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<nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science
Florian Cramer on Sun, 23 Apr 2017 21:39:40 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science


(This was a social media posting, but I thought that I should share it with
the larger Nettime community. -F)


Why I won't support the 'March for Science':*


1) The central demand of the 'March for Science', "evidence-based
policies and regulations", is toxic and dangerous. It means that
political issues and decisions should only be made on the basis of
scientific evidence. Political claims of social groups would, as a
result, not be considered if they aren't backed up by scientific
proof.

This would not only create an oligarchy of those of who have the
means to fund scientific research for backing up a political demand.
It would conversely mean that social groups would be neglected whose
justified demands are below the radar of science. (For example:
Would empirical sociology in the 1960s, with the methodology of that
time, have backed the claims of the civil rights movement? And more
importantly: Did the civil rights movement NEED scientific evidence in
order to make justified demands?)

And what are the implications for democracy? The people rule, but
only if their demands have been sanctioned, respectively filtered, by
scientists?

2) The concept of "evidence-based science" is currently used as a
weapon against humanities, cultural studies and qualitative social
science. It is, in the country I live and work, a major reason for
academic research funding applications from the arts, humanities
and cultural studies being turned down. In other domains, such
as healthcare, it drives a wedge into the discipline where only
"evidence-based healthcare" gets funded and healthcare research that
uses, for example, psychoanalytical methodology, is considered to be
lacking in research methodology.

With very few exceptions, the humanities do not work with formal
evidence and proof. There is, for good reasons, no "quod erat
demonstrandum" and general formula at the conclusion of an art
historcal, philological, philosophical or cultural-anthropological
research paper, because the observations made in these fields are
not made in science lab settings and hence do not yield repeatable
insights.

Where the humanities do work with formal evidence (such as in the more
hardcore parts of analytic philosophy and, more recently, quantitative
humanities), the insightfulness of the argument - particularly for
anyone outside academia - is often debatable.

3) Just as opposition against Trump creates false solidarity
with neoliberals, opposition against climate change-denying,
creationist etc. politics can create false solidarity with a Popperian
understanding of research and knowledge. (Coincidentally, Popper's
philosophy provided the point of departure for both, scientific
neo-positivism and political-economic neo-liberalism.)


* Footnote for non-native English speakers: 'science' does not refer
to academic research/knowledge/teaching in general, but only to
the 'hard sciences'. The English word is not synonymous with Dutch
'wetenschap', German 'Wissenschaft' or even French 'sciences' (which
includes 'les sciences humaines'); it does not include the humanities
and qualitative social science.





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