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Re: <nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science
Eric Kluitenberg on Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:05:18 +0200 (CEST)


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


Fascinating discussion - this point of Bian seems crucial:

> On 25 Apr 2017, at 05:38, Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Times change and those who cling to outdated critiques become irrelevant 
> if not reactionary. One of the most urgent agendas of the present is the 
> transformation of the scientific ethos and its institutions.

This call for the transformation of the scientific ethos and institutions is something I full-heartedly support and could imagine marching for: Let’s make science political! Let’s bring the sciences into the heart if democracy! Yes please!

I do object, however, to the suggestion that is implicit in what Peter wrote, which somehow reflects this logic of “if you are not with us you are against us”. If one does not want to engage in a march ‘for science’ (curiously generic phrase, which I really don’t understand what that means, or even if it means anything at all), one is with the Trump faction. But Trump and what the current US administration represents is entirely abject to me, but it doesn’t translate for me into a march for a generic defence of ‘science’, without a proper political engagement with the ethos, institutions and procedures of science.

More specifically I was reacting to one sentence in Florian’s posting: "1) The central demand of the 'March for Science', "evidence-based policies and regulations", is toxic and dangerous.” Because this claim seems to propagate the idea that only the institutions of science and its willing servants have a legitimate claim to “truth”, while the rest of us are ignorant, ill-informed, misguided, etc. I.e. non-expert political (and scientific) debate cannot make legitimate claims about the state of our planet.

This comes in the midsts of the proliferation of automated citation indexes, research and performance metrics, persisting science publishing oligopolies, a general war on non-quantiative approaches, a general distrust towards the Humanities and even the social sciences (among beta-oriented scientists) and ‘theory’  - what do you need concepts for when you can measure / quantify everything?

Brian has a good point that there are hopeful developments in the earth-systems sciences, and the Trump administration is a disaster for that field. This needs to be engaged politically. It is also most blatantly clear in this particular field that science is indeed deeply political, so to claim that the march is somehow beyond ‘politics’ seems entirely strange to me.

Then there is the rather obvious, yet implicit point here that I am looking at this from a continental European point of view, and from here the Trump administration is mostly bizarre, but the previous administration, nor the Clinton ticket for that matter, provided a compelling alternative for us - all part of the same global deregulation agenda, with some minor cosmetic changes. (i.e. the Trump disaster is mostly a domestic problem - with global repercussions of course).

Meanwhile, here on the continent nobody is seriously contesting the problems of climate change. The new NL government under formation will most likely put a more far reaching set of environmental policies in place because it needs to keep the Green Party on board. The last NL election showed the same 15% vote for extreme right that has been there since it was revealed by Pim Fortuyn in the early 2000s. In France Le Pen will not claim the presidency as feared. In Germany the right-wingers are disintegrating even before they entered any political system after a disastrous party convention last weekend…

I.e. the perspective here is totally different, and therefore going on a generic march for ‘science’ (which science, whose science, under what political imperatives, and yes funded by whom for what?) just did not seem to make sense to me at this point. The US is an important country and a faltering political system there affects us globally, but the US is not the world.

So yes, let’s continue this debate that Latour started with his Politics of Nature - how to bring the sciences into democracy? That is the crucial debate right now in the unfolding climate change  / demographic disaster. Let’s march for the politicisation of science!

bests,
Eric


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