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Science and Society

REZA DAVARI ARDAKANI

Academy of Sciences of Iran


Modern science developed with the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, and Descartes. Usually, we have an abstract view of the advancement of such science up to the present era. There are rare cases when we consider the relationship of the scientist to historical conditions. It is a commonly held belief that science has reached its perfect stage and that everybody can learn, conduct, research, and benefit from science in the same way and at the same level. This view is particularly popular since it has an ethical element. That is, science is a value, and everyone can and should benefit from it. Such a view can solve no problem. It is not wrong, but it is superficial. The creation of science has always called for the existence of certain conditions and possibilities. Kant, as a teacher of enlightenment and liberalism, proclaimed the advent of reason, which could create a new science and related politics. Kant was well aware of what he was stating. He may have had the future in mind. He knew and taught others that each scientific discovery may not develop, last, and produce the expected benefits everywhere.

Science is a foundation that is closely linked to people’s lives, relations, views, and behaviors. While growing, the tree of new science has challenged the earth and water and the spiritual and mental atmosphere of the Renaissance. It has gradually gained its place as the coordinator of conditions and the stabilizer of life order.

Science is said to have a method. Can any individual at any place reach the expected result of his/her research provided that he or she uses the right method? The conditions under which science is created and its benefits and dangers are the questions that philosophers, scientists, and politicians should address. This statement is true to some extent.



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F Science and Society REZA DAVARI ARDAKANI Academy of Sciences of Iran M odern science developed with the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, and Descartes. Usually, we have an abstract view of the advancement of such science up to the present era. There are rare cases when we consider the relationship of the scientist to historical conditions. It is a com- monly held belief that science has reached its perfect stage and that everybody can learn, conduct, research, and benefit from science in the same way and at the same level. This view is particularly popular since it has an ethical element. That is, science is a value, and everyone can and should benefit from it. Such a view can solve no problem. It is not wrong, but it is superficial. The creation of science has always called for the existence of certain conditions and possibili- ties. Kant, as a teacher of enlightenment and liberalism, proclaimed the advent of reason, which could create a new science and related politics. Kant was well aware of what he was stating. He may have had the future in mind. He knew and taught others that each scientific discovery may not develop, last, and produce the expected benefits everywhere. Science is a foundation that is closely linked to people’s lives, relations, views, and behaviors. While growing, the tree of new science has challenged the earth and water and the spiritual and mental atmosphere of the Renaissance. It has gradually gained its place as the coordinator of conditions and the stabilizer of life order. Science is said to have a method. Can any individual at any place reach the expected result of his/her research provided that he or she uses the right method? The conditions under which science is created and its benefits and dangers are the questions that philosophers, scientists, and politicians should address. This statement is true to some extent. 12

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12 APPENDIX F Even contemporary philosophers and scholars such as Gadamer, Foucault, Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Rorty neither take method seriously nor state that a sci- entist should ignore the rules. Rather they claim that science is not created by method. Here, however, we are not going to discuss the philosophy of science and criticize the views of philosophers. The names of some contemporary scholars illustrate that the most prominent philosophers do not undermine science and its development. They warn us that if we have been trained in research methodology at school, we should not think that we will not become scientists. If we become scientists, we will not be able to lay the foundation of science without the collaboration of other scientists. Everywhere in the world, scientists can establish scientific societies and cooperate in scientific research. Yet, the scientific society and its paradigms are not created by setting rules and taking administrative and official measures. Scientists will be successful in their scientific activities through teamwork and through conducting research on issues that are linked together. The scientific system is not a dispersed collection of research. Rather, it is a coordinated effort to resolve problems set forth by a scientific society. The American philosopher Richard Rorty rightly considers science a kind of solidarity that involves not only scientific subjects, problems, and scientists. Society and the life system are inter- related as well. This is particularly true in developed countries. In the era of Galileo, Descartes, and even Newton, it was not likely that anyone considered science a solidarity. The growth of science and technology in a new society is not always constant and coordinated in all dimensions, although it has an affinity with the expansion of politics and law. Rorty, who considers science a solidarity, looks at science in the United States but apparently does not take seriously the 300- to 400-year-old history of challenge in Europe for the realization of such solidarity. Obviously, the new science and society, in its essence and aptitude, have had solidarity since the very beginning. The history of science favors the coordina- tion and solidarity with the history of society since the sixteenth century. In New Atlantis, Francis Bacon devised a society in which the rulers are scientists and the island is ruled by scientific rules. The design of the society is an anecdote and is the story of a solidarity dream for science and society. Yet, when Bacon created his utopia, scientists did not rule society in actuality. The type of administration he described has not come into existence yet. This does not mean that Bacon’s project has been put aside. The project was adjusted by his successors. Politics could not be formulated like physics, but Bacon’s project was an introduction to the creation of a type of politics that would be coordinated with Galileo’s and Newton’s physics. The development of science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the advent of the idea of a free and well-to-do society, without fear, enmity and war, is one dimension of the views of Thomas More, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, Galileo, and Descartes’ mathematical world. In the eighteenth century,

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12 APPENDIX F the dominant idea was that a new sense of reason had come into existence that could lead science, politics, and society to freedom, peace, justice, and welfare. Now one can see that such a sense of reason as coordinating and leading is more or less problematic. Rorty sees this affliction and shortcoming and hence does not want to call the eighteenth century the age of the founding of the history of science. Rorty is right, particularly in the sense that applying the scientific method was a necessary con- dition for finding the truth in the eighteenth century in the sense that the develop- ment of reason and science would result in the creation of a unique world. Science would be the pivotal point of agreement or disagreement among the people of the world. Now, science and technology, particularly information technology, are the factors that account for the uniformity of countries and regions, yet science has not developed or been equally useful at each and every place. In developing countries, research faces great obstacles. These countries do not have sufficient budgets. The money that is allocated for research is not used in the right place and in an effective way because of the low level of technology in these countries. Even if they have a successful development plan, they still buy scientific and technological information. Consequently, in such countries research is mostly a tradition or a noble and formal profession. That is to say, in the devel- oping world scientists are unable to conduct major and important research. A glance at the list of articles published annually shows that the number of names belonging to the developing world is significant. Most likely, many names belong to scientists who have migrated from their homelands and now reside in locations where there are better conditions for conducting research. Nevertheless, they belong to developing nations and have an effective role in the development of the world’s technology. Wherever the system of society is dominated by tech- nology, scientists find their places easily. Since it is clear what types of research are given priority, the research conducted is that which is responsive to technol- ogy, economy, and politics. Here science is solidarity, and Rorty rightly does not consider science with the criterion of objectivity. When objectivity is the absolute criterion—and of course one cannot easily ignore objectivity—all research is the same, and science is science wherever it is. This view is, of course, true to some degree. All research should be conducted on the basis of scientific criteria and consistent rules throughout the world, but the conditions for carrying out research vary from one place to another. We are used to limiting these conditions to available budgets, access to research facili- ties, and the absence of cultural and political obstacles. We scarcely recall that scientific movements would not have existed without the allocation of funds or political measures. Europeans themselves began conducting research at a time when there was no political freedom (compared to the current freedom in Europe) nor was there any funding in their governments’ budgets for research. Business and industry organizations did not take research seriously either. Obviously, under the pres-

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12 APPENDIX F ent circumstances, states and governments as well as private institutions have no choice but to support technical-scientific research. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions. The major points to consider for conducting research are the recognition of priorities and the existence of a comprehensive plan. Each scientist has his or her likes and dislikes. Their research will be fruitful and will add to science if their efforts complement other research and open the way for future efforts. Here the problem is that usually governments and powerful financial, economic, and military organizations prepare scientific plans. This may limit scientists’ freedom. Authorities may also expect scientists to conduct research that is in line with their demands and interests. Clearly, influential institutions and organizations can direct research to such an extent that the research findings are rarely the same as the ones that scientists have expected, whereas eminent scientists have established their status with their great findings. Hence the plan already mentioned is not the one that should be developed by individuals or institutions. This is in fact a development plan and comprises the issues that will bring about recession and despair in society if they are not resolved. If they are resolved, however, they will lay a foundation for setting forth and resolving other issues, science will flourish, and science and society will be solidified. Note that the scientific and research issues of developing countries should not be confused with the issues of Europe and the United States. A scholar may rightly claim that the United States limits planning for research and the freedom of scientists and research. Such a scholar may also state that planning will result in the deviation of science and research from its natural path and will disturb its system. However, when order and solidarity are nonscientific, how should scientists find out what the major problems of society are? When there is no link between universities and technical, industrial, and economic institutions, how should researchers know what problems their countries’ technology system, economy, and administration have? How should they collaborate in planning and resolving the problems? At the outset, universities based in undeveloped and developing countries were merely educational centers. It has been only in the past two or three decades that research has found a place at universities. Still, the extent of the efficiency of the research conducted in developing countries is unknown. One of the dominant and famous dogmas among the people of the world is that technology is the application of scientific rules. That is the reason physics, chemistry, and biology are termed basic sciences, as if scientific research is con- ducted first, and then engineers and technicians refer to the books and articles of the researchers of these sciences to create and use technology. In a sense, it is true that certain technology would not exist without conducting basic research, yet what should science deal with if not the technique? The issues of science are those of the technique.

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12 APPENDIX F Obviously, a scientist should not think of the benefits resulting from his or her research, nor should he or she think of its application. However, the scientist’s problem comes from the field of technology, and his or her research findings will be used in this same field as well. Technique and technology are not preceded by scientific research, since technology and science are interrelated and insepa- rable. One can find no advanced technology in places where there is no research. In places where technology is at a minimum or in its initial stage, scientific research does not take place, and there is no need for it. If it does take place, it is in cooperation with the world’s science. This is the case for many scientists and researchers of developing countries who deal with the universal problems of science (not merely their own societies’ issues). Actually, in a large part of the present world, research and development and development planning are inseparable. There may be great scientists in these regions, yet they may not choose the most important issues for their research. In the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, if in Europe and the United States there was no plan for guiding research, and if scientists and uni- versities had based their research on their own tastes, modern society would have had a different form of development. We have seen that research has been more or less coordinated and comple- mentary. When people are obliged to create their own science and society on the basis of a model existing elsewhere, they should be familiar with the internal order of that model and explore the causes of coordination and equilibrium or the origin of crises. This is very hard to do. If one succeeds in doing so, how can people be prepared to live in accordance with that model? How can one create a coordinated balance and the appropriate education, research, industry, and administration? If people do not change, what should be done with all those new products, and who benefits from them? The major conditions for the creation of society and a scientific system are to have a sense of need, to belong to science, and to be prepared for and benefit from science. Western thinkers are not very fond of exploring the world of undeveloped and developing countries. Recently, they have divided societies into modern and traditional, thereby complicating the problem more than before. Dividing the people of the world into modern and pre-modern is wrong, unjustifiable, and even dangerous. Undoubtedly, people living in different parts of the world have different traditions, and they are more or less attached to them. Presently, there is no place in the world that would have traditional society and order. Currently, no part of the world is devoid of the impact of modernity. No society is without the need of science and technology. However, science has not been attached to each society or to the spirit of people in the same way. Under the present conditions, it would be dangerous to divide societies into modern and traditional. Since countries must develop at any cost, we should eliminate some tradi- tions in order to pave the way for development and modernity. However, when

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10 APPENDIX F this approach becomes a political agenda, it may end up a disaster. Societies can be divided into neither traditional and modern nor modern and premodern. The difference between the developing and undeveloped worlds and the Western world is that in the latter, science, life, politics, and so forth are all part and parcel of one body and have one spirit that leads them. However, in the other world, all of these have come from an external source and have been set without having a spirit for uniting and coordinating them. Here science is not solidarity. That is, research is not interrelated, nor does the collection of dispersed research have anything to do with the societies’ order and politics, production and economy, and so forth. Though such a science is not yet solidarity, it should move in that direction. It is not only a new pragmatic U.S. philosopher who considers science a solidarity. It is the ideal of modern society. Now, if we consider this an absolute and realized solidarity whose realization has been granted, we are too optimistic. Science, technology, politics, economics, and education are partially interrelated in modern society. However, there has always been the danger that science, research, and technology would not follow the law of solidarity and lead to a destructive path. In the history of science, it has been stated that when Thales was studying the stars on a well, he slipped and fell into that well. A girl saw him, came to help him, and took him out of the well. The well was actually his telescope and an instrument for his research but turned into something that could take his life. However, beauty saved his life. It has been stated in different ways that art saves us from the probable toughness and hostility of science and politics. The story of Thales is meaningful. We are not going to talk about art as a means of support for man. The world of information technology has narrowed down the space of art so much so that one cannot ask for help from art in case of danger. The developed world should not undermine the possibility of great risks. Nevertheless, the developing world should think about the solidarity and coordination of science, life, politics, and society. Of course, neither the developed or developing worlds should rely so heavily on science and technology that they lose their faith in art and thought.