency and the Third Way: Evidence from the BHPS and Qualitative Studies. Volume 35 Issue 2, Pages 195 – 211.

Fig.1 David Kelly & Tony Blair (http://vorige.nrc.nl/multimedia/dynamic/00295/davidkelly_295522a.jpg http://businesstoday.lk/cpanel/uploader/943/BREAK–THE–DEADLOCK.jpg.JPEG)

[Anthony Giggens' risk society theory suggests that globalisation, the post–traditional social order and social reflexivity are key to social changes affecting modern society.]

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TAGS

2001 • David Kelly • democratic culture • Gabriel Almond • Governmenthierarchy of legitimacymodernity • Peter Taylor-Gooby • post-traditionalPrime Ministerscientific rationality • Sidney Verba • Tony Blair
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