Month: July 2017

Science Is Political: Get Over It & Lead with Your Ethics

The “controversy” around scientists getting political on the march of horrors out of D.C. makes my eyes bug. How did science get this dangerous rep for ideological purity?

Do people think the upheavals of  Galileo and Oppenheimer can’t happen again? That political forces won’t use science (or perceptions of science) for gain? That scientists are immune to social influence? Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding about the power of the scientific method to eliminate bias. Or a positivist belief in an “objective reality” with a “true truth,” that scientists uncover. Or a crappy educational system, where sixth graders are taught that science is “about facts.”

Whatever the reasons, if we continue to reject science as intrinsically and inescapably political, we will continue to see science turned against the greater good by political forces.

Scientists live in political contexts. The scientific method can reduce bias in analysis, but doesn’t target the cultural norms scientists breathe like air–and don’t notice, like air. Secretly infecting people with fatal diseases was recent scientific practice, and it wasn’t the “objectivity” of scientists that put an end to it. It was shifts in cultural space.

Political contexts influence the focus of science. A decade ago, federal reviewers scoffed at including autistic adults in research, so autistic adults got involved in federal policy. Reviews got more respectful and funding opportunities increased; however this ground could be lost just as it was gained. (More on knowledge/power see Foucault, Lukes.)

Science is a driver of political/policy change. Scientific data is used to justify policy. People who aren’t counted are politically invisible. The resources go where the impact is perceived to be. (Here I go on about this at length.)

The dynamic between science and politics affects the world.
The political choice to fund rocketry during the cold war has given us Curiosity, Rosetta, and possible annihilation.

Awareness of the relationship between science and politics means examining the long-term socio-ecological consequences of our choices and our responsibilities as scientists. What is the most ethical act, given the political forces at play, and how do we contribute, directly and indirectly, to a political environment where science serves a greater good? Because the greedy ones care little about ideological purity.

Recommended Reading List Right Now

“I’m updating my content. What would you like to read?” I asked the Lazyweb.

“Your book recommendations!” The Lazyweb answered.

Well alrighty then, here are writings currently on my mind.

Long Fiction

SyFy’s The Expanse hooked me. Bait taken, I’m still reeling up the serial-reading-line of Epic that is James S.A. Corey’s near-future space-opera. I love the exploration into that oft-overlooked time between now and interstellar economy. I love “being” in space, feeling the shifts in gravity, the need to reconsider three-dimensionality and fragility; like the opening to 2001, it puts me there. I love the rich politics where no one is right and everyone is right. I love the multi-cultural cast and the shifting terms of what culture even means. I love that there are a million of these books.

Short Fiction

I’m a sucker for poetic, genre-fuckit, experimental, multi-layered lit that subverts the easy answer. Even more, I’m a sucker for literature written about people like me, by people like me, for people like me–but that’s a good deal harder to find. Spoon Knife Anthology 2: Test Chamber delivers a vastness of short stories, poetry, memoir-fueled essays, and unclassified short works exploring intersections of neuro/gender/sexual/racial/cultural diversity, curated not as education for normies but as a howl to those of us it represents. As an anthology, it’s a mixed bag at times, but the top-notch stuff is top-notch, and all of it is worth the time.

Non-Fiction

At work, in the kitchen, there is a white board with a monthly question. For July: favorite non-fiction rec?. This translated to me as: if your colleagues read only one systems-thinking book ever, what should it be? My choice is the slightly dated Frijof Capra’s The Web of Life. At its essence, Capra’s take-away message from much of his work is that holistic thinking is how we get out of this global wreck we’ve made. Capra’s writing is accessible, the systems-thinking frames are key to good decision-making in a global ecology, and it’s a gateway to deeper readings on complexity.

Graphic Fiction

Someone made a list of all of my favorite storythings and handed it to Cryoclaire and then she made Drugs and Wires. 90’s nostalgia cyberpunk dystopia brain-computer anti-heroes lowlife broken hearts bestfriends cyberparts evil-corps back-ground-art easter-egg references to industrial bands and william gibson screaming self-destructive edge-of-beauty. Yes, please. Free online weekly. Read it, love it, buy her merch.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira 2020 Dora M Raymaker
Portland, Oregon