(originaly a chapter in: "Multiculturalism: A critical reader")
For a general search:
Challenges and Resources
Are the natural sciences multicultural? Could they and should they be? Such questions initially may seem ignorant, or at least odd, since it is exactly the lack of cultural fingerprints that conventionally is held responsible for the great successes of the sciences. The sciences "work," they are universally valid, it is said, because they transcend culture. They can tell us how nature really functions rather than merely how the British, Native Americans, or Chinese fear or want it to work.
There are good reasons to wonder whether one should regard this "universal science" claim as ending the matter, however. Multicultural perspectives are providing more-comprehensive and less-distorted understandings of history, literature, the arts, and the social sciences. They are beginning to reshape public consciousness as they are disseminated through television specials, new elementary and high-school history and literature textbooks, and, indeed, daily news reports of perspectives on the West (or should one say the "North"?) that conflict with the conventional beliefs that many Westerners now understand to be Eurocentric. Do the challenges raised by multicultural perspectives in other fields have no consequences for the natural sciences?
We can identify three central questions for anyone who wishes to explore this issue. First, to what extent does modern science have origins in non-European cultures? Second, have there been [End Page 301] and could there be other sciences, culturally distinctive ones, that also "work" and thus are universal in this sense? Third, in what ways is modern science culturally European or European-American? Fortunately, pursuit of these questions has been made easier by the appearance in English recently of a small but rich set of writings on such topics. These "postcolonial science studies," as I shall refer to them, are authored by scientists and engineers, a few anthropologists, and historians of science, who are of both European and Third World descent (the latter live in the Third and First Worlds).
The proceedings of two recent conferences give a sense of the increasing international interest in these topics. Science and Empires: Historical Studies about Scientific Development and European Expansion contains about one-third of the 120 papers presented at a UNESCO-sponsored conference in Paris in 1986. The conference was organized by the French government's National Center for Scientific Research, and these proceedings are published by one of the most prestigious and largest science studies publishers in the world. The Revenge of Athena: Science, Exploitation and the Third World contains twenty of the thirty-five or so papers presented at a 1986 conference in Penang, Malaysia, where Asian scientists, engineers, and science policy analysts were joined by several historians of science of European descent. The final version of the conference's policy statement, the Third World Network's Modern Science in Crisis: A Third World Response, has been published separately.1
Now is none too soon to note that the terms of this discussion are and must be controversial, for whoever gets to name natural and social realities gets to control how they will be organized. Moreover, it is not just language that is at issue, but also a "discourse" [End Page 302] --a conceptual framework with its logic linking my words in ways already familiar to readers--that is adequate to the project of this essay. 2 For example, for conventional science theorists it is controversial to use the term "science" to refer to the sciences' social institutions, technologies and applications, metaphors, language, and social meanings: they insist on restricting the term's reference to sciences' abstract cognitive core--the laws of nature--and/or the legendary scientific method, thereby excluding the other parts of sciences' practices and culture, which many contemporary science theorists insist are also fundamental constituents of the sciences.3
Moreover, the terms of multicultural discourse are and must be controversial. Do my references to "Western" replicate the dualistic, orientalist thinking that has been so widely criticized? Is it not precisely from the borderlands between "Western" and "non-Western" that this paper and the thought of its cited authors arise? 4 How "Western" is Western science anyway (a topic to be pursued below)? And which of the diverse peoples currently living in Europe and North America get to count as Western? Is Japan "non-Western" and "Third World"? Additionally, Third World cultures are immensely diverse, and they are internally heterogeneous by class, gender, ethnicity, religion, politics, and other features. Does ignoring or marginalizing these differences not disseminate characteristic Eurocentric tendencies to homogenize, and to refuse to think carefully about, peoples that Westerners have constructed as their Others? Furthermore, does "neocolonial" not designate better than "postcolonial" the present relations between the West and its former colonies? And are African and Indigenous Americans appropriately thought of as "colonized"? What are the politics of continuing to refer to the First and Third Worlds, when this contrast is the product of the Eurocentric Cold War? Finally, should the knowledge traditions of non-Western cultures be referred to as "sciences" rather than only as "ethnosciences" (a topic I take up below)?
We cannot easily settle such questions. In some cases, it is the familiar languages that are at issue in the questions raised in this [End Page 303]essay. In other cases, less-controversial terms have not yet been found or have not yet reached general circulation. Moreover, changing language sometimes advances the growth of knowledge--but in other cases it simply substitutes an acceptable veneer under which ignorance and exploitative politics can continue to flourish. Discourses, conceptual schemes, paradigms, and epistemes are at issue, not just words. I hope readers can penetrate beyond these inadequate languages to the issues that can help us develop less-problematic thinking, speech, and actions. I shall primarily use the terms that the postcolonial authors use, though their own usages are diverse and sometimes conflicting.
One term worth clarifying, however, is "Eurocentrism." Here I refer to a cluster of assumptions, central among which are that peoples of European descent, their institutions, practices, and conceptual schemes, express the unique heights of human development, and that Europeans and their civilization are fundamentally self-generated, owing little or nothing to the institutions, practices, conceptual schemes, or peoples of other parts of the world. 5 If Western sciences and science studies turn out to be Eurocentric, we are likely to discover possibilities of multiculturalism in the natural sciences that have been hidden from view.
One last issue: Who is the "we" of this paper? In relation to its topics, I am positioned as a woman of European descent, and economically privileged. But the "we" I invoke is meant to include all people--regardless of their ethnicity, "race," nationality, class, gender, or other significant features of their location in local and global social relations--who are concerned to rethink critically those social relations past and present and the role of the sciences in them, and who wish to bring about more-effective links between scientific projects and those of advancing democratic social relations.
The universal science view--that modern sciences are uniquely successful exactly because they have eliminated cultural fingerprints from their results of research--incorporates some assumptions that are probably false, or that at least have not been supported by evidence. For example, it assumes that no other sciences could generate the laws of gravity, or antibiotics; that modern science does not also "work" for producing human and natural disasters; that what has worked best to advance the West will and should work best to advance other societies; that modern sciences are the best ones for discovering all of the laws of nature; and that [End Page 304] the kinds of projects for which modern sciences have worked best in the past are the ones at which any possible sciences--past, present, and future--should want to succeed. 6 Yet in spite of these problematic assumptions, the conventional view contains important insights. Such insights are more reasonably explained, however, in ways that give up these problematic assumptions and locate modern sciences on the more accurate historical and geographical maps produced by the postcolonial accounts. 7
Let us turn to the three questions that will help to determine the degree to which science may be multicultural.
Question 1: Does Modern Science Have non-Western Origins?
The least controversial response is to acknowledge that modern sciences have borrowed from other cultures. Most people are aware of at least a couple of such examples. However, the borrowings have been far more extensive and important than the conventional histories reveal. Modern sciences have been enriched by contributions not only from the so-called complex cultures of China, India, and other east Asian and Islamic societies, but also from the so-called simpler ones of Africa, the pre-Columbian Americas, and others that interacted with the expansion of European cultures.
To list just a few examples: Egyptian mystical philosophies and premodern European alchemical traditions were far more useful to the development of sciences in Europe than is suggested by the conventional view that these are only irrational and marginally valuable elements of immature Western sciences. 8 The Greek legacy of scientific and mathematical thought was not only fortuitously [End Page 305] preserved but also developed in Islamic culture, to be claimed by the sciences of the European Renaissance. 9 Furthermore, the identification of Greek culture as European is questionable on several counts. For one thing, the idea of Europe and the social relations that such an idea made possible only came into existence centuries later: some would date the emergence of "Europe" to Charlemagne's achievements; others, to fifteenth-century events. Another point here is that through the spread of Islam, diverse cultures of Africa and Asia can also claim Greek culture as their legacy. 10
Some knowledge traditions that were appropriated and fully integrated into modern sciences are not acknowledged at all. Thus the principles of pre-Columbian agriculture, which provided potatoes for almost every European ecological niche and thereby had a powerful effect on the nutrition and subsequent history of Europe, were subsumed into European science. 11 Mathematical achievements from India and Arabic cultures provide other examples. The magnetic needle, the rudder, gunpowder, and many other technologies useful to Europeans and the advance of their sciences (were these not part of scientific instrumentation?) were borrowed from China. Knowledge of local geographies, geologies, animals, plants, classification schemes, medicines, pharmacologies, agriculture, navigational techniques, and local cultures that formed significant parts of European sciences' picture of nature were provided in part by the knowledge traditions of non-Europeans. ("We took on board a native of the region, and dropped him off six weeks further up the coast," reputedly report voyagers' accounts.) Summarizing the consequences for modern sciences of British imperialism in India, one recent account points out that in effect "India was added as a laboratory to the edifice of modern science." 12 We could [End Page 306] say the same for all of the lands to which the "voyages of discovery" and later colonization projects took the Europeans. 13
Thus modern science already is multicultural, at least in the sense that elements of the knowledge traditions of many different non-European cultures have been incorporated into it. There is nothing unusual about such scientific borrowing: it is evident in the ordinary, everyday borrowing that occurs when scientists revive models, metaphors, procedures, technologies, or other ideas from older European scientific traditions, or when they borrow such elements from the culture outside their laboratories and field stations, or from other contemporary sciences. 14 After all, a major point of professional conferences and international exchange programs, not to mention "keeping up with the literature," is to permit everyone to borrow everyone else's achievements. As we shall shortly see, without such possibilities, sciences wither and lose their creativity. What is at issue here is only the Eurocentric failure to acknowledge the origins and importance to "real science" of these borrowings from non-European cultures, thereby trivializing the achievements of other scientific traditions.
To give up this piece of Eurocentrism does not challenge the obvious accomplishments of modern sciences. Every thinking person should be able to accept the claim that modern science is multicultural in this sense. Of course, it is one thing to accept a claim that conflicts with one's own, and quite another to use it to transform one's own thinking. To do the latter would require historians of science and the rest of us to locate our accounts on a global civilizational map, rather than only on the Eurocentric map of Europe that we all learned.
There are implications here also for philosophies and social studies of science. For example, the standard contrast of the objectivity, rationality, and progressiveness of modern scientific thought vs. the only-locally-valid, irrational, and backward or primitive thought of other cultures begins to seem less explanatorily useful and, indeed, less accurate after the postcolonial accounts. Whether overtly stated or only discreetly assumed, such contrasts damage our ability not only to appreciate the strengths of other scientific traditions, [End Page 307] but also to grasp what are the real strengths and limitations of modern sciences.
These accounts of multicultural origins do not directly challenge the conventional belief that modern sciences uniquely deserve to be designated sciences, however, or that they are universally valid because their cognitive/technical core transcends culture. Other arguments in the postcolonial accounts do.
Question 2: Have There Been or Could There Be Other, Culturally Distinctive Sciences That "Work"?
Do any other knowledge traditions deserve to be called sciences? The conventional view is that only modern sciences are entitled to this designation. In such an account, science is treated as a cultural emergent in early modern Europe. While a shift in social conditions may have made it possible in the first place, what emerged was a form of knowledge-seeking that is fundamentally self-generating; its "internal logic" is responsible for its great successes. This "logic of scientific research" has been characterized in various ways --as inductivism, crucial experiments, the hypothetico-deductive method, or a cycle of normal science-revolution-normal science. Whatever the logic attributed to scientific research, it is conceptualized as "inside" science, and not "outside" it "in society." Though Chinese or African astronomers may have made discoveries before Europeans, this is not sufficient to indicate that the former were really doing what is reasonably regarded as "science." 15 Thus while science is said to need a supportive social climate in order to flourish, the particular form of that climate is claimed to leave no distinctive cultural fingerprints on science's results of research.
Is this a reasonable position? Is the content of the successes of modern sciences due entirely to the sciences' "internal" features? For one thing, not all of the successes attributed to Western science are unique to it. In many cases, "what has been ascribed to the European tradition has been shown on closer examination to have been done elsewhere by others earlier. (Thus Harvey was not the [End Page 308] first to discover the circulation of blood, but an Arabic scientist was; Paracelsus did not introduce the fourth element 'salt' and start the march towards modern chemistry, but a twelfth-century alchemist from Kerala did so teaching in Saudi Arabia.)" 16 Many other cultures made sophisticated astronomical observations repeated only centuries later in Europe. For example, many of the observations that Galileo's telescope made possible were known to the Dogon peoples of West Africa more than 1500 years earlier: either they had invented some sort of telescope, or they had extraordinary eyesight. 17 Many mathematical achievements of Indians and other Asian peoples were adopted or invented in Europe much later. Indeed, it is as revealing to examine the ideas that European sciences did not borrow from the knowledge traditions they encountered as it is to examine what they did borrow. Among the notions "unborrowed" are the ability to deal with very large numbers (such as 1053), the zero as a separate number with its own arithmetical logic, and irrational and negative numbers. 18
Joseph Needham points out that "between the first century B.C. and fifteenth century A.D. Chinese civilization was much more efficient than the occidental in applying human natural knowledge to practical human needs. . . . in many ways this was much more congruent with modern science than was the world outlook of Christendom." 19 Thus other knowledge traditions "worked" at projects that Western sciences could accomplish only much later. If the achievements of modern science should be attributed to its "internal logic," then evidently this logic is not unique to it.
This brings us to a second point: Nobody has discovered an eleventh commandment handed down from the heavens specifying what may and may not be counted as a science. Obviously the project of drawing a line between science and nonscience is undertaken because it emphasizes a contrast thought to be important. Belief in the reality of this demarcation, as in the reality of the science vs. pseudo-science duality, is necessary in order to preserve the mystique of the uniqueness and purity of the West's knowledge-seeking. Thus the sciences, as well as the philosophies that are [End Page 309] focused on describing and explaining the kind of rationality so highly valued in the modern West, have been partners with anthropology in maintaining a whole series of Eurocentric contrasts--whether or not individual scientists, philosophers, or anthropologists so intended. The self-image of the West depends on contrasts, not only between the rational and irrational, but also between civilization and the savage or primitive, the advanced or progressive and the backward, dynamic and static societies, developed and undeveloped, the historical and the natural, the rational and the irrational. Through these and other contrasts the European Self has constructed its Other, and has thereby justified its exploitative treatment of various peoples. 20 My point here is that even though there clearly are obvious and large differences between modern sciences and the traditions of seeking systematic knowledge of the natural world to be found in other cultures, it is useful to think of them all as sciences in order to gain a more objective understanding of the causes of Western successes, the achievements of other sciences, and possible directions for future local and global sciences. 21
One cannot avoid noticing, moreover, that European scholars disagree on exactly which distinctive features are responsible for the success of European sciences. It is instructive to look at four accounts of Western scientific uniqueness made by distinguished and otherwise progressive Western analysts--ones whose work has in important ways challenged conventional Eurocentric assumptions. Anthropologist Robin Horton, who has shown how African traditional thought is surprisingly similar to Western scientific thought, attributes the residual crucial differences to the fact that modern scientific thought takes a critical stance toward tradition and is aided in this project by its rejection of magical relations between language and the world; it holds that we can manipulate language without thereby changing the world. 22 However, as philosopher J. E. Wiredu points out, Horton undervalues the extent to which noncritical and dogmatic assumptions prevail in modern Western [End Page 310] scientific thought. After all, "classical" British empiricism is "traditional thought" for Western scientific communities and those who value scientific rationality: the once-radical claims of Locke and Hume have become uncontroversial assumptions for us--and yet an anthropologist from another culture might refer to them as our "folk beliefs." So how accurate is it to claim that a critical approach to tradition is responsible for the successes of modern sciences? Moreover, if science is modern in its rejection of magical relations between language and the world, scientists surely are not, Wiredu continues, since many also hold religious beliefs that invest in just such magical relations. 23 Many commentators have noted the sacred--dare one say "magical"--faith in the accuracy and progressiveness of modern science that is characteristic of many scientists and of the "educated classes" more generally.
Historian Thomas Kuhn would agree with Wiredu's assessment that Western sciences are in significant respects uncritical of conventional assumptions; indeed, he argues that they are dogmatic in rejecting a thoroughgoing critical attitude. However, he has explained that this scientific dogmatism is not an obstacle to scientific progress but, instead, a crucial element in its success. A field becomes a science only when it no longer questions a founding set of assumptions within which it can then get on with the business of designing research projects to resolve the puzzles that such assumptions have brought into focus. He attributes the unique successes of modern sciences to the distinctive (progressive?) organization of Western scientific communities: "only the civilizations that descended from Hellenic Greece have possessed more than the most rudimentary science. The bulk of scientific knowledge is a product of Europe in the last four centuries. No other place and time has supported the very special communities from which scientific productivity comes." 24 Though one might think that a social community is not "internal" to the logic of science, Kuhn insists that in an important sense it is; the "very special" scientific communities are ones trained to follow modern science's success-producing internal logic of paradigm creation, puzzle solving with anomaly tolerance, paradigm breakdown, and then, eventually, another paradigm shift. Kuhn directed attention to the importance of the distinctive social organization of modern scientific communities. However, [End Page 311] one can also see that his problematic here, his concern to identify a different, distinctive cause of modern science's successes, is inseparable in his thought from the widespread Eurocentric assumptions he articulates about the origins and virtues of European civilization.
Historian Joseph Needham--who does refer to Chinese knowledge traditions as sciences when comparing them to those of the modern West, and who would contest Kuhn's characterization of non-European sciences as primitive and the West's as uniquely descended from the Greek--proposes yet another kind of cause of the success of modern European sciences:
When we say that modern science developed only in Western Europe at the time of Galileo in the late Renaissance, we mean surely that there and then alone there developed the fundamental bases of the structure of the natural sciences as we have them today, namely the application of mathematical hypotheses to Nature, the full understanding and use of the experimental method, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, the geometrisation of space, and the acceptance of the mechanical model of reality. Hypotheses of primitive or medieval type distinguish themselves quite clearly from those of modern type. 25
For Needham, success came, not from the attitudes on which Horton focuses, nor from the organization of scientific communities that appears so important to Kuhn, but from a specific set of assumptions about the nature of reality and appropriate methods of research.
Finally, sociologist Edgar Zilsel, asking why modern science developed only in Renaissance Europe rather than in China or some other "high culture," claims it was the emergence of a new social class that, in contrast to the classes of aristocratic or slave societies, was permitted to combine a trained intellect with willingness to do manual labor, that allowed the invention of experimental method. Only in early modern Europe, where there was an absence of slavery and where aristocracy was being challenged, was there a progressive culture, he implies, that gave individuals reasons to want to obtain both intellectual and manual training. 26
No doubt one could find additional features of the cultures and practices of modern sciences to which other historians would attribute their successes. These different purported causes are probably not entirely independent of each other, and each would win its [End Page 312]supporters. However, my point is only that there is no general agreement, even among the most distinguished and progressive Western science theorists, about the distinctive causes of modern science, and that the search for such an explanation and the kinds of accounts on which such scholars settle usually remain tied to Eurocentric dualisms.
A third source of skepticism about conventional claims for the unique efficacy of Western sciences arises from an often-repeated argument in the postcolonial accounts: European sciences advanced because they focused on describing and explaining those aspects of nature's regularities that permitted the upper classes of Europeans to multiply and thrive, especially through the prospering of their military, imperial, and otherwise expansionist projects. Interestingly, evidence for this claim can now easily be gathered from many of the museum exhibits and scholarly publications associated with the 1992 quincentennial of the Columbian encounter, which drew attention, intentionally or not, to the numerous ways European expansion in the Americas advanced European sciences. A detailed account of how British colonialism in India advanced European sciences is provided by R. K. Kochhar. The British needed better navigation, so they built observatories, funded astronomers, and kept systematic records of their voyages. The first European sciences to be established in India were, not surprisingly, geography and botany. 27 Nor is the intimate relation between scientific advance in the West and expansionist efforts a matter only of the distant past (or only of expansion into foreign lands, as noted earlier): by the end of World War II, the development of U.S. physics had been virtually entirely handed over to the direction of U.S. militarism and nationalism, as historian Paul Forman has shown in detail. 28
Thus European expansionism has changed the "topography" of global scientific knowledge, causing the advance of European sciences and the decline or underdevelopment of scientific traditions of other cultures: "The topography of the world of knowledge before [End Page 313] the last few centuries could be delineated as several hills of knowledge roughly corresponding to the regional civilizations of, say, West Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Europe. The last few centuries have seen the levelling of the other hills and from their debris the erection of a single one with its base in Europe." 29
These arguments begin to challenge the idea that the causes of modern science's achievements are to be located entirely in their purported inherently transcultural character. It turns out that what makes them "work" (and appear uniquely to do so) is at least partly their focus on kinds of projects that European expansion could both advance and benefit from while simultaneously clearing the field of potentially rival scientific traditions. This is not to deny that Western sciences can claim many great and, so far, unique scientific achievements. Instead, it is to argue, contrary to conventional views, that scientific "truths," no less than false beliefs, are caused by social relations as well as by nature's regularities and the operations of reason. 30
But could there be other, culturally distinctive sciences that also "work"? The postcolonial accounts have shown how rich and sophisticated were the scientific traditions of Asia, Islam, and "simpler" societies of the past. But what about the future? We return to this issue shortly.
Question 3: Is Modern Science Culturally "Western"? 31
The very accounts that have been describing the histories of other scientific traditions also show the distinctive cultural features of modern sciences. These features are, for better and worse, precisely those that are responsible for their successes, as the discussions above began to reveal. That is, the distinctive social/political history of the development of modern sciences is not external to their content: it appears in the image of nature's regularities and the underlying causal tendencies that they produce, in the very "laws of nature" that form their cognitive/technical core. Here I can identify only five of the distinctively "Western" features persistently noted in the postcolonial literature. [End Page 314]
First, as indicated above, the particular aspects of nature that modern sciences describe and explain, and the ways in which they are described and explained, have been selected in part by the conscious purposes and unconscious interests of European expansion. Of course these are not the only factors shaping these sciences--androcentric, religious, local bourgeois, and other purposes and interests have also had powerful effects, as many recent accounts have shown--but they are significant. The "problems" that have gotten to count as scientific are those for which expansionist Europe needed solutions; the aspects of nature about which the beneficiaries of expansionism have not needed or wanted to know have remained uncharted. Thus culturally distinctive patterns of both systematic knowledge and systematic ignorance in modern sciences' picture of nature's regularities and their underlying causal tendencies can be detected from the perspective of cultures with different preoccupations. For example, modern sciences answered questions about how to improve European land and sea travel, to mine ores, to identify the economically useful minerals, plants, and animals of other parts of the world, to manufacture and farm for the benefit of Europeans living in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and India, to improve their health (and occasionally that of the workers who produced profit for them), to protect settlers in the colonies from settlers of other nationalities, to gain access to the labor of the indigenous residents, and to do all this to benefit only local European citizens--the Spanish vs. the Portuguese, French, or British. These sciences have not been concerned to explain how the consequences of interventions in nature for the benefit of Europeans of the advantaged gender, classes, and ethnicities would change the natural resources available to the majority of the world's peoples, or what the economic, social, political, and ecological costs to less-advantaged groups in and outside Europe would be of the interventions in nature and social relations that science's experimental methods "foresaw" and to which it directed policy-makers. Sciences with other purposes--explaining how to shift from unrenewable to renewable natural resources, to maintain a healthy but less environmentally destructive standard of living in the overdeveloped societies, to clean up toxic wastes, to benefit women in every culture, and so on--could generate other, perhaps sometimes conflicting, descriptions and explanations of nature's regularities and underlying causal tendencies.
Second, early modern sciences' conception of nature is distinctively Western, or at least alien to many other cultures. For the resident of medieval Europe, nature was enchanted; the "disenchantment [End Page 315] of nature" was a crucial element in the shift from the medieval to the modern mentality, from feudalism to capitalism, from Ptolemaic to Galilean astronomy, and from Aristotelian to Newtonian physics. 32 Modern science related to a worldly power in nature, not to power that lay outside the material universe. To gain power over nature would, for modern man, violate no moral or religious principles.
Moreover, the Western conception of laws of nature drew on both Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and the increasing familiarity in early modern Europe with centralized royal authority, with royal absolutism. Needham points out that this Western idea that the universe was a "great empire, ruled by a divine Logos" 33 was never comprehensible at any time in the long history of Chinese science because a common thread in the diverse Chinese traditions was that nature was self-governed, a web of relationships without a weaver, with which humans interfered at their own peril: "Universal harmony comes about not by the celestial fiat of some King of Kings, but by the spontaneous co-operation of all beings in the universe brought about by their following the internal necessities of their own natures. . . . [A]ll entities at all levels behave in accordance with their position in the greater patterns (organisms) of which they are parts." 34 Compared to Renaissance science, the Chinese conception of nature was problematic, blocking their interest in discovering "precisely formulated abstract laws ordained from the beginning by a celestial lawgiver for non-human nature": "There was no confidence that the code of Nature's laws could be unveiled and read, because there was no assurance that a divine being, even more rational than ourselves, had ever formulated such a code capable of being read." 35
Of course, such notions of "command and duty in the 'Laws' of Nature" have disappeared from modern science, replaced by the notion of statistical regularities that describe rather than prescribe nature's order--in a sense, a return, Needham comments, to the Taoist perspective. And yet other residues of the earlier conception remain. Evelyn Fox Keller has pointed to the positive political implications [End Page 316] of conceptualizing nature simply as ordered rather than as law-governed. 36 My point here is only that Western conceptions of nature have been intimately linked to historically shifting Western religious and political ideals.
Third, the European, Christian conception of the laws of nature was just one kind of regional resource used to develop European sciences--elements of medieval scientific and classical Greek thought, and other religious, national, class, and gender metaphors, models, and assumptions also were available. The adoption of these cultural resources is familiar from the writings of conventional historians of Western sciences. In the context of the postcolonial literatures, these now appear as distinctively European cultural elements, ones that make modern sciences foreign to peoples in many other cultures.
Another kind of regional resource available only "in Europe" was created through the intermingling and integration of non-European elements with each other and with resources already available in Europe to make more useful elements for modern science. That is, the non-European elements indicated above were not only borrowed, but also frequently transformed through processes possible only for a culture at the center of global exchanges. Thus the map and route of European expansion could be traced in the expansion of the content of European sciences. Prior to European expansion, African, Asian, and indigenous American cultures had long traded scientific and technological ideas among themselves as they exchanged other products, but this possibility was reduced or eliminated for them and transferred to Europe during the "voyages of discovery." 37
Fourth, the way peoples of European descent both distribute and account for the consequences of modern sciences appears distinctively Western: the benefits are distributed disproportionately to already-overadvantaged groups in Europe and elsewhere, and the [End Page 317] costs disproportionately to everyone else. Whether one looks at sciences intended to improve the military, or agriculture, or manufacturing, or health, or even the environment, the expanded opportunities that they make possible have been distributed predominantly to small minorities of already privileged people primarily (but not entirely) of European descent, and the costs to the already poorest, racial and ethnic minorities and women located at the periphery of local and global economic and political networks. 38
The causes of this distribution are not mysterious or unforeseen. For one thing, it is not "man" whom sciences enable to make better use of nature's resources, but only those already positioned in social hierarchies. As Khor Kok Peng puts the point, the latter already own and control both nature, in the form of land with its forests, water, plants, animals, and minerals, and the tools to extract and process such resources. These people are the ones who are in a position to decide "what to produce, how to produce it, what resources to use up to produce, and what technology to use":
We thus have this spectacle, on the one hand, of the powerful development of technological capacity, so that the basic and human needs of every human being could be met if there were an appropriate arrangement of social and production systems; and, on the other hand, of more than half the world's population (and something like two-thirds the Third World's people) living in conditions where their basic and human needs are not met. 39
Not only are the benefits and costs of modern science distributed in ways that disproportionately benefit elites in the West and elsewhere, but science's accounting practices are distorted to make this distribution invisible to those who gain the benefits. All consequences of sciences and technologies that are not planned or intended are externalized as "not science." 40 The critics argue that such an "internalization of profits and externalization of costs is the normal consequence when nature is treated as if its individual components were isolated and unrelated." 41 [End Page 318]
Fifth, and finally, even if modern sciences bore none of the above cultural fingerprints, their value-neutrality would itself mark them as culturally distinctive. Of course, this is a contradiction ("If it's value-free, then it's not value-free"), or at least highly paradoxical. The point is that maximizing cultural neutrality, not to mention claiming it, is itself a culturally specific value; both the reality and the claim are at issue here. Most cultures do not value neutrality, so one that does is easily identifiable. Moreover, the claim to neutrality is itself characteristic of the administrators of modern, Western cultures organized by principles of scientific rationality. 42 Surprisingly, it turns out that abstractness and formality express distinctive cultural features, not the absence of any culture at all. Thus when modern science is introduced into many other societies, it is experienced as a rude and brutal cultural intrusion precisely because of this feature, too. Modern sciences' "neutrality" devalues not only local scientific traditions, but also the culturally defining values and interests that make a tradition Confucian rather than Protestant or Islamic. Claims for modern sciences' universality and objectivity are "a politics of disvaluing local concerns and knowledge and legitimating 'outside experts.'" 43
Interesting issues emerge from the discovery of the cultural specificity of modern sciences. For example, the conventional understanding of the universality of modern science is contested in two ways. First, these accounts argue that universality is established as an empirical consequence of European expansion, not as an epistemological cause of valid claims, to be located "inside science"--for example, in its method. As one author puts it, "The epistemological claim of the 'universality of science' . . . covers what is an empirical fact, the material and intellectual construction of this 'universal science' and its 'international character.' The 'universality of science' does not appear to be the cause but the effect of a process that we cannot explain or understand merely by concentrating our attention on epistemological claims." 44
Second, a wedge has been driven between the universality of a science and its cultural neutrality. While the laws of nature "discovered" [End Page 319] by modern sciences that explain, for instance, how gravity and antibiotics work, will have their effects on us regardless of our cultural location, they are not the only possible such universal laws of nature; there could be many universally valid but culturally distinctive sciences.
[I]f we were to picture physical reality as a large blackboard, and the branches and shoots of the knowledge tree as markings in white chalk on this blackboard, it becomes clear that the yet unmarked and unexplored parts occupy a considerably greater space than that covered by the chalk tracks. The socially structured knowledge tree has thus explored only certain partial aspects of physical reality, explorations that correspond to the particular historical unfoldings of the civilization within which the knowledge tree emerged.Thus entirely different knowledge systems corresponding to different historical unfoldings in different civilizational settings become possible. This raises the possibility that in different historical situations and contexts sciences very different from the European tradition could emerge. Thus an entirely new set of "universal" but socially determined natural science laws are possible. 45
These accounts thus provide additional evidence for the claim that fully modern sciences could be constructed within other cultures--the argument I left incomplete in the last section. Significant cultural features of modern sciences have not blocked their development as fully modern, according to the postcolonial accounts; indeed, they are responsible for just these successes. 46 Moreover, one can now ask, which of the original cultural purposes of modern science that continue today to shape its conceptual framework are still desirable? Should we want to continue to develop sciences that, intentionally or not, succeed by extinguishing or obscuring all other scientific traditions, directing limitless consumption of scarce and unrenewable resources, distributing their benefits internally and their costs externally, and so forth? Furthermore, these [End Page 320] arguments show that if culture shapes science, then changes in local and global cultures can shape different sciences "here" as well as "there."
Future Sciences: Opportunities and Uncertainties
We live in one world, and the scientific choices made by each culture have effects on others. Class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and other social forces produce different and conflicting approaches to science and technology issues in the metropolitan centers, as they do in the cultures at the local and global peripheries. It would be a mistake to suggest that all of the difficulties faced by Third World cultures at this moment in history are the doing of the West or its sciences; that is not the message of the postcolonial accounts, or of this essay. These cultures, too, have historical and philosophic legacies of indigenous forms of inequality and exploitation, have followed policies that turned out not to be wise, and have suffered from natural and social processes that they could not escape. The point, instead, is that the balance sheet for both modern sciences and those of other knowledge traditions looks different from the perspective of the lives of the majority of the world's peoples than it does from that of the lives of advantaged groups in the West and elsewhere, and there are good reasons to think that in some respects the perspective of the elites is not less objective. 47 We should also recollect that sciences of European or other civilizational histories have different effects on the lives of women and men, and of peoples in different classes and ethnicities. 48 This important issue cannot be pursued further here, but it has to be kept in mind when thinking about the very general options that I now turn to review. [End Page 321]
Projects Starting in the Third World
One's location in local and global social relations gives urgency to partially different projects, and also gives one access to different resources. In the balance of this essay I wish to consider some of these different priorities and resources, although, of course, those who value the advancing of democracy and, especially, the bringing of modern sciences under more democratic social controls will share a great deal. One's social location both enables and limits what one can see and do. Here I wish to focus on the resources of certain kinds of social locations. (As stressed earlier, both the "Third World" and the "West" are socially diverse.) Of course, no one would deny that there are aspects of modern sciences, their cultures and practices, that can and should be used to benefit all peoples living in every society. What is at issue here is not that claim, but a host of others having to do with who will decide which aspects these are, how they should be used in different cultures, and how the benefits and costs of their production and use are to be distributed.
To begin with, we must note that for the small middle-classes in most Third World societies, modern sciences represent desirable resources for the ways that these groups participate in industry, agriculture, medicine, and the state organization of social life, and for the higher status and increased power that are awarded there as well as here to most things of European origin. Moreover, it is modern scientific practices that are demanded as a condition of economic aid by such international organizations as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Thus, many people of Third World descent whose voices reach Western ears are no more critical of modern sciences than are many Westerners. However, great social changes often have been stimulated by the far-sighted projects of a few visionaries. (Think, for example, of the effects of the work of people recently regarded as "kooks" such as Rachel Carson, critics of "passive smoking," and vitamin advocates.) Many features of the postcolonial critical analyses express perspectives that appear in virtually every Third World culture, and that are rapidly gathering support in the West. What is needed is more extensive respectful public discussion of the issues raised in and by these writings.
What are the alternatives envisioned in Third World postcolonial science analyses to the continued suppression of indigenous scientific goals, practices, and culture by Western ones? One proposal is to integrate endangered Third World sciences into modern sciences. The continued expansion of European social relations and their modernization pressures are rapidly causing the extinction of [End Page 322] many non-Western cultures, thus possibly losing for humanity the unique and valuable kinds of knowledge that they have achieved:
just as forest peoples possess much knowledge of plants and animals that is valid and useful, regional civilizations possess stores of elaborate knowledge on a wide variety of topics. These stores, the results of millennia of human enquiry, were lost from view because of the consequences of the European "discovery." But now it appears they will be increasingly opened up, foraged for valid uses and what is worthy opportunistically used. The operative word should be "opportunistically," to guard against a mere romantic and reactionary return to assumed past golden ages of these civilizations. 49
Just as modernization pressures are reducing the diversity of plant, animal, and even human genetic pools, so, too, they are reducing the diversity of cultures and the valuable human ideas developed in them. These scientific legacies are interesting and valuable to preserve for their own sake--but they also can make even greater contributions to modern sciences.
This proposal raises many questions. If this were the only strategy for using other scientific legacies, would it not be a self-fulfilling one, offering no resistance to the eventual extinction of all "free-standing" non-Western scientific traditions? Is it presumed that only those non-Western elements thatcould be incorporated without dissonance into modern sciences would be, and that other kinds of valuable knowledge would be abandoned because they conflicted with modern scientific paradigms, thus leaving one global science that is distinctively the product of the European civilizational tradition? Is it inevitable that modern science/culture end up the global one? How should Westerners feel about extracting for the benefit of their cultural legacy the resources that become available from cultures that are dying as a consequence of the policies of overadvantaged groups? (But how much should it matter what Westerners feel about such things?)
A second proposal is to integrate in the other direction--thus, indigenous scientific traditions around the world would be strengthened through adopting those parts of modern sciences that could be integrated into them. This kind of process has already [End Page 323] occurred in many places. For example, one report describes how modern sciences were integrated into local knowledge systems in China. 50 Indian anthropologist Ashis Nandy argues for a comprehensive program of this sort. He points out that India
is truly bicultural. It has had six hundred years of exposure to the west and at least two hundred years of experience in incorporating and internalizing not merely the west but specifically western systems of knowledge. It need not necessarily exercise the option that it has of defensively rejecting modern science in toto and falling back upon the purity of its traditional systems of knowledge. It can, instead, choose the option of creatively assessing the modern system of knowledge, and then integrating important segments of it within the frame of its traditional visions of knowledge. In other words, the Indic civilization today, because it straddles two cultures, has the capacity to reverse the usual one-way procedure of enriching modern science by integrating within it significant elements from all other sciences--premodern, non-modern and postmodern--as a further proof of the universality and syncretism of modern science. 51
In this scenario, there would be many culturally distinctive scientific traditions that shared some common elements with modern Western sciences. Here there could again be "many hills" of scientific knowledge. Both forms of multiculturalism would be advanced: culturally diverse sciences around the globe, and diverse cultural origins within each local science. Is this proposal possible? Few of the marginalized cultures are strong enough to resist the continued expansion of Western-originated modernization, but some may be able to do so. And Western societies are not static; they may find their own reasons to want a more democratic balance of their own and other cultures' projects.
A third proposal argues that Third World scientific projects should be "delinked" from Western ones. 52 This is thought to be necessary if Third World societies are to construct fully modern sciences within their indigenous scientific traditions. Otherwise, capitalism inevitably succeeds in turning Third World cultures into markets that can increase profits for elites in the West (just as it continually extends into more and more aspects of daily life in the West). The Third World Network puts the issue this way:
Only when science and technology evolve from the ethos and cultural milieu of Third World societies will it become meaningful for our needs and requirements, [End Page 324] and express our true creativity and genius. Third World science and technology can only evolve through a reliance on indigenous categories, idioms and traditions in all spheres of thought and action. A major plank of any such strategy should be the delinking of the Third World from the secular dynamic which institutionalizes the hegemony of the west. 53
This strategy makes sense when one recognizes that there are many more "universal laws of nature" that such delinked sciences could discover if they were permitted to develop out of civilizational settings different from those that have been directed by European projects. Such a delinking program could make a world of different, but interrelated, culturally diverse sciences.
How delinked can the cultures that make up our shrinking world become? Like the earlier proposals, this one, too, raises knotty issues. However, even if a complete social, political, and economic delinking proves impossible, does not attempting to delink as much as possible--even just daring to think about it!--enable more creative strategizing? Let us begin to try to imagine what scientific culture and practices in the West would/should look like if the Third World no longer provided so much of the raw materials, "laboratories," or markets (voluntary or involuntary) for modern sciences and the kinds of "development" they have advanced.
A fourth proposal goes even further in revaluing non-Western scientific traditions: it argues that Third World sciences and their cultures can provide useful models for global sciences of the future. Many elements of the distinctively modern scientific ethic are unsuitable, not only for disadvantaged peoples in the Third World and elsewhere, but also for any future human or nonhuman cultures at all. For example, modern sciences' commitments to a utilitarian approach to nature, to externalizing the costs and internalizing the benefits of scientific advances, and to an ethic of increasing consumption ("development") are not ones that can support future life on earth: "[M]odern science has become the major source of active violence against human beings and all other living organisms in our times. Third World and other citizens have come to know that there is a fundamental irreconcilability between modern science and the stability and maintenance of all living systems, between modern science and democracy." 54
Thus non-Western scientific traditions that do not share such problematic commitments can provide models for the kinds of [End Page 325] global sciences that our species must have, in order for it and the rest of nature to survive. As two biologists put the point, Western sciences should realistically be assessed as a transitional stage in scientific development. 55 The point here is not that non-Western cultures and their scientific traditions are all good and Western ones all bad, but that all of us can learn and benefit from the achievements of non-European civilizations' traditions also.
For example, some Third World societies have learned to negotiate with a powerful West. The forms of multiculturalism that they have chosen and/or been forced to adopt give them valuable knowledge about how to live in a world where they, unlike Western elites, cannot afford the illusion that they are dependent on no other culture, that they can take what they wish from nature and other peoples, that they are the one model of the uniquely and admirably human, and that their ideas are uniquely and universally valid. Third World scientific traditions can offer valuable models for global sciences here, too.
In this scenario, presumably Western groups would integrate into their sciences and culture precisely those Third World cultural elements that would transform modern sciences. In contrast to the first proposal, it would be some of the elements of Third World cultures most incompatible with modern sciences that would be valued: the Third World forms of democratic, pacific, life-maintaining, and communal tendencies so at odds with the imperialistic, violent, consuming, and possessively individualistic ones that critics find in Western sciences and culture. (Obviously the former are not always well practiced in Third World cultures prior to the expansion into them of European culture, nor are they absent from First World cultures, as the postcolonial critics are perfectly aware and as they always caution.) The result would be many, culturally different sciences, each with culturally diverse origins--but central among the elements most valued in each case would be those that advance cooperation, democracy, the richness of indigenous achievements, and sustainable development.
Is this a real possibility? Will people of European descent be able to accept the idea that their democratic traditions are not the only viable ones? It is time to turn to examine what those living in the West can contribute to the development of sciences that have greater validity and are less imperial.[End Page 326]
Projects Starting in the West.
There are important and unique contributions to viable future sciences that can be made by those of us who value important features of the European tradition, but are opposed to the history of modern science's service to antidemocratic social relations. Progressives in the West do not have to retreat to stoicism when the topic of science is raised, or regard our appropriate responses to criticisms of Eurocentrism in the sciences and science studies as only defensive ones. Instead, we, too, can recognize the opportunity and challenge of critically and "opportunistically" (as the Third World thinkers put the point) retrieving and developing the best in European cultural traditions for sciences suitable for the emerging postcolonial world. Obviously, adding to our local environments--our classrooms, faculties, conferences, syllabi, footnotes, policy circles, television interviews, and the like--the voices and presence of peoples whose groups have less benefited from modern sciences will immeasurably enable the rest of us. But there are also important steps we can take beyond "add postcolonials and stir" (to borrow a phrase from feminist writings). I mention here just three contributions that appear fairly obvious (though not uncontroversial); we should make it a project to identify more of them.
First, we can relocate the projects of sciences and science studies that originate in the West on the more accurate historical map created by the new postcolonial studies, instead of on the familiar one charted by Eurocentric accounts of mainly European and U.S. history. This will require rethinking what it is that sciences and science studies should be describing and explaining and how they do so--for example, in "rational reconstructions" of scientific progress, and historical, sociological, and ethnographic accounts of sciences, their cultures and practices. In what ways have the existing projects in physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, geology, and the history, sociology, anthropology, and philosophies of the sciences been excessively contained by Eurocentric assumptions and goals? Moreover, we can disseminate these accounts outside of university circles--for example, in the new diversity-focused U.S. and global history texts currently being produced for elementary and high-school students in the U.S., in media accounts that reach the general public, and in journals, conferences, and other forms of communication that reach scientists.
Second, to this kind of new "science education" about the history of scientific traditions we can add a new education in the sciences both for schoolrooms and for public discussion in journals, newspapers, television, and other resources through which a citizenry [End Page 327] educates itself. Obviously, one important assistance in this project will be to achieve more culturally diverse science communities, including especially their directors and funders; in terms of what happens in the laboratory as well as later, "science communities" are far more extensive than only those who work in laboratories. However, other equally important transformations are necessary here. "Science criticism" that draws on the postcolonial analyses needs to be introduced into all science education programs--both inside and outside classroom contexts, in media accounts and in museum exhibits.
Existing science programs are supposed to instill in students a commitment to the most rigorous criticism of traditional assumptions, but the postcolonial accounts show that Eurocentric assumptions have blocked a crucial range of such criticisms. Scientists and humanists have usually spoken as if intellectual life should be divided up between their two kinds of projects, as if the sciences and humanities are parallel projects. 56 But they are not: the sciences are parallel to the arts, and the humanities to the social studies of science, which are not considered part of science at all. Persons well educated in the humanities are expected to have a good training in literary, art, drama and other forms of humanist criticism--in the "history, theory, and sociology" about these arts--but we do not expect them to be accomplished poets, sculptors, or playwrights. And this humanist critical education is not considered to be a lesser field than the performance of the arts. It is not an introductory project of explaining "arts for nonmajors," it is an equal and different project with its own principles and goals--one in which poets, sculptors, and playwrights can gain greater resources through exposure to the achievements and limitations of past efforts in their fields. It is a kind of parallel program for the sciences that I suggest is needed.
There are many reasonable answers to the question of why no such field of "science criticism" exists already within science departments: "the history of physics is not physics"; "the methods of history and sociology are not really scientific"; "there is not enough time in the curriculum"; "where are the faculty to teach such courses?"--and so on. (And some may reasonably object to my drawing this parallel between the arts and the sciences at all, because artists, in contrast to scientists, are not primarily trained in universities.) My point here is that these answers are not reasonable [End Page 328] enough. Failing to locate any significant critical studies of the sciences in universities, and especially in science departments, indicates to students that no one thinks these studies important for learning to do science or for making reasoned decisions about scientific issues in public life. This is unfortunate, since, as the postcolonial accounts show, philosophical, sociological, and historical assumptions form part of scientific understanding about nature. Scientists unknowingly use distorting cultural assumptions as part of the evidence for their research results if they are taught that social studies of science are irrelevant to doing science, and that they should assiduously "avoid politics" rather than learning how to identify cultural features in their scientific assumptions, and how to sort the distorting and knowledge-limiting from the knowledge-enlarging cultural values and interests.
Of course, the kinds of philosophy and social studies of science needed for this project are not widely practiced. These fields have enthusiastically adopted the goal of serving as "handmaids to the sciences," as John Locke put it, and lack the empirical and theoretical adequacy required to come to terms with postcolonial histories and critiques. Nevertheless, more accurate and critical studies of sciences in their historical context should form an important part of science education as well as of general education.
Imagine if every science department contained the same proportion of "science critics" to scientists that English departments do of literary critics to creative writers anywhere in the world. Imagine having scientists, science policy makers, and the rest of us educated in "The Role of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in the Modern European Empire--and Vice Versa"; "Chinese (Islamic, South Asian, African, Indigenous American, etc.) Sciences: Past, Present, and Future"; "The Sexual Meanings of the Scientific Revolution in the European Expansion"; "From Craft to Factory Production of Twentieth-Century Science: Benefits and Losses"; "Objectivity as Ideal and Ideology"; "The Science and Political Economy of the Human Genome Project"; "Science and Democracy: Enemies or Friends?"; and, especially, a course on the meanings and effects that our scientific projects come to have that we never intended, entitled "After the 'Death' of the Scientist." 57 Here would be a start on educations that could vastly improve the empirical and theoretical adequacy of modern sciences, as well as their politics.
Third, we can think of these and other such distinctive tasks as a progressive project for constructing fully modern sciences that creatively [End Page 329] develop key elements of the Western cultural legacy--that, one could say, modernize (or should one say "postmodernize"?) them. One striking feature noted earlier of some of the Third World analyses is that they propose what we can think of as principled ethnosciences when they contemplate constructing fully modern sciences that conscientiously and critically use their indigenous cultural legacies, rather than--as they point out--only European ones. Those of us who value features of the European tradition can similarly strengthen notions of objectivity, rationality and scientific method--notions central not only to our scientific tradition, but also to such other Western institutions as the law and public policy. 58 Paradoxically, these postcolonial analyses, which can appear to come from outside modern science, are also very much inside its historical processes, as I have been arguing throughout. They are exactly what is called for by its conventional goal of increasing the growth of knowledge through a critical examination of cultural superstitions and unwarranted assumptions.
To conclude: asking questions about the hidden but real multiculturalism of global sciences can lead to far more accurate and valuable understandings, not only of other cultures' scientific legacies, but also of rich possibilities in the legacy of European culture and practice.
This essay is simultaneously being published in Multiculturalism: A Reader, ed. David Theo Goldberg (London: Blackwell's, 1994). Support for writing it has been provided by a sabbatical leave from the University of Delaware, an appointment as Research Associate at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, and an appointment as Visiting Professor of Gender Studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. I thank especially Kate Norberg and Karen Sacks at UCLA and Marlis Buchmann at ETH. Many friends, lecture audiences, classes, and seminars over the last few years have improved my thinking on these issues, and I greatly appreciate their responses. For especially helpful comments I thank Paola Bacchetta, Karen Barad, Nancy Brickhouse, David Goldberg, Laurel Graham, Frances Hanckel, Donna Haraway, and V. Y. Mudimbe.
University of California at Los Angeles
University of Delaware
University of Delaware
Sandra Harding is Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles and at the University of Delaware. She is the author of The Science Question in Feminism (Cornell, 1986) and Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? (Cornell, 1991), and editor of several collections of papers, including Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (with M. Hintikka) (Reidel, 1983) and The Racial Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future (Indiana, 1993). She has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Costa Rica, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich.
1. Patrick Petitjean et al., Science and Empires: Historical Studies about Scientific Development and European Expansion (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992); Z. Sardar, ed., The Revenge of Athena: Science, Exploitation and the Third World (London: Mansell, 1988); Third World Network, Modern Science in Crisis: A Third World Response (Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network, 1988). Many of the works cited below are useful far beyond the particular claim I cite. Additional writings that I have also found especially useful in thinking about the possible multiculturalism of science include Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Man (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989); Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (New York: Routledge, 1989); Charles Moraze, ed.,Science and the Factors of Inequality (Paris: UNESCO, 1979); Vandana Shiva, Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development (London: Zed Press, 1989); Sharon Traweek, Beamtimes and Lifetimes (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988). See also Sandra Harding,The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986) and "After Eurocentrism: Challenges for the Philosophy of Science," in Philosophy of Science Association 1992 Proceedings, vol. 2., ed. David Hull, Micky Forbes, and Kathleen Okruhlik (East Lansing: Philosophy of Science Association, 1993), in addition to other works cited below.
2. Laurel Graham pointed this out.
3. For examples of the latter, see Andrew Pickering, ed., Science as Practice and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
4. The term "borderlands" is from Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/ La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute Book Company, 1987). The notion appears in the writing of many other "borderlands" thinkers.
5. See, e.g., Samir Amin, Eurocentrism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989).
6. Scientists usually claim that all they mean by the statement that "science works" is that it makes accurate predictions. However, in the next breath they usually defend the extraordinarily high U.S. investment in scientific establishments on what I take to be the only grounds that anyone could find reasonable in a society professing a commitment to democratic social relations--namely, that the results of science improve social life. Thus "science works" in this enlarged sense, which is conflated with the more technical sense of the phrase. As we shall see below, the success of sciences' empirical predictions depends in part on social relations; there are good historical reasons for the conflation.
7. I am tempted to keep inserting "Western" into "modern science"--modern Western science--to avoid the standard Eurocentric assumption that non-Western traditions, including their scientific practices and cultures, are static; that only Western sciences are dynamic and thus only they have developed since the fifteenth century. However, that locution has other problems: it emphasizes the dualistic "West vs. the rest" framework, it ignores the non-Western components of modern science, etc.
8. See Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (New York: Vintage, 1969).
9. Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977); Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "Islamic Science, Western Science: Common Heritage, Diverse Destinies", in Sardar, Revenge of Athena (above, n. 1), pp. 239-248.
10. See Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol. 1 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987); Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality?, trans. M. Cook (Westport, Conn.: L. Hill, 1974); Lacinay Keita, "African Philosophical Systems: A Rational Reconstruction," Philosophical Forum 9:2-3 (1977-78): 169-189; Lach, Asia (above, n. 9); I. A. Sabra, "The Scientific Enterprise," in The World of Islam, ed. B. Lewis (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976); E. Frances White, "Civilization Denied: Questions on Black Athena," Radical America 21:5 (1987): 38-40.
11. Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers: What the Native Americans Gave to the World (New York: Crown, 1988).
12. R. K. Kochhar, "Science in British India," parts I and II, Current Science (India) 63:11 (1992): 694. Cf. also ibid. 64:1 (1993): pp. 55-62.
13. And, as V. Y. Mudimbe pointed out to me, of Europe itself, for European sciences also constituted European lands, cities, and peoples as their laboratories. Consider, for example, the way women, the poor, children, the sick, the mad, rural and urban populations, and workers have been continuously studied by natural and social sciences.
14. Susantha Goonatilake makes this point in "The Voyages of Discovery and the Loss and Re-Discovery of 'Other's' Knowledge," Impact of Science on Society 167 (1993): 241-264.
15. For one thing, Westerners note that Chinese or African astronomy is done within culturally local projects of a sort devalued by scientific rationality, such as (in some cases) astrology, or culturally local meanings of the heavens or other natural phenomena. So, whatever their accuracy, such astronomical discoveries could not be admitted as "real science" without permitting the possibility of assigning such a status also to astrology or Confucian religious beliefs. Alternatively, one could say that only those discoveries of other cultures that are duplicated by Western sciences count as scientific; this has the paradoxical consequence that as Western sciences develop, other cultures also (retroactively!) get more scientific. Nancy Brickhouse's questions helped me to clarify this point.
16. Susantha Goonatilake, "A Project for Our Times," in Sadar, Revenge of Athena (above, n. 1), p. 226.
17. See the section on astronomy in Ivan Van Sertima, Blacks in Science (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Press, 1986).
18. Goonatilake, "Voyages of Discovery" (above n. 14), p. 256.
19. Joseph Needham, The Grand Titration: Science and Society in East and West (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), pp. 55-56.
20. See, e.g., Susan Bordo, The Flight to Objectivity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987); Genevieve Lloyd, The Man of Reason (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Harper and Row, 1984).
21. See Needham's discussion of seven conceptual errors in standard Western thought about "universal science" that lead to erroneous devaluations of the scientific achievements of non-European sciences, in Grand Titration (above, n. 19).
22. Robin Horton, "African Traditional Thought and Western Science," parts l and 2, Africa 37 (1967): 50-71; 155-187.
23. J. E. Wiredu, "How Not to Compare African Thought with Western Thought," in African Philosophy, ed. Richard Wright, 3rd ed. (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984), pp. 149-162.
24. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), p. 167.
25. Needham, Grand Titration, (above, n. 19), pp. 14-15.
26. Edgar Zilsel, "The Sociological Roots of Science," American Journal of Sociology 47 (1941-42)544-562.
27. Kochhar, "Science in British India" (above, n. 12); Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); V. V. Krishna, "The Colonial 'Model' and the Emergence of National Science in India: 1876-1920," in Petitjean et al. (above, n. 1), pp. 57-72; Deepak Kumar, "Problems in Science Administration: A Study of the Scientific Surveys in British India 1757-1900," in ibid., pp. 269-280.
28. Paul Forman, "Behind Quantum Electronics: National Security as Basis for Physical Research in the U.S., 1940-1960," Historical Studies in Physical and Biological Sciences 18 (1987): pp. 149-229.
29. Susantha Goonatilake, "A Project for Our Times," in Sardar, Revenge of Athena (above, n. 1), pp. 235-236. (Should not African and indigenous American civilizations also count as regional ones containing scientific traditions?)
30. The "Strong Programme" in the sociology of knowledge has developed this analysis. See, e.g., David Bloor, Knowledge and Social Imagery(London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977).
31. This section reviews the arguments of Sandra Harding, "Is Western Science an Ethnoscience?" (forthcoming).
32. See, e.g., Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981); Bordo, Flight to Objectivity(above, n. 20); Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper and Row, 1980); Nasr, "Islamic Science" (above, n. 9).
33. Needham, Grand Titration (above, n. 19), p. 302.
34. Ibid., p. 323.
35. Ibid., p. 327.
36. "[L]aws of nature, like laws of the state, are historically imposed from above and obeyed from below"; in contrast, "the concept of order, wider than law and free from its coercive, hierarchical, and centralizing implications has the potential to expand our conception of science. Order is a category comprising patterns of organization that can be spontaneous, self-generated, or externally imposed" (Evelyn Fox Keller, Reflections on Gender and Science [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984], pp. 131, 132). See also the interesting discussion of Needham's argument in Jatinder K. Bajaj, "Francis Bacon, the First Philosopher of Modern Science: A Non-Western View," in Science, Hegemony and Violence: A Requiem for Modernity, ed. Ashis Nandy (Delhi: Oxford, 1990).
37. See Bruno Latour's discussion of the importance to science of "centres of calculation," in chap. 6 of his Science in Action (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987).
38. The complexity of these sentences arises from the fact that elites in Third World cultures also enjoy luxurious access to the benefits of modern sciences, and the majority of citizens in most First World cultures--that is, the poor and other disadvantaged groups--do not.
39. Khor Kok Peng, "Science and Development: Underdeveloping the Third World," in Sardar, Revenge of Athena (above, n. 1), pp. 207-208.
40. Claude Alvares, "Science, Colonialism and Violence: A Luddite View," in Nandy, Science, Hegemony and Violence (above, n. 36), p. 108.
41. J. Bandyopadhyay and V. Shiva, "Science and Control: Natural Resources and Their Exploitation," in Sardar, Revenge of Athena (above, n. 1), p. 63.
42. Dorothy Smith is especially eloquent on this point: see The Conceptual Practices of Power (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990) andThe Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987). However, abstractness is not unique to such cultures. As Paola Bachetta pointed out (by letter), certain forms of ancient Hinduism are based on philosophical abstractions.
43. Bandyopadhyay and Shiva, "Science and Control" (above, n. 41), p. 60.
44. Xavier Polanco, "World-Science: How Is the History of World-Science to Be Written?" in Petitjean et al., Science and Empires (above, n. 1), p. 225.
45. Susantha Goonatilake, Aborted Discovery: Science and Creativity in the Third World (London: Zed Press, 1984), pp. 229-230.
46. This kind of critique enables one to see that sleeping in the feminist science analyses lies a direct challenge to conventional assumptions about the necessity of value-neutrality to the universality of science. A form of this challenge has been to question the necessity of value-neutrality to the maximal objectivity of science; see Sandra Harding, "After the Neutrality Ideal: Science, Politics and 'Strong Objectivity,'" Social Research 59:3 (1992): pp. 568-587, reprinted in The Politics of Western Science, 1640-1990, ed. Margaret Jacob (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, forthcoming).
47. Some readers may be troubled by my retention of notions that seem so central to modern science and its mentality, such as "objectivity," "less distorted," "valid," and the like. I cannot take the space here to discuss the reasons why I, like many other science critics, find these to be important terms to appropriate, "reoccupy," and strengthen as we try to relink sciences to projects of advancing democratic social relations. Let me just say, first, that not all imagined ways of working toward greater democracy are equally compatible with nature's constraints upon human activity (as the postcolonial critics themselves point out, after all). Second, as I discuss below, these notions (objectivity, etc.) are central in many other Western institutions besides the natural sciences--for example, the social sciences, the law, and public policy. We cannot "just say no" to such notions without abandoning a central moral and social value of many Westerners--not just a scientific or epistemological one. See the discussion of "strong objectivity" in Sandra Harding, Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women's Lives (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991), and "After the Neutrality Ideal" (above, n. 46).
48. One particularly good discussion of this is in Bina Agarwal, "The Gender and Environment Debate: Lessons from India," Feminist Studies 18:l (1992): pp. 119-158.
49. Goonatilake, "Voyages of Discovery" (above, n. 14), p. 25. This approach is by no means unique to Third World theorists; it has been appearing even in Western popular acounts of "endangered societies." (Notice the extension to non-Western peoples of language initially used to describe animals.) For example, Time magazine ran a cover story in 1992 reporting on the "endangered knowledge" that Western culture should gather from cultures disappearing under modernization and development pressures. ("Modernization" and "development" for whom?)
50. Elizabeth Hsu, "The Reception of Western Medicine in China: Examples from Yunnan," in Petitjean et al., Science and Empires (above, n. 1), p. 89.
51. Ashis Nandy, Introduction to Science, Hegemony and Violence (above, n. 36), p. 11.
52. This language has been developed by Samir Amin; see, e.g., Eurocentrism (above, n. 5).
53. Third World Network, Modern Science in Crisis (above, n. l), reprinted in The "Racial" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future, ed. Sandra Harding (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 333.
54. Ibid., p. 31.
55. Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, "Applied Biology in the Third World," in The Dialectical Biologist (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988); reprinted in Harding, "Racial" Economy of Science (above, n. 53), pp. 315-325.
56. See, e.g., C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures, and A Second Look (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964). The following argument draws from Sandra Harding, "Women and Science in Historical Context," National Women's Studies Association Journal 5:l (1993): 49-55.
57. I refer here to the discussion of the meanings and other effects that authors never intended their works to have that is indicated by the phrase "the 'death' of the author."
58. The last two decades of feminist and antiracist critiques in philosophy, science studies, political theory, and the social sciences will provide especially useful resources here since they have focused on just such projects of transforming standards of objectivity, rationality, and method into ones more effective at preventing distorting cultural assumptions and conceptual frameworks from shaping the results of research and public policy.