Interconnectedness

Is science “naked”?

Laura Nader likes to write about metaphors and science, and asserts in her book that science is naked.

In our Western view, we think about science as stripped of values and context, standing aloft and apart from obstacles that impair our epistemological lenses. Thus, science is “naked.” For more about the book see http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415914659/

Nader’s book, Naked Science, features works by scholars who metaphorically clothe the emperor, showing how science is infused with values and often steeped in political interests. Magic and religion are interwoven with science, which is clearly illustrated in indigenous perspectives but often hidden in descriptions of Western views of science.

For example, one contributor in the book traces how the lion’s share of federal funding for science is directed toward defense, thus encouraging research directed to buttress military prowess. He notes that “there is a good deal of incest in science advising” and points out that those empowered to counsel our elected leaders have financial interests in such corporations as Dow Chemical, DuPont, Exxon, Merck, etc. Thus science and politics share a tightly woven interrelationship.

An excellent case study of science, religion, politics and values is illustrated in the long-term court battle over Terri Schiavo, a woman pronounced brain dead by medical scientists who was kept alive on a feeding tube until 2005. The story received international news coverage when Schiavo’s husband petitioned the courts to have her feeding tube removed, which would result in her death.

Religion and science went head-to-head in the battle over Terri’s life and soul, and then-president George W. Bush (a self-confessed Christian) signed legislation to prevent removal of the feeding tube. The court roundly criticized Bush’s actions as unconstitutional and rejected the appeal to continue life support to Schiavo, who died 15 years after suffering a stroke and being placed on life support.

The widespread coverage demonstrates that the issue resonated with a variety of publics, with opinions expressed on the myriad dimensions of life and death, spirituality and science.

While scientists were resolute in their judgment that Schiavo had no sentient brain activity—that she existed in what is called a vegetative state—others argued that removing the tube would be murder.

The case dramatically illustrates that science was used to frame arguments—not only about life and death—but about the quality of life. The courts clearly trusted scientists who made a judgment steeped in values, thus demonstrating that science is hardly naked.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in framing, Native Science, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Interconnectedness

  1. The head (logic) and the hands (action) must always meet in the heart if they are to serve the Truth.

    I’m going to read more of what you’ve written.

    Like

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