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The Two Cultures

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  • 1. Science & Humanities The Two Cultures?
  • 2. “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”
  • 3. “Mad, bad and dangerous to know.”
  • 4. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • 5. Mary Shelly 1818
  • 6. The Nineteenth Century
  • 7. JulesVerne
  • 8. H.G.Wells 1896
  • 9. The Two Cultures Lack of communication between the sciences and humanities prevents the solution of the world’s problems. Incomprehension & hostility from literary intellectuals towards science and scientists.
  • 10. The Two Cultures “A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?”
  • 11. The Two Cultures “I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question -- such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? -- not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their Neolithic ancestors would have had.”
  • 12. NSF S&E Indicators Continental drift occurs - 77% Earth orbits the sun - 72% It takes a year for the earth to orbit the sun - 51% Human evolution - 45% Big Bang - 33%
  • 13. Two Cultures & Two World views The constructivist world view within the humanities, which sees the scientific method as embedded within language and culture; and The scientific viewpoint, in which the observer can still objectively make unbiased and non-culturally embedded observations about nature.
  • 14. Thomas Kuhn
  • 15. Social Constructionism Peter Berger & Thomas Luckmann (1965) The Social Construction of Reality. A social construction is a concept or practice which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society. Individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality.
  • 16. Weak Form “[S]ome categories really are social constructions: they exist only because people tacitly agree to act as if they exist. Examples include money, tenure, citizenship, decorations for bravery, and the presidency of the United States.” Steven Pinker
  • 17. Strong Form All reality is a social construction. Science does not have any ontological primacy; all scientific constructs, physical laws, or concepts, are essentially arrived at by consensus and are social constructs Reality is really a narrative, a discourse rooted in consensus.
  • 18. Long From of the Strong Form Science is a highly elaborated set of conventions brought forth by one particular culture in the circumstances of one particular historical period; thus it is not, as the standard view would have it, a body of knowledge and testable conjecture concerning the real world. It is a discourse, devised by and for one specialized interpretive community, under terms created by the complex net of social circumstance, political opinion, economic incentive and ideological climate that constitutes the ineluctable human environment of the scientist.Thus, orthodox science is but one discursive community among the many that now exist and that have existed historically. Consequently its truth claims are irreducibly self-referential, in that they can be upheld only by appeal to the standards that define the scientific community and distinguish it from other social formations.
  • 19. Sociology of Scientific Knowledge The outcome of all scientific controversies should be explained by social factors and not by appeal to “truth” Causality: it examines the conditions (psychological, social, and cultural) that bring about claims to a certain kind of knowledge. Impartiality: it examines successful as well as unsuccessful knowledge claims. Symmetry: the same types of explanations are used for successful and unsuccessful knowledge claims alike.
  • 20. Steve Fuller Kitzmiller v Dover (2005) “Truth” claims are socially constructed Intelligent design is being held back by socio-political forces and should be thus give an ‘equal opportunity program’ and be included in high school biology class.
  • 21. Andrew Ross “This book [StrangeWeather] is dedicated to all the science teachers I never had. It could only have been written without them.”
  • 22. Bruno Latour “How could he [Ramses II] pass away due to a [tuberculosis] bacillus discovered by Koch in 1882? ... Before Koch, the bacillus has no real existence.”
  • 23. Jacques Derrida “The Einsteinian constant is not a constant, is not a center. It is the very concept of variability – it is, finally, the concept of the game. In other words, it is not the concept of something – of a center starting from which an observer could master the field – but the very concept of the game.”
  • 24. Alan Sokal Submitted a paper:“Transgressing the Boundaries:Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” for a special issue of SocialText (1996) Aimed to see if the academic left would “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions.”
  • 25. Transgressing the Boundaries “There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who … cling to the dogma imposed by the long post- Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”
  • 26. Transgressing the Boundaries “It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality’ … is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ‘knowledge’, far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it; that the truth claims of science are inherently theory-laden and self-referential; and consequently, that the discourse of the scientific community, for all its undeniable value, cannot assert a privileged epistemological status with respect to counter-hegemonic narratives emanating from dissident or marginalized communities.”
  • 27. Transgressing the Boundaries “Here my aim is to carry these deep analyses one step farther, by taking account of recent developments in quantum gravity: the emerging branch of physics in which Heisenberg's quantum mechanics and Einstein's general relativity are at once synthesized and superseded. In quantum gravity, as we shall see, the space-time manifold ceases to exist as an objective physical reality; geometry becomes relational and contextual; and the foundational conceptual categories of prior science - among them, existence itself - become problematized and relativized.This conceptual revolution, I will argue, has profound implications for the content of a future postmodern and liberatory science.”
  • 28. Transgressing the Boundaries A “liberatory science’ and “emancipatory mathematics” must be developed that spurn “the elite caste canon of ‘high science’” for a “postmodern science [that] provide[s] powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project.”
  • 29. Alan Sokal “My goal isn't to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we'll survive just fine, thank you), but to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself. ...There are hundreds of important political and economic issues surrounding science and technology. Sociology of science, at its best, has done much to clarify these issues. But sloppy sociology, like sloppy science, is useless or even counterproductive.”
  • 30. Alan Sokal “Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my apartment. (I live on the twenty-first floor.)”
  • 31. Bruno Latour “[D]angerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we meant?”