We need to democratically reimagine science

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Source– The post is based on the article “We need to democratically reimagine science” published in The Hindu on 28th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Science and Technology

Relevance: Issues related to science knowledge system

News- Last week, an article in a mainstream publication claimed that the ‘shivling’ was proof that sages in ancient India knew of the existence of protons and electrons and that their knowledge had been forgotten because they didn’t use the same words that western scholars did.

What are issues faced by science today?

Two extreme positions are followed in the knowledge system.

  1. Scientism– There are attempts to rationalise the validity of knowledge organised in some non­science system according to the tenets of science.
  2. Pseudoscience– To avoid the accusation of pseudoscientific approach, some are championing scientism. It is the claimed superiority of science and scientific knowledge. It excludes other equally legitimate experiences of reality.

The supporters of these two extreme positions are unable to imagine other, better alternatives to a world in which science and non­science are at cross purpose to each other

Sometimes to prove the claims of scientific approach, something vaguely scientific is preferred over other empowering alternatives.

Response to COVID­19 was delayed by waiting for evidence in case of scientific studies. This happens when science is understood as a totalising system that has the superpower to transform all ignorance.

Our pursuit of the scientific image is endangering the real image of the world.

Science has an androcentrism problem that prefers masculinist viewpoint. It has privileged some learning ecologies over others. It has shaped the way scientists decide which questions to ask about the world, and how scientific achievement is defined and rewarded.

What is the way forward to improve the knowledge system related to science?

There is need for more humanity scholars who can take a critical yet informed view of

science from the outside. It must involve people who have evolved their own ways to produce and organise knowledge based on observation and experience, including Indigenous peoples.

There is a need for a cultural shift where scientific facts are not considered to be rationally superior to a traditional observation based knowledge system.

There is a need for better science literacy that isn’t founded on the idea that the ‘scientific image’ is inherently more desirable.

We need to systematically examine our misinterpretation of, ‘scientific temper’. For a democratic imagination of science, there should be systematic criticism of science.

HSS studies should be included as part of science education in schools, colleges and universities. Where this faculty already exists, it should be integrated into the core curriculum instead of letting it operate on the sidelines.

Educational institutes should incorporate disciplines such as history of science and science and technology studies. Here, students should critically engage with the practice of science itself.

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